In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, many things have had to go virtual, from happy hours to weddings and recently New York Fashion Week – and things were not the same.
I was in New York earlier this year in February before COVID and covered NYFW. And this week, when the performances ran through on September 16, I covered again, but it’s sober to think about how much has changed in just a few months.
Instead of personal track shows to present the latest collections, designers showcased their latest look online via the “Runway 360” platform in an effort to prevent the spread of the virus. As you can imagine, just like attending a live concert compared to watching a YouTube video of a show, the energy and excitement was just not there.
The buzzing of anticipation you feel as a personal participant, sitting in your seat along the track before a show begins, was replaced by an online countdown timer on the designers’ profiles.
Designers could include a statement about their collection in their online profiles, just as they often do in dividends on a personal show, but they could not make that story live as much through a screen, especially since not every designer chose to use video to showcase their collections.
For example, Marchesa did not include any videos on the Runway 360 website for their collection, just a slideshow of photos. Tom Ford simply included a long statement and pictures on the site.
Others, however, tried to use video in creative ways.
Anna Sui was able to create one of her whimsical design worlds via video that played back themes that she discussed in her statement, where she touched on the pandemic and what the home means to her: “comfort, security, scents of delicious meals and desserts are made with care”
“The Heartland collection is full of what we need now – comfortable, locally made, versatile pieces without much hassle,” writes Sui.
In the video, she incorporated a small group of models (with some dress masks as part of their look!), Music and a colorful set to make a picnic story, culminating in the end with the models all serving pieces of pie.
Anne Klein’s video, which began with the designer’s grandchildren speaking, served as a mini-documentary about the brand’s history and where it is today, with a strong focus on empowerment and inclusion.
Badgley Mischka used a wonderful, massive property to capture videos of their designs in gardens, on balconies and beyond – spans past where chairs would have been set up for a passenger lane.
Although they were among the shortest films, Alice + Olivia and Cynthia Rowley added some fun by incorporating dance into their NYC-based clips.
But still, the videos could not really capture the magic of watching the design live.
Naeem Khan’s design, whose glittering, restrained appearance filled me with more joy and amazement with each model that ran out of the Zaha Hadid building in New York in February, just did not translate online.
Although the brand used several angles to try to show the look, the details, including all the texture and sequins, were not as brilliant on my laptop screen compared to how these elements caught my eye personally.
As you might expect, there were also a couple of technical difficulties throughout the week.
Often the buttons on the kit did not work and error messages such as “Bad Gateway” and “This page does not work” continued to appear while I was trying to navigate the site on Monday.
With all that said, there were some benefits to things being virtual: no rushing from show to show (meaning you can participate more), no getting stuck in bad weather while waiting in line to get in, no squishing together elbow-to-elbow next to someone on paler-like benches.
And most obviously, especially with the last point in mind, the decision to become virtually important. No matter how much I would have loved to be at Spring Studios and watch these patterns glittering down the runway before my eyes, it was definitely not worth the risk of spreading the coronavirus and exacerbating this already tragic pandemic.
So cheers to the designers for giving it their best shot, especially those who strive to deliver some of the magic. But I look forward to seeing your next collections in person – only if it’s safe again.
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