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Digital Haute Couture

For some time now, the fashion industry has been grappling with issues relating to sustainability. For those fighting for change within the industry, one area of contention has been the regular fashion shows. Spring/Summer, Autumn/Winter, Haute Couture, Men’s Fashion Week, Resort… the list is seemingly endless. This results in more and more people adding up the air miles whilst hopping from one country to another, to see clothes that, come next year, will no longer be covetable. These issues, interspersed with a deeper understanding of the pressure that designers are under and the effect that producing so many collections can have on their mental health, have seen some designers take the bold step of removing themselves from this rigid fashion schedule. However, it’s the current pandemic that has forced the hand of the industry into taking immediate action, resulting in Fashion Week going digital.

Rolled out on a schedule and mimicking the physical Fashion Week, the new digital catwalk sphere has given Haute Couture an opportunity to showcase France’s most elite form of fashion design to the whole world.

However, Giambattista Valli didn’t require a change to the show format to showcase his collection to a wider audience. Last season, Valli opened up his couture collection to the public, forgoing a runway show. This season, Valli declared “We want to spread beauty! We want to spread dreams… I want to share the idea of a future that’s going to be better than the past.” These dreams took Valli back to his childhood, with each dress rooted in the fantasy of the haute couture that filled his youthful fashion dreams. It was classically couture, ‘not out there’, but it delivered.

At Dior, Maria Grazia Chiuiri created miniature models, taking her inspiration from Théâtre de la Mode. Post World War II, couturiers and artists collaborated to create clothes in doll size, with backdrops to accompany them, in order to promote Parisian fashion. This proved so popular at its Louvre debut, that the exhibition went on a world tour, raising funds for French WWII survivors.

Back to the present day, and along with beautiful, exact miniatures, Chiuri recruited Matteo Garrone to direct a short Surrealist film called Le Mythe Dior, featuring nympths, mermaids and the goddess Venus in a lush green setting. As with all fashion, this was perfect escapism, so, it’s unfortunate that, with the current climate, it has had to come under criticism for its almost all white cast. This is particularly poignant given that Naomi Campbell, wearing a t-shirt that read ‘phenomenally black’, opened the event via video link, referencing the long fight for equality and diversity within the fashion industry.

On a more light-hearted note, Viktor & Rolf didn’t fail to amuse. Their digital conception involved a film that played to the bygone era of salon-style shows. Whilst the clothes were split into three mini wardrobes of negligee, dressing gown and coat – all that’s required during the pandemic. The designers, Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren, worked with local suppliers in Amsterdam and drew from their own fabric stock. Fantastical and somewhat comical, one maximalist coat is described as guaranteeing “you will remain in your own safe zone while venturing out into the world. The abstract decoration of holes and tunnels, is at the same time unapproachable, as well as attractive,” Without taking away from the seriousness of the time, Viktor & Rolf have sought to make light of the many depressing situations that we all find ourselves in at the moment.

Chanel was also a prominent name on the haute couture calendar, choosing to include punkish hair with tweed. There were some designers, however, that were noticeably absent. Chitose Abe’s was due to debut at Jean Paul Gaultier couture, the first in a series of collections by guest designers. At Givenchy, where Clare Waight Keller stepped down only in April, after three years at the helm, the recent appointment of Matthew Williams left the house very little time to be involved in the schedule. More to look forward to next time.

Whatever the success of this digital takeover, Ralph Toledano, the president of the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode (FHCM), told Vogue that they believed that nothing would ever replace “the unity of time and place. Shows are a major component of the fashion industry, and this will remain… Physical events will always have our preference, but as long as there is uncertainty, there should be flexibility.”

About Our Author: Katie Calvert's background is in fashion and textiles with a first class honours degree in Fashion Communication and Promotion and experience in trend, PR and events. She decided to take the plunge back into education in 2015 to complete a Master of Arts in Multimedia Journalism. Using these newfound skills and her love of fashion and culture, Katie has been freelance writing for over a year.

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