Tuesday, May 26, 2020

What Will Become Of Fashion When The Epidemic Is Over?

The longer we endure social distancing, and in some cases complete self-isolation, the darker our moods, and the lower our energy levels. At least, this is what’s happening to me. I have been in self-imposed quarantine in my hometown of Ragusa in Sicily since March 6th, a couple of days before the Italian government imposed the lockdown in Lombardy and other heavily affected northern regions and, then, the entire country. I was supposed to stay at home for a couple of weeks, unwinding after two consecutive fashion months and tending to my writing duties before going back to Milan, but here I am, still. It is the afternoon of March 20 as I write these lines.

I am secluded in the library, my most beloved room, filled with stacks of beloved books, now feels like a prison. I try my best to stay mentally and physically healthy, but some days are not easy. It must be the same for everybody, I guess. I am bad at calling and keeping connected. And yet, I feel optimistic and positive. At least, I want to. I have a lot of time to myself to read. I have rediscovered drawing, which satisfies me immensely. And I also have plenty of time to ruminate. I know it’s just thinking for thinking’s sake. Crystal balls are not my forte. Still, I cannot help but speculate.

What will become of fashion when the crisis is over? It’s easy to say that nothing will be the same again. The whole of our lives will be different, from the way we connect with other humans and other species — oh bats, oh pangolins! — to the way we travel. We are at a junction: we might all end up in a completely sanitised world of regulated seclusion and fluid-free digital connections, or we might rediscover what truly matters, and do away with the clutter, the overconsumption, the superficiality that’s been clogging our minds, and destroying our environment. I wonder if the crisis that’s hitting fashion — and it’s hitting very hard, on both the supply and demand sides of the equation — is one of those cases in which only the strong will survive. But are those strong, I ask myself, the usual suspects, the money-fuelled Goliaths? Or will the smart and agile Davids have their revenge?

The big conglomerates, for sure, are better equipped to survive the hardship right here and right now. They have the resources to weather the storm. And yet, they ultimately rely on huge volumes of consumption, which the current epidemic has perhaps already shown to be blatantly superficial. Who needs all this product? And, when this eventually passes, could we witness a comeback of small-batch, beautiful products, produced and sold locally by skilled artisans? When it comes to media, could we see a decisive shift away from large legacy print titles and the rise of new digital formats, mixing drawing, collage, memes, videos?

A few days before the World Health Organization declared the outbreak of Covid-19 a global pandemic, trend forecasting guru Li Edelkoort did not mince her words: “The virus will slow everything down. We will witness a halt in the production of consumer goods. It's terrible and wonderful because we have to stop producing at this frantic pace. It is almost as if the virus were an amazing grace for the planet. It might be the reason why we survive as a species.”

In the current turmoil, which in Italy is particularly hard, it’s difficult to see “amazing grace” right now, but I get the point. Here, the fashion industry is the second largest contributor to our national economy, and yet the government has been slow in acknowledging this, not even including fashion in the list of the industries heavily affected by the current situation, prompting the Camera della Moda to file an official request for support. But Italy is also the only place in the world where age-old artisanal skills have been turned over the years into unique industrial processes. If a return to smaller and more authentic production is really to come, it’s our manufacturing system that can make it possible, and this makes me optimistic.

Italians are as inventive as they are anarchic: we give our best in dark times and honestly times cannot get any darker than this. We are suffering a lot, but this might actually be our moment, again. It happened in the Fifties, and again in the early Eighties. Creativity and invention are among our national treasures. Creativity and invention do not stop, even now, and that’s a sign of optimism that is important to spread in this very moment.

I have spoken with everyone from Giorgio Armani to Pierpaolo Piccioli, from Silvia Venturini Fendi to Angela Missoni, from Alessandro Dell’Acqua and Alessandro Sartori to Francesco Risso, and none of these creators are resting. Despite the evident and unavoidable difficulties, they are working on the new collections, using Skype and video calls, doing more with less but doing it, stubbornly and proactively. And everyone in this transversal class of Italian inventors, each one in their own way, agrees on one simple fact: this crisis is an opportunity to edit down the superfluous, to regain our long-lost soul, to do away with heavy marketing and the insidious economy of influencing. Basta! These Italians are working on smaller collections with stronger messages and this might be the ultimate outcome of this whole turmoil.

They say difficult times are fertile ground for extreme outbursts of fantasy. The pandemic has forced us to focus, here and now, on the essential: surviving. But once we’ll get our lives back, we will need beauty, even a tiny zing of it, in order to live again and not just survive. And when it happens, this industry may have evolved for the good: getting out of the marketing trap and rediscovering its real purpose in beauty. Beauty as truthfulness, soulfulness, invention. Beauty as a remedy and a vehicle. Beauty as a reason to progress and a way, again, to be truly human.

Instagram Hustles To Become Global Hub For Digital Fashion Shows

With no way to safely host runway shows in the global fashion capitals any time soon, designers and fashion brands are in the thick of figuring out digital alternatives to share and promote their upcoming Resort and Spring collections. Is the best approach a YouTube runway show, like what Carine Roitfeld staged with Derek Blasberg and a slate of models and designers? Or a partnership with a fashion publication? Is a virtual TikTok challenge a smart way to stand out? Or a pop-up shop on Nintendo's Animal Crossing game?

Fashion brands tend to follow each other into unknown territory, so it's likely that a few leaders will set the pandemic standard for presenting online. And with the different regional trade organisations setting up their own digital destinations for collection content, popular social media platforms are aiming to become core to the strategy. Instagram, already fashion’s go-to, is no exception, making a strong play for digital fashion week hub status. On Wednesday, its fashion team, led by Vice President of Fashion Partnerships Eva Chen, released a comprehensive “playbook” for hosting digital fashion shows on the app, complete with tips on how to “invite” followers to tune into a livestream, strategies for showing “behind the scenes” clips and pointers for enlisting influencers to boost awareness.

Fashion brands already design their runway shows to pop on Instagram with elaborate sets and front rows full of popular influencers. Livestream presentations are standard. But without a physical event — and the amplifying power of celebrities and influencers in the room — brands will need to get more creative to stand out. Instagram’s guide will be distributed by the regional trade organisations in New York, London, Paris and Milan, and comes a day after Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg announced new e-commerce features for both Facebook and Instagram.

“I don’t believe there is a future where there is a one-size-fits-all fashion week experience anymore,” Chen told BoF. “I do believe Instagram, no matter what, is going to be at the heart and soul of it.” Chen said the playbook was designed for brands of all sizes, acknowledging that sometimes the largest brands in the industry are the least willing to take risks on the platform where already they have millions of followers. She also said the guide is not meant to be a prescriptive formula, but offer tools and best practises