Pandemics, Fashion Week, Twitch and empty runways

Rhea Narsing

Saloni Hariyani

With the onward of a pandemic, the heightening of global warming and the rise in natural calamities- 2020 has brought forth much required revelations. Tasks that were originally thought to be performed in person are completed via video calls, in person music classes are now conducted over the internet and models strut catwalks on our computer screen. Much has gone under change and renovation in this new era, the area that has taken the biggest hit is art and creativity. September and october are the biggest months in the case of fashion but in a world where everything took a pause, how can fashion? Fashion relies not only on fashion designers but also on weavers, seamstresses, technologists, illustrators, publicists,etc. Fashion is an industry that requires people from different professions, areas and countries. It is not a field that can simply take a break, instead designers must carry on and make the most of what they have.


2020 witnessed a rather unusual spectacle, one involving empty seats, cameras operated on dollys, catwalks in forests and minimal human involvement. This year various notable fashion events such as the New York Fashion Week, Paris Fashion Week, Milano Fashion Week, even Burberry streamed their fashion show online. Various live streaming sites such as YouTube and Twitch were used by audiences to experience and relish in the new form of fashion shows. Brands and designers are always eager to draw in diverse audiences and live streaming is a great

way to achieve that. 



















Fashion shows during a pandemic are understatetably different than their non pandemic counterparts. If shows are live streamed, they are held physically with socially distanced seats and catwalks that wind through forests. Nyfw is often held all over the city of gotham however this time it was held at the rooftops of TriBeca with notable designers such as Jason Wu, Rebecca Minkoff, Laquan Smith, Christian Sirano and more showcasing their art on a carefully constructed jungle on a rooftop.

It seems as if the pandemic has brought forth questions designers and stylists must ask themselves, how will they efficiently showcase their art? What will they be risking by showcasing their work digitally? Will their work be well received? Will their target audience tune in? Much like other forms of art, fashion is enjoyed better in person rather than a screen -at least to me personally- and with almost every other brand live streaming their shows to audiences over the internet, what will set them apart? The work of a designer doesn't stop just at the clothes the models wear or the physical aesthetic of a model,  the environment and the presentation is extremely vital as well. Many brands have chosen clean and sharp empty rooms to showcase their work if they're streaming and the ones presenting in real life make the best of what they have much like Bora Aksu whos 2021 show who although had few attendee, social distancing was practiced by attendees sitting on individual park benches, this provided a first row view of the show regardless of who they are and their occupation. 


It goes without saying that the pandemic offers great hurdles for the fashion industry but it also presents opportunities to those who are willing to change and be innovative. An example of a highly innovative designer would be Anifa Mvuemba who staged a virtual fashion show via instagram live. Unlike other brands and designers who filmed models donning their creations and strutting eerily desolate catwalks, Anifa armed herself with 3d animation and presented her show empty of models and quite hauntingly a catwalk. Anifas Pink Label Congo collection strives to showcase the vibrance and spectacle that is congo, this show however did not take place in any tangible location. The show began with the voluminous Kinshasa pleated minidress, its colours a match for those of the Congolese flag, strutted an empty void, barren of a model. The insides of the dress could be seen.


The Pink Label Show is a perfect example of how artists can explore their creativity and challenge the new norms. Speaking of new norms the next question that designers, influencers and people interested in fashion ponder over with the forthcoming of the pandemic is if the internet, live streaming and virtual fashion shows are the future. Fashion shows and fashion weeks are held so that designers can meet innumerable clients and reach new heights. Live streamed fashion shows are accessible to everyone all across the world sadly very few actually watch full fledged fashion shows. In late 2009 Alexander mcqueen streamed his 2010 spring collection which garnered over 3 million views on youtube, however that was the last show ever streamed by mcqueen. 


Not only are virtual fashion shows cheap and easy to access, they're great for the environment. Fashion week is the source of immense pollution with models, influencers, ambassadors, photographers and staff flying in and transporting from hotels to studios to cafes to event venues. Streets are closed off for fashion week causing quite the annoyance for daily commuters.  Online streaming of fashion shows slovesa lot of problems and makes being interested in fashion easy. Fashion students and those in other art fields can easily access these fashion shows. Interviews with designers are easily available too.


The concept and idea of live streaming fashion shows is quite tantalizing and innovative however it feels like a gimmick which gets boring soon. The main reason why fashion weeks are so popular and the theme for movies and tv shows is due to its exclusivity and eminent air of sophistication and class. Online shows and live streaming is a great concept but there are several setbacks. This might just be a personal opinion but art is enjoyed much better in person. Whether it be fashion shows, art galleries or even anime conventions- the celebration of art and creativity is much more exuberant and thrilling in person. Art regardless of its form is made in person by people who strive to reflect what they conjure in their imagination, virtually consuming art drains the art of its essence and melts it down to a mere product which is nothing more than a part of capitalism and consumerism. 


The prospect of meeting like minded people in person and having stimulating discussions on art is the beauty of galleries and fashion shows. Yes, of course much has been obtained from virtual shows but doesn't it seem boring and just… off? Fashion shows devoid of spectators, catwalks bereft of models, streets barren of photographers and influencers, it's the people who bring in the excitement of fashion week and make it the extravaganza that it is.


Illustrated by Ira Sampat