Thanks to COVID-19 restrictions, earlier this week it was announced that the A/W 21 Paris Men’s Fashion Week and haute couture shows will be online-only. Fashion houses are still allowed to organise live shows with models, but no audience members will be allowed to attend in person.
This new method of showing collections during the pandemic has been dubbed as 'phygital' - a portmanteau signifying a live, physical show with models, but filmed with an exclusively digital audience in mind. On the A/W 21 Paris schedule, Dior Men's, Hermès, Louis Vuitton and Rick Owens are all set for live events, but the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode have said that 'the [show] formats may change depending on the health situation and the measures taken by the public authorities.' The uncertainty induced by the pandemic means that, in fashion, everything is up in the air. It's mostly impossible to know which approach a brand will take to showcase their collection until the show actually unfolds.
Below are our recommendations and predictions as to how designers will show on the Paris Fashion Week schedule. Will brands show their A/W 21 collections via fashion films, documentaries, lookbooks or live-streamed runway shows? We've given it our best guess.
A/W 21 Paris Men’s Fashion Week (19 - 24 January)
Since fashion houses are still allowed to organise live shows with models (but no audience members), Dior Men's, Hermès, Louis Vuitton and Rick Owens are all set for live events. Models catwalked through the cosmos (courtesy of American artist Kenny Scharf) for Jones' Dior Men's Fall 2021 collection, while, despite the pandemic, Rick Owens staged a full on runway show in Venice for his S/S 21 womenswear show. Virgil Abloh went bigger and better for his Louis Vuitton S/S 21 menswear show. The location? Tokyo. Audience members sat amongst shipping containers in what seemed like a maskless, pre-COVID world. The live stream has since racked up nearly 1 million views.
Fashion Film/Collection Videos
We can expect to see more fashion films from brands like Wales Bonner, GmbH and Dries Van Noten this season, following their eclectic cinematic approaches for S/S 21. Jun Takahashi and Jonathan Anderson pushed the envelope furthest with their video content last season, devising their own blueprints for showcasing collections online. For his previous Loewe menswear collection, Anderson continued with his anti-digital show-in-a-box concept, in which the designer discussed the references and craftsmanship behind the clothes. Created under lockdown in Tokyo, the Undercover S/S 21 menswear collection was interactive. Viewed from 360° in a digital landscape, the models were rendered in 3D. 'I cannot return to the life I had before. I must continue to push forward down the path that is unique for Undercover. Make a new life. Make new noise,' said Takahashi in a statement accompanying the collection.
In the post-pandemic 'phygital' age of fashion where brands disseminate fashion films, collection videos and live-streamed runway shows, it is a glaring statement not to produce any video content. Last season Matthew Williams shunned all videographic mediums, instead creating only lookbooks for 1017 ALYX 9SM and Givenchy (where he was appointed creative director in June 2020). Will he take the old-school route again for 1017 ALYX 9SM's upcoming Paris show?
A/W 21 Haute Couture (25-28 January)
How will haute couture hold up without the old glamour of the runway? By appointing couture rookies like Kim Jones and Chitose Abe - younger designers sure to revitalise the musty medium. Kim Jones will show twice on the A/W 21 Paris schedule, firstly with a new Dior Men's collection and secondly with his debut couture collection for Fendi (Jones was appointed as artistic director of couture and womenswear at Fendi in September 2020). More couture excitement is yet to come - Alber Elbaz's new new brand AZ Factory will make its debut on the schedule, while Sacai is set to take the reigns of Jean Paul Gaultier for a much-anticipated show (this will also be Chitose Abe's first time at couture).