High-Fashion Market Continues Its Digital Shift

Shopping for high-fashion apparel continues to change under the pressure of the pandemic. Runways and star-studded front rows are moving to the back, while Instagram makes a play to become the go-to platform for fashion.

Gucci shook up the fashion world over the weekend, as Creative Director Alessandro Michele announced that its annual seven-season fashion show schedule is “worn out.”

“I will abandon the worn-out rituals of seasonalities and show to regain a new cadence, closer to my expressive call,” Michele said. “We will meet just twice a year, to share the chapters of a new story. Irregular, joyful and absolutely free chapters, which will be written blending rules and genres, feeding on new spaces, linguistic codes and communication platforms. And beyond. I would like to leave behind the paraphernalia of leitmotifs that colonized our prior world: cruise, pre-fall, spring-summer, fall-winter. I think these are stale and underfed words. Labels of an impersonal discourse that lost its meaning.”

Michele posted the announcement on Instagram, which is making an aggressive play to host virtual shows and provide shopping links for the goods being displayed. Last week, Instagram released guidelines on how to host a digital fashion show on the platform. Led by the company’s Fashion Partnerships Director Eva Chen, the initiative features tips on livestreaming as well as how to use influencers to promote content.

According to a study by trend forecaster Heuritech, Instagram has seen a 70 percent bump in traffic since the pandemic. With London, Paris and Milan fashion weeks going digital, virtual shows are definitely in vogue. Several luxury fashion brands have taken to the platform instead of hosting in-person shows. For example, Hanifa attracted attention for using 3D models in its recent Instagram show. In an interview with Teen Vogue, Hanifa’s designer, Anifa Mvuemba, said: “The news came out about how serious things were and I started to feel a bit anxious about everything going on. I started feeling like maybe it would be insensitive to create and share a new collection online while people were facing very difficult realities.”

Not everyone in the business is thrilled with the evolution.

“For a lot of new generation designers, there is still a real issue with not being able to touch and feel the garments or see the fit up close, as these are the things that will determine the success of a garment and can easily be misinterpreted if you’re not physically present,” noted Ida Petersson, director of menswear and womenswear buying at Browns Fashion, in a recent report. “As technical innovation is pushed forward, I’m excited to see what will come out of this. However, the downside is that it will be more difficult than ever for young designers to showcase their collections for wholesale without the access that some of the more established brands have, whether that be access to tech or industry contacts.”

The move is largely seen as a logical extension of the digital shift, and a general transition away from live fashion shows.

“There is hope that we are standing on the threshold of transition in the microeconomics of the industry, which will be defined by a move toward a more ‘circular’ structure,” said Vogue Australia. “Building on the foundations of ‘slow fashion’ that focuses on the quality of garments over speed to market, circular economies aim at producing long-lasting, timeless pieces that reflect authentic craft techniques, and provide creative and emotional value beyond function or status. It can involve repairing, reusing, recycling or refurbishing garments, giving them multiple lives. It’s a sharp contrast from the seasonality of fast fashion and single-use behavior.”