As global fashion events contend with COVID-19 era, Lakme Fashion Week 2020 gears up for first-ever digital edition

In the face of the coronavirus pandemic and lockdowns, fashion weeks across the world have been forced to recalibrate their existing practices, priorities, and their very role. The upcoming Lakme Fashion Week also grapples with these concerns in its first-ever digital edition.

Swareena Gurung October 20, 2020 11:55:57 IST
As global fashion events contend with COVID-19 era, Lakme Fashion Week 2020 gears up for first-ever digital edition

High fashion's bywords have been put to the test by the realities of the coronavirus pandemic. So too has its sine qua non, the fashion week | Seen here: Models walk the ramp for designer Gaurang at the previous edition of the Lakme Fashion Week. All images courtesy LFW

“Surreal”, “fantastic”, “escapist”, “avant-garde” — in a topsy-turvy world battling against a mutating virus, these bywords of high fashion have been put to the test. So has its sine qua non, the fashion week.

In the face of restricted travel, budgets, and other resources; dipping annual sales graphs; and a tedious, unsteady easing back into ‘normal’ life, fashion weeks have been forced to recalibrate their existing practices, priorities, and their very role. “These are polar times. Everything is opposite,” observed designer Miuccia Prada after her Miu Miu show in early October. In the show, models in the label’s Spring/Summer 2021 collection, strutted across a sports arena-themed set, as numerous screens lining the walls of the set live-streamed to select viewers who watched from home. A normal viewer watching the live show would essentially be watching other viewers watch the show, as part of the show. Confusing, yes? By integrating viewers — who, in normal conditions, would have been sitting on the front row — into the show, Miu Miu bridged the distance between the performers and the audience, foregrounding the symbiotic relationship between the two.

More so than other countries, Indian fashion shows at present cannot risk having live audiences, as we continue to report some of the highest COVID-19 rates in the world. Following this year’s phygital (physical-digital hybrid) Indian Couture Week and Lotus Makeup India Fashion Week, where the predominant format was pre-recorded fashion films, the Lakmé Fashion Week 2020 is set to host its all-digital, season-less edition with a mixture of designer showcases, fashion films, and webinars scheduled between 21-25 October.

As global fashion events contend with COVID19 era Lakme Fashion Week 2020 gears up for firstever digital edition

More so than other countries, Indian fashion shows at present cannot risk having live audiences, as we continue to report some of the highest COVID-19 rates in the world | Seen here: A model walks for Bloni at the previous edition of Lakme Fashion Week

Globally, a move towards hybrid show formats

The Spring/Summer 2021 fashion calendar, as is customary, began in New York, where the shows were almost entirely digital. In London, intimate presentations with limited audiences were popular. Then onto Milan, where there were more physical shows with socially-distanced audiences. For Italy, a hub of early coronavirus cases which now boasts rates that are amongst the lowest in Europe, this signals a gradual return to business and an assertion of its position in the luxury world. Onwards to Paris, where some physical shows persisted, but with local audiences. Chanel showed at the Grand Palais to 500 masked guests, while the 360-degree cameras placed between seated guests at Louis Vuitton represented virtual viewers who could control said cameras through their smartphones. “It was almost like being there,” a Vogue editor observed.

Indian designers trying to gauge the future of the runway show need not look far: Shanghai Fashion Week, which ended last week, managed to put on the only fully physical event of the season with 90 runway shows and presentations. However, designers also supplemented their on-ground programming with live streams and digital showrooms, with a view of expanding their reach to a global viewership and consumer base. The pandemic, and the limitations that it has inflicted, has forced brands to push the pedal towards a more hybrid mode of showing.

As global fashion events contend with COVID19 era Lakme Fashion Week 2020 gears up for firstever digital edition

In the face of the coronavirus pandemic and lockdowns, fashion weeks across the world have been forced to recalibrate their existing practices, priorities, and their very role | Seen here: Models at a showing for Tahweave at the previous edition of the Lakme Fashion Week

Innovations underway at Lakmé Fashion Week

It’s a future that the organisers of Lakmé Fashion Week are preparing for. “A key decision of investments this season were on actions that are less reactionary and more strategic,” says Jaspreet Chandok, head of lifestyle businesses at IMG Reliance (a co-sponsor of the event).

The Virtual Hub, the event’s primary content platform, is customisable for different kinds of viewers: general audience, buyers, and the media. Features include ‘The Runway’, which will house all designer showcases and fashion films; a Gallery to access behind-the-scenes action and show snippets; and a press conference area. Particularly innovative is a See Now, Buy Now option that enables buyers to purchase outfits from any show as soon as it ends. “The creation of these features is done with the expectation that they will expand themselves and become key actions in the years to come. Even when we return to a physical event, all these elements become companion actions adding to the overall product offering to consumers. We see this season as a pilot and we are happy to get feedback from all stakeholders and continue the development of all these digital initiatives,” Chandok notes.

As global fashion events contend with COVID19 era Lakme Fashion Week 2020 gears up for firstever digital edition

Over 800 COVID-19 tests were reportedly conducted during the filming of the upcoming digital edition of LFW | Seen here: Model in a Narendra Kumar creation at the previous Lakme Fashion Week

For designers, models, and other artists, shooting for Lakmé Fashion Week started weeks ahead. Supermodel Lakshmi Rana has been a part of India’s top fashion weeks throughout her 20-year career. “Going into the season, there was a general sense of uncertainty,” she observed. “We had no clue of what we were getting into, the kind of work that was expected of us, and how we would keep ourselves safe. The reason why I accepted Lakmé Fashion Week was because IMG was handling all safety protocols themselves. And I must say, they did it to a tee. I needed this assurance for the safety of myself and my family.”

According to an IMG spokesperson, over 800 COVID-19 tests were conducted at regular intervals through the filming of the event at Mumbai’s St. Regis hotel. Safety protocol mandated that all involved in the shoots had to undergo four to six days of home quarantine, followed by a three-day isolation at the hotel.

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