What on Earth is Happening for Fashion Week?

It’s been hard to keep up with the volatile fashion schedule for Spring 2021 this year, as organizations scramble to service buyers, editors, and creative teams alike. As the dark, tempestuous cloud of COVID19 looms over the schedules of all involved, brands struggle to recuperate financially, and travel bans refuse to let up for Americans seeking to visit Europe, digital presentations will have to pick up the slack that in-person shows can no longer bear. So what’s happening in each capital? Will designers go the direction of the Summer show event Jacquemus or focus on digital activations like Valentino? Models.com breaks down the “phy-gital” plans for New York, London, Milan, and Paris and what that means for the ecosystem at large.

With high COVID19 numbers running rampant in America, New York will be the most affected this runway season. New York Governor Cuomo announced New York Fashion Week will happen with restrictions on all indoor events to 50% capacity, and outdoor events capped at 50 people. The event will be abbreviated this year with most designers opting for strictly-digital content or limited-attendance, physical shows that are scheduled to run from September 14th-16th. BOF reports the CFDA’s site, Runway360 will host brands’ digital content, such as video presentations and digital showrooms where buyers can place orders. WWD reports that the CFDA has announced if there is enough demand September 17th will be added as a supplemental day and many designers will partner with IMG’s NYFW: The Shows platform to also help organize their SS21 rollouts. The latter’s epicenter at Spring Studios in Tribeca will allow for designers like like Jason Wu and Christian Siriano to unveil presentations to small gatherings on Spring’s rooftop and other designers’ digital content on NYFW.com. Men shows and presentations skipped in July will also be added to the schedule. NYFW’s normal closer, Marc Jacobs, Proenza Schouler, and Michael Kors have already announced they will not be participating with physical shows this season, opting for store events at a later date. Don’t forget about the CFDA Fashion Awards to kick off the whole spectacle on September 14th.

London Fashion Week, set for September 17th-22nd, pushed the digital fashion week format the most this past summer with men’s designers producing digital content like video presentations, panels, and podcasts, and playlists. The British Fashion Council, who has yet to get the green light from the UK government, announced LFW is planning to host both womenswear and menswear this season with brands split into three possible showcase sections: digital, physical, and a blend of the two. Notable names like Burberry, Erdem, and Victoria Beckham will focus on “phy-gital” presentations that will most likely follow the full cast, small audience, streamed everywhere direction that Dior and Valentino took this past Summer. Brands like Simone Rocha and Roksanda are opting for in-person shows with strict government safety guidelines. Emerging brands like Marques’Almeida, Matty Bovan, Charlotte Knowles, Ahluwalia, and Bianca Saunders will unveil solely digital presentations.

Italy, as well as France, had a headstart on physical presentations this Summer, with Dior Cruise, Valentino Couture, and men shows like Dolce & Gabbana and Ermenegildo Zegna hosting physical shows, some with audiences, some without. At Milan Fashion Week, WWD reports things kick off with department store, Rinascente, who will throw a bash in collaboration with the Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana. The CNMI annouced that 28 out of 50 announced designers will stage physical shows, starting with Fendi in a new, co-ed format for the first time and including other big names like Versace, Alberta Ferretti, Etro, Max Mara, Giorgio Armani, and Prada (along with Miuccia’s co-creative debut with Raf Simons) from September 22nd to the 28th. Notably absent are Bottega Veneta, Moschino, and Alessandro Michele’s Gucci who already announced that he would be challenging the fashion calender and going off schedule this season due to the unforesable roadbump of the pandemic. Missoni, Dsquared2, GCDS, and Genny are expected to hold solely digital initiatives.

Paris, as always, rounds things out yet with New York and London just solidifying production plans, it’s hard to say what safety measures and limitations will be in place for the city of blinding lights. Just last week France reported as many as 5,500 new coronavirus cases – the biggest jump since last April. BOF reports that megabrands, Louis Vuitton and Chanel, confirmed that they plan to stage live shows with models, however, both houses said it was too soon to say whether guests would attend in-person or if the shows will be live-streamed only. The French trade federation that organizes Paris Fashion Week, Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode, or FHCM for short, announced the event will begin on Monday, September 28, and end on Tuesday, October 6th. While teams and models from the US and Asia will most likely be left out (unless you have a negative COVID test and go now for 2-week quarantine), a focus on local editors, creative teams, and models seems to be the strategy for the conglomerated brands that can afford the padded production budgets, additional safety measures, and have the necessary insurance if canceled last minute. Pietro Beccari CEO of Dior, which staged its Cruise collection in Puglia with no audience, hopes for “some” audience this upcoming season, CNN reports. Chanel‘s president of fashion activities, Bruno Pavlovsky reiterated his commitment to participating in Paris Fashion Week this Fall in BOF. Needlessly to say, it will be challenging for new, emerging brands to follow the old guard’s lead.

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