The news came in on April 21st. That day the British Fashion Council revealed the shape of the first completely digital Fashion week set to take place in the month of June, due to the current health crisis. A few days later it was Milan’s turn and then Paris’s to reveal that the shows for their upcoming season would also take place online. While digital fashion shows are not a new phenomena in themselves, this is the first time that an entire season has been deprived of physical events open to live audiences. Two weeks ago the public discovered the haute couture collections exclusively on the internet for the first time, followed by the new men’s ready-to-wear collections. Through their photos, films and previously unseen digital experiences, designers and houses have all sought to create an event in spite of the difficult context: some, like Dior, invited famous directors to make a short film, others like Iris Van Herpen dressed a famous actress in a outfit created especially for the occasion, while Louis Vuitton created cartoon characters to tell an amusing tale. Among the propositions, several young designers as well as very established houses pulled out all the stops and rose to the occasion with aplomb, giving us a chance to look back at the most memorable events of this entirely digital season.
Études N°18 - Spring Summer 2021 - Official Video
Since the creation of their label Études Studio in 2012, Jérémy Egry, Aurélien Arbet and José Lamali have established Paris as their city of choice. Home to their atelier, their offices and their boutique in the heart of the Marais, but also their runway shows each season, it was the natural choice for the backdrop to their immersive video presentation. In several chapters, each made in a sequence shot, the spectators are invited to follow the designs through the lens of a cameraman and thus discover life in Paris’s 20th Arrondissement, so loved by the artistic directing trio. The models led us through almost empty streets, revealing hidden alleyways and ending up on the Petite Ceinture line, the railway line that used to circle Paris. Occasionally friends of the label also featured, including the rapper Orelsan, the footballer Tiémoué Bakayoko and the musician Skread. “We’ve been wanting to present our collections in a different way for several season now, the collective confided to Numéro, seizing this digital Fashion Week as the perfect opportunity to explore new media. Continuing in this vein, Études also called upon the American photographer Roe Ethridge to immortalise the pieces, which together with their own shots had some astonishing results.
2. Prada: when five famous photographers capture the collection
Prada Multiple Views Spring/Summer 2021 – The Show That Never Happened
One collection, five points of views : this is what Prada chose to do for this very special season. Rather than collaborating with just one artist to capture her new creations, Miuccia Parada invited five photographers to shoot and film the new line. One after the other, Willy Vanderperre, Martine Syms, Joanna Piotrowska, Juergen Teller and Terence Nance all unveil a unique “chapter” of the video posted on Prada’s YouTube channel. Among them, Juergen Teller chose to have the models pose in an engine room, surrounded by pipes and gas cylinders, while Martine Syms had them walk in front of bottle-green cinema seats. An interesting presentattion for this new collection, the last one before Raf Simons makes his official debut as co-creative director of the Italian house.
Botter collection printemps-été 2021 : Cloakroom digital experience
Noticed two years ago at the Festival d’Hyères when they took over the artistic direction of Nina Ricci the same year and during their first show at Paris Fashion Week last January, the duo made up of Rushemy Botter and Lisi Herrebrugh has been affirming the foundations of its identity right from the word go: sustainability, upcycling and commitment. In response to the salient issues of 2020, their label Botter opted for an off-season collection of durable pieces, produced in small quantities. But how to make it a memorable event on a 100% digital medium? The creators went back to their first contact with digital technology: video games. In parallel, on a dedicated site, Botter invites you to dress up a virtual character in pieces from their unique collection: by scrolling through the tops on the right and the bottoms on the left, the visitor can compose silhouettes, mixing and matching according to their taste. “We really like the moment when, before starting the game, the player chooses their character's outfit. We can be who we want to be and that’s the beauty of what we do”, explained the two designers to Numéro. An interactive experience that resonates with the whole world because, as Rushemy Botter and Lisi Herrbrugh point out, “everyone was in the front row this season”
4. Dior : when designer Kim Jones teams up with artist Amoako Boafo
Dior Men’s Summer 2021 Collection
When Kim Jones discovered Amoako Boafo's work, this was a real crush. His portrait series “Black diaspora” series takes a new look on black bodies and identities coming from the African diaspora, which he reflects on his support by painting with his fingers, a technique that gives his canvases all their texture and relief. The combination of dense skins, delicate pencil strokes and plain backgrounds makes Amoako Boafo an unmistakable contemporary heir to Egon Schiele. This artistic discovery is at the heart of the new collection of the British designer for Dior men, Kim Jones, that he has been creating the collection for since 2018. Major references of the clothes, on which we can even see his portraits sometimes, Amoako Boafo's works inspire both the soft tones that the shapes and silhouettes, until the elegant posture of the models that wear them. To show the backstage of this collaboration, Dior chose a video where we can see the painting process of the artist, who explains it on camera, while Kim Jones tells the story of the collection. At the end of the video, the canvases and silhouettes are layered, intersecting and colliding to best illustrate this fruitful creative encounter.
