We were definitely expecting it, knowing it was unlikely to happen any other way. Between the 14th and 17th of July 2020, Italy’s first completely digital fashion week will take place. The announcement came from the National Chamber for Italian Fashion (Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana), which hopes to support the struggling sector with the July issue of Milan Digital Fashion Week. The event will see designers present the Spring/Summer 2021 men’s collections and the Spring/Summer 2021 women’s and men’s pre-collections.
This isn’t the first time the fashion world has experimented with digital media. In February, at the beginning of the coronavirus crisis in Italy, Giorgio Armani held a show behind closed doors to avoid guests’ health being exposed to any risks, streaming the event online. Given difficulties in buyers and journalists travelling to Milan, especially those from a particularly strategic country like China, the National Chamber for Italian Fashion has allowed over 25 million people to remotely attend all the Milano Moda Donna Autumn/Winter 2021 shows via the streaming project China We Are With You.
Carlo Capasa, President of the National Chamber for Italian Fashion
“The development of a digital fashion week is a practical response to the moment we’re living, giving us the possibility to continue the journey that began in February with the ‘China We Are With You’ initiative,” explains Carlo Capasa, President of the National Chamber for Italian Fashion, who had initially referred to the decision to go digital as a “forced” one. “In this difficult situation, it’s essential that all companies are given the chance to present their collections during the digital fashion week in July. Our goal is both to support the recovery of the entire fashion system, and reach out to the media, buyers and the whole fashion community through a variety of content developed for all agents within the system”. Capasa is therefore following in the footsteps of Shanghai Fashion Week which took place entirely virtually in March, and the announcement that came from Paris of a fashion week in a similar format that take place between the 9th and 13th of July – the first time Paris has precede Milan on the calendar.
Pros and cons of the digital fashion week
While, on the one hand, a digital fashion week might seem alienating, lacking the important aspect of physicality – the chance to look at, touch, and photograph garments – on the other hand, it will have the great advantage of saving significant amounts of CO2 emissions. In an editorial last January, Vogue Italia Director Emanuele Farneti outlined the impact that photoshoots have on the environment, entailing flights, trains, transfers, deliveries, lights and catering. Now try to imagine the pollution caused by an entire fashion week. Even if a digital fashion week isn’t a definitive solution, it does represents a step forward – or at the very least a chance to reflect – in terms of the change that needs to happen in the fashion industry to make the sector more sustainable. Armani himself reminded us of the absurdity of the current state of affairs, stating that “a careful and intelligent slowing down” is urgently needed.
The digital platform set up by the Fashion Chamber contains photographs and videos, interviews and backstage footage of the creative process, as well as alternative perspectives arranged across a calendar with slots dedicated to each brand. The goal is to create a rich and varied palimpsest aimed at all operators in the sector. There are also in-depth webinars, live-streamed masterclasses with high-profile figures in the industry, and moments of entertainment with live performances from creatives. Furthermore, a whole section is dedicated entirely to showrooms, where new virtual solutions will be applied after having been tried out during the February fashion week in order for Chinese buyers (who weren’t able to attend) to participate.
“Having a section within this initiative entirely dedicated to supporting showrooms and buyers is a great result for us,” Capasa goes on. “Physical catwalks in September are still going ahead,” the Fashion Chamber makes sure to emphasise. It still isn’t easy to plan too far ahead, but the desire and drive to support the sector and the city are definitely there. As demonstrated by King Giorgio, who left the French capital to bring haute couture back to his homeland.
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