The future of fashion shows is evolving before our very eyes. Amid the Covid-19 pandemic, industries across the globe have been forced to innovate and adapt quickly to stay afloat. At the forefront of the Latinx fashion industry, Albania Rosario has taken on the task of adapting fashion shows during Covid-19.
The future of fashion and fashion shows
The past few months have been riddled with uncertainty as countless industries face difficulties. Even the powerhouse fashion industry has now been greatly impacted, with hundreds of fashion shows and important events around the world being cancelled since March, countless stores being shut down or bankrupt, and orders and supply change suspended.
And it is not just the fashion designers that have been impacted by the Covid-19 crisis, but the whole chain of workers that make fashion possible.
Albania Rosario, CEO and founder of Fashion Designers of Latin America (FDLA) has seen first hand how the Covid-19 pandemic has affected everyone in the industry from dress makers, seamstresses, pattern makers, models, makeup artists, stylists, photographers, fashion directors and producers, the list goes on. All these people make a living and depend on the industry to support them and their families.
“I personally know that hundreds of our designers had no choice but to shut down their workplace, leaving thousands of fashion workers without a job,” says Albania.
As we enter the summer months and more events continue to be cancelled or postponed, many in the industry wonder how they will stay afloat and what will become of anticipated events such as the reknown New York Fashion Week.
Fortunately this powerhouse industry is full of creative spirits who are finding innovative ways to adapt and evolve. For many designers and companies adapting fashion shows during Covid-19 will mean embracing technologies and creating digital virtual experiences in place of physical shows.
The evolution of fashion shows
The fashion show has long been a tradition in the fashion industry, dating back to the 1800s and early 1900s in the form of fashion “parades” that began in Paris and where later imported to the U.S. These parades, like our modern day runway shows, were a way for designers and department stores to advertise the latest clothing trends to potential buyers.
The fashion parades soon evolved into more structured, theatrical shows hosted by retailers. Presented with narratives and themes, these shows became popular throughout the mid-20th century. Then in the 70s and 80s American designers began to host their own private shows separate from retailers. However, it wasn’t until the early 90s that the fashion shows we know today came to be.
Forced into cramped spaces that often exceeded capacity, the fashion shows of the early 90s were prone to mishaps from ceilings falling on models to generators blowing out. These mishaps eventually lead to New York Fashion Week finding its home in Bryant Park, a venue where all the shows could be held together in one place.
Since then, the runway has continued to evolve into ever more dramatic and entertaining spectacles. With the innovation of technology in the last decade more and more fashion shows have been incorporating digital components to their extravaganza including livestreams on TV and social media.
In 2010, London Fashion Week was the first to allow viewing via livestream. Since then, many runway shows have embraced the use of technology to expand their global reach. And these trends will only rise as the industry continues adapting fashion shows during Covid-19.
“I know that designers are innovating and starting to believe in the power of technology and digital platforms,” says Albania. “I see most of them already using social media and e-tailing (Electronic Retailing) more than ever.”
Moving forward this year, Albania says we can expect to see more online fashion shows and digital content such as look-books, brand videos, designer Q&As, and even podcasts.
“You can see that international platforms such as Shanghai Fashion Week, Mexico Fashion Week, and even recognized high-end brands like Chanel have already opted to do their shows digitally, offering a virtual experience to their audience and I strongly believe this is the new trend in fashion at least for the rest of 2020. Virtual fashion experience rather than traditional showcase.”
FDLA’s Spring/Summer 2021 shows will also be joining the digital sphere this September during New York Fashion Week. Instead of physical shows, the catwalk shows of FDLA will be completely digital, grounded in digital storytelling with a stream on new collections shown virtually and available on FDLA’s website and all social networks.
The FDLA digital platform will also contain virtual showrooms that will help connect brands with retailers, adding a business component to the week.
“It is essential to look at the future and the opportunity to change, collaborate and innovate,” says Albania. “Many of our businesses have always embraced FDLA as a platform for not just fashion but for its influence on society, identity, and culture. The current pandemic is leading us all to reflect more poignantly on the society we live in and how we want to live our lives and build businesses when we get through this. The other side of this crisis, we hope will be about sustainability, creativity, and products that you value, respect, cherish.”
The faces behind Latin America fashion
Adapting fashion shows during Covid-19 is only one aspect of change that Albania is working on through FDLA.
Another major project brought about by the pandemic is FDLA’s storytelling fundraiser campaign, Las Caras Detrás De La Moda En Latino América. The campaign features hundreds of video clips from designers across the globe telling their stories and testimonies about how the pandemic has affected their businesses and what they are doing to help.
The goal of this campaign is to raise funds for the FDLA Project, a marketplace / E-commerce platform for the use of Latinx designers and upcoming designers who have been impacted by Covid-19 to help them reinstate and rebuild moving forward.
“Many of our designers are still working from their homes making thousands of face masks to donate to the most needed countries in Latin America, so I decided to start a campaign in order to raise funds for the FDLA Project,” says Albania. “The cost of this project’s development is over $50,000 and I am hoping through this campaign to be able to raise these funds to bring this idea to life.”
In addition to their Covid-19 fund, FDLA has also launched an online school, FDLA Academy online where they are offering free and low cost classes for everyone–from beginners to advanced students–who is looking to learn a new skill during the quarantine.
An opportunity to innovate
Throughout all the hardships this time has brought on the world, one positive is that it has taught us all a thing or two about adapting, innovating, and finding new opportunities in a bad scenario.
“I strongly believe that every bad situation comes with a new opportunity but we must be ready to see it,” says Albania. “If we focus only on the negative, it will be impossible to find new opportunities. We have to face the obstacles that come across our path. This is what life is about.”
Albania is using this time as an opportunity to innovate, learn, create, embrace technology and focus on the essentials.
“Focus on what people need,” she says. “The glamour and haute couture should be placed on hold for now.”
This mindset is rippling throughout the industry as more and more designers reconsider how they make their garments and focus on what is more essential rather than what is trendy or high end.
We are watching the fashion industry evolve and transform before our very eyes as a new chapter in the history of fashion shows is written. It may not seem like revolutionary changes are happening yet, but soon we will look back at this time and wonder how the fashion world existed without virtual shows being commonplace.
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Albania began FDLA when she saw a need for change in the industry.
“Ten years ago I had a vision: I was going to build a platform that would allow Latinx designers to be part of the most exciting week of fashion in the world, New York Fashion Week. Ten years later, our Latinx designers are officially part of the scene at New York Fashion Week. I created a powerful platform that connects and builds bridges of fashion and opportunities across Latin America. I brought a fresh perspective to the fashion capital of the world. FDLA is that platform.”
Now, Albania continues to push for innovation in the industry as she works toward adapting fashion shows during Covid-19 to the digital realm and re-imagine the way we experience the runway.