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At Paris Fashion Week, the shows must go on, but expectations are low

By Don-Alvin Adegeest

1 Oct 2020

The near-empty carriage in the Thalys train arriving via Amsterdam, Antwerp and Brussels into Paris Gare du Nord exemplified the current state of fashion week. Low attendance and low expectations reflect the reality of most brands and designers, who are forging ahead with collections, shows and presentations, but with little or no buyers or press to see these in IRL.

Runway presentations with no audiences, at least not with the caliber of industry that is normally buzzing around Paris during fashion week, highlight the fact that the majority of activity – and business – continues to be online only.

Showrooms are merchandising online platforms instead of ‘real’ spaces

Showrooms have pivoted from merchandising grand spaces dotted around the Marais district to uploading linesheets and look books onto password-accessed digital platforms, holding Zoom meetings with buyers, pointing smartphones at in-house models to give some indication of what garments look like on a body. For established brands it is an adaptive way of working but their outlook may be less bleak than those of emerging designers and those whose businesses are more dependent on wholesale models, launching collections to stores and buyers with whom they have no previous sales history. How do they reach said stores and buyers who are not traveling this season?

U.K. retailers like Selfridges and Harrods are not sending their buyers to Paris this season. Neither are fashion directors at publications such as Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar.

At Dior, one of the first live catwalk shows of Paris Fashion Week, the quarantine did not deter Maria Grazia Chiuri from producing a full scale collection of Amazonian size, which at 86 looks is meant to represent the brand’s sentiment of consumers staying at home and living a new style of life. Granted, the new silhouette was looser and less strict with Japanese-style belted dresses and housecoats proving a delicate balancing act between the pragmatic and the resplendent. Versace, in comparison, had just eighty looks and Armani ninety nine, but both showed co-ed men’s and women’s wear.

Much of the dialogue since March has centered on a changing industry, respecting the planet and finding novel ways of working, producing and consuming. Even at Dior, at lot can be said with less.

Image via Dior website