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In a post-pandemic fashion world, the catwalk will still reign

By Don-Alvin Adegeest

Oct 27, 2020

The reformatting of global fashion weeks in 2020 was never by choice. Travel restricted buyers, press and consumers need to see collections and business must continue, hence a digital version was borne.

While images and videos of fashion shows have an extended life on digital channels and social media outside of the 20 minutes it takes to stage a runway presentation, it turns out audiences really do prefer a physical show.

Audiences prefer a physical show

According to WWD, brands that staged hybrid events, blending a physical fashion show and digital elements, fared better globally than those opting for a strictly online presence, data from various sources showed.

“While social media interest in Paris Fashion Week significantly decreased this year compared to last, the designers who did have the most success on social media were those who scaled back their presentation the least,” Tracy David, chief marketing officer at data and analytics firm ListenFirst told WWD.

“With the pandemic with us for the foreseeable future, designers that are able to find safe and creative ways to return spectacle to the runway will generate the most social media interest around upcoming fashion events,” she added.

While sustainable alternatives for fashion week and changes to its relentless calendar have long been sought and discussed, the buzz generated from the SS21 collections through various formats reveal the catwalk show is likely to reign in a post-pandemic fashion week.

Can fashion week be sustainable?

Calls for fashion week to reduce its carbon footprint were met for the first time this season, but not by choice. In a ‘regular’ season, global fashion weeks emit a colossal 241,000 tons of CO2, the same as the annual emissions of a small country, or the consumption of 27 million gallons of petrol or the electricity used by 42,000 homes for a year, cites research from digital wholesaler Ordre.

Last year Gucci and Gabriela Hearst were two of the first brands to stage carbon neutral catwalk shows. Maxine Bédat, founder of the New Standard Institute, told Quartz at the time: “Runway shows tend to be big, energy-guzzling productions that result in small mountains of waste in the form of decor, water bottles, paper products, and more. Hundreds of shows are staged each season, yet nobody really knows what their carbon footprint is. You can calculate the carbon footprint of a flight, but in terms of [the carbon footprint of] a fashion show, that data doesn’t exist.”

Perhaps 2021 could be the rebirth of fashion week, where physical shows and digital communications could make staging shows more sustainable. Ordre suggests the collapsing and curating of schedules, combining men’s and women’s events, and showing main and pre collections at the same time. The reality is that staging a fashion show itself can never be with zero emissions, only offsetting its footprint can make it carbon neutral.

Image via FHCM Paris Fashion Week