Before another dreaded COVID variant took hold, we were all rather naively thinking we could gear up for another somewhat normal fashion week following the return to physical shows in September 2021. How foolish of us. At the time of writing, UK travellers are banned from France, so for many, Emily in Paris re-runs will have to do in jazzing up what can become a tedious back-to-back of live streamed shows. Giorgio Armani was the first to pull the curtains on an IRL audience a year ago, and once again is the first in a domino effect of cancellations. Ann Demeulemeester's highly anticipated show at Pitti Uomo now won't take place until the men's trade show returns in June, with Brunello Cucinello also pulling out. It's all getting a bit déjà vu. Alas, the show must go on, and most brands plan to cling on to their physical show slots until the bitter end. It’s a shame that brands don't seem to be considering the alternatives which we've seen over the past 18 months - think Balenciaga’s video game and outfits for Fortnite, or the enchanting fashion films by designers such as Dries Van Noten. There’s so much more to offer beyond physical shows, if the industry would only be a little braver. Here’s hoping there will be some virtual Easter eggs in the weeks to come.
SHOWstudio will be sending reporters to Italy and France in accordance with safety regulations, so stay tuned for our live video reviews alongside the rest of our must-see collections coverage. Here's what to keep your eye on for the time being.
MILAN MENSWEAR, 14-18 January
- JW Anderson: 16 January, 19:00 GMT
After three seasons (plus Cruise), of Jonathan Anderson's answer to a runway show alternative - the 'show in a box', whereby press received lookbooks and trinkets associated with the collections - the Irish designer is taking his kinky, quirky London-based brand over to the sophisticated streets of Milan. With menswear having taken somewhat of a backseat to women's over recent seasons, here's hoping JW uses the runway to return with a bang.
- 1017 ALYX 9SM: 14 January, 19:00 GMT
Meanwhile, designer Matthew Williams is making the jump from Paris back to Milan this season with his brand 1017 ALYX 9SM, who manufacture their high-luxe pieces in Italy. Known for thenow infamous rollercoaster buckle, top notch fabrications, streetwear credentials and urban sophistication, the brand will briefly leave behind the city of lights where Williams is now based as the creative director of Givenchy. 1017 ALYX 9SM is set to press pause on the slew of brilliant fashion films and lookbooks we saw over lockdown in favour of the runway. Expectations are high.
- Louis Vuitton: 20 January, 17:30 GMT
The late designer Virgil Abloh's last collection for the house will be staged in Paris in a final farewell to the creative polymath who made an indelible mark on fashion, art and culture at large. Last month a pre-planned Miami show went ahead in tribute, re-showing the S/S 22 collection, but it only feels right to end Abloh's Louis Vuitton story where it begun.
- Kenzo: 23 January, 10:00 GMT
This season, Kenzo's parent conglomerate LVMH welcomes another designer into the fold. Nigo, founder of the streetwear mecca brand A Bathing Ape, previously teamed up with Virgil Abloh on Louis Vuitton Pre-Fall 2020. Rising to the helm of the Japanese brand, Nigo's new position as Kenzo's creative director is a touching reminder of Abloh's anti-elitist, collaborative spirit. Since Kenzo's founder resigned in 1999, the label has struggled to drive sales past the sell-out A/W 12 tiger-embroidered sweatshirts. Whether Nigo can give it the facelift it needs to avoid ending up on the sales rack every season remains to be seen.
- Bianca Saunders: 19 January, 9:00 GMT
London's very own menswear star, and winner of the covetable ANDAM Prize 2021, makes her move to the French fashion capital this season. Having been taken under the umbrella of Gucci via designer Alessandro Michele's GucciFest film series and Gucci Vault project last year, Saunders is on a roll. Her signature twisted men's tailoring plays with themes of identity, often through imaginative fashion films and installations. With the fresh injection of the ANDAM prize money, the world is Saunders' oyster.
- Alaïa: Sunday 23 January, 17:30 GMT
The famed fashion house known for the bodysculpting silhouette pioneered by the designer in the 80s, as seen on Grace Jones, made its comeback in July following Azzedine Alaïa's death in 2017. The label's new creative director Pieter Mulier paid tribute to the greatest couturier this side of the 70s with his Spring 2022 debut. Continuing to reinvent house codes for a new generation is expected to be his modus operandi this season.
- Lazoschmidl: 22 January, 18:30 GMT
Lazoschmidl designers Josef Lazo and Andreas Schmidl are a kinky, schizophrenic addition to the runways in Paris, having previously shown on schedule digitally. Their kitsch appliqué graphics, barely there shorts and PVC trousers inspired by social norms and literature bring a sophisticated and intelligent angle to the hot girl summer trend we've seen taking over.
With IRL shows outweighing the online-only shows, for now at least, what does this mean for fashion's digital awakening? We'll be keeping our eyes peeled for the digital fashion designers and online showcases to watch, so stay tuned.