‘Nothing Will Ever Replace the Unity of Time and Place’—IRL Runway Shows Will Always Have a Place in Paris

Steff Yotka

When it rains, it pours—and the downpour we are currently weathering in fashion is the oncoming, if temporary, shift toward digital fashion shows. With travel mostly impossible and countries in varying states of lockdown, the international cycle of resort, men’s, and couture shows that typically takes place from May to July has ground to a halt. Well, almost. In London, Milan, and Paris, fashion’s governing bodies have unveiled plans for online fashion weeks. In London, content of all types will be aggregated to londonfashionweek.co.uk from June 12 to 14, organized by the British Fashion Council. In Milan, Milano Digital Fashion Week will bring together men’s and women’s collections as well as additional content to the Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana site from July 9 to 13. Paris, where men’s fashion week and couture are usually teamed together with a short break in between, has announced a video week for the men’s shows from July 14 to 17, organized by the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode. Presumably it could create something similar for couture.

The Fédération’s president, Ralph Toledano, has a broad and quite passionate view of what his country’s first foray into digital fashion might look like. “In Paris, June is by nature dedicated to menswear spring/summer collections so, as usual, we will stick to this. Video is the final format requested,” he wrote Vogue via email. “However the creative content it will be made of is fully open and may be diverse (show, performance, animation, photo shoot), as long as it refers to a spring/summer 2021 collection. Paris is about creativity, diversity, and quality; we expect houses to express themselves in the same perspectives.”

In a normal season, menswear editors and retailers would flock to Paris to see what was new from headliners (Virgil Abloh at Louis Vuitton and Kim Jones at Dior Men) and inspiring new talents (Emily Adams Bode and Craig Green are recent adds). As of yet, many of these brands have not announced any firm plans for spring 2021. Dries Van Noten, for his part, organized a letter to the fashion industry demanding seasonal selling changes.

Still, Toledano and the Fédération are hopeful that Paris’s digital-facing fashion week will be a success. The Fédération, which is organized into three Chambres Syndicale that oversee menswear, womenswear, and couture, met on April 9 to discuss fashion week’s future and decided that a digital menswear week would be the best option for now. “Postponing the week [to July, instead of late June] was an operational decision to give houses extra time to organize their production,” Toledano says.

He continues: “Digital is clearly part of the shape of fashion to come and we will take it as an opportunity of innovation to complement tradition. This being said, [in the] last weeks behind our screens, we all felt that a dimension was missing: the sensorial one. This has tremendously reinforced our position that nothing will 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.” To those among us who revel in the sensory delights of Pierpaolo Piccioli’s featherwork, Sam McKnight’s croissant updos at Chanel, and the flutter of anticipation as a Dior couture bride hits the runway, the confirmation that some time soon physical fashion shows will continue presents a huge relief. It might not be in July—but at least the drama and performance of fashion week is promised to continue.

Originally Appeared on Vogue