5. Sankuanz: when the artist Zhang Ding creates a completely 3D decor
Sankuanz spring-summer 2021 collection, directed by Zhang Ding
Whether it’s through sculpture, video, photography, interactive installation or sound, the Chinese artist Zhang Ding continues to shake up the field of perception and the viewer's experience through his artistic practice, all while infusing his works with reflections on society and the ethnic and political issues of his own country. It was to this multidisciplinary artist that designer Shangguan Zhe turned to, to produce the video presenting his label Sankuanz’s new collection. And while this new project is certainly less political than Zhang Ding’s usual works, it nevertheless testifies once again to his aesthetic radicalism: in an entirely virtual space defined by neon green grids against a black background, a man and a woman walk with a disembodied gait. Sometimes they increase tenfold as the scenery is embellished with a black airplane, a flower bed of giant white mushrooms or even a mini planet spinning around on itself. Psychedelic and magnetic, the video allows the label's spring-summer 2021 collection to be appreciated in a most innovative light because it is purely virtual. A solid alternative to the physical experience of the runway show manifested by the emergence of a parallel world where reality, as Zhang Ding says, “disintegrates into phosphorescentbeings”.
6. GmbH: when the collection comes to life on the Berlin night scene
GmbH Spring 2021 Part 1 : 'Guest On Earth'
Where Études used the streets of Paris to show its designs, GmbH chose Berlin as the backdrop for one of their two videos. Not surprising as the label has been based in the city since its creation, so they celebrated the architecture as much as the population in a film by Francisco Sendino. Dressed in a first series of pieces from the spring-summer 2021 collection, the protagonists appear in full introspection, lulled by the light of the setting sun. One dances sensually in the streets, at the top of a building, the other spreads out the clothes over tyres, friends hug, a father kisses his son… Together they compose a poetic portrait at twilight of the German capital and its diversity. At the same time, GmbH posted a second video made by the artist Lars Laumann with the architect Eddie Esmail, who in 2010 had organised a fashion show in Khartoum, Sudan. Punctuating this event where the models walk out one by one along a long carpet, the young man’s words commentate the presentation followed with a poem by the Norwegian writer Gunvor Hofmo.
7. Gucci: when the house invites us to spend 12 hours in its company
If shows are so hotly anticipated, it’s because for just a few minutes they give the guests the feeling of a multisensory plunge into the world of a label or a designer. Between the décor, the music, the lights, the aesthetic experience can be intense and give the collection all its meaning. To recreate this sense of immediacy, Gucci chose a format that’s been popular in recent months: the livestream. Thus for 12 hours, viewers were invited to spend the day with the Italian house as they prepared the lookbook. From the rooms of a sumptuous palace fitted out for the occasion to its garden, through the dressing rooms and the screens of the photographers and retouchers working on the images, we are right there behind the scenes shooting the new collection, worn by the design studio team themselves. Entitled "Epilogue", it will be the last time Gucci adheres to the official calendar of the season, after artistic director Alessandro Michele recently announced his emancipation.
8. Boramy Viguier: when the models become soldiers in a futuristic army
Boramy Viguier Spring Summer 2021
“I really like runway shows, but the ones that aren’t just in showrooms or a hanger show. Those where you really have an immersive experience into a world,” Boramy Viguier confided to Numéro. And for this young French designer who just presented his very first show in Paris, the digital fashion week brought with it a whole set of new challenges which he dealt with brilliantly by composing a world perfectly tailored for his original creations. In a 3D medieval décor that could have come straight out of video game, an army of masked models appear in an astonishing military parade, like knights defending an imaginary homeland. Following this, each of the silhouettes of the collection is presented rotating on itself in a set-up just like the character choice screen of a virtual game, while all the pieces are described in writing and language of the characters in the manner of a technical inventory. If this original project required colossal work and organisation from the designer, his collection also gave him a lot of satisfaction. “It's because the world is going to become even more digital that the designer's challenge is to submit a more artisanal, more localised, less universal, less global, less pop, more mystical style in a way that’s more aggressive”, he explains. A highly relevant omen sketching what the fashion of tomorrow will undoubtedly look like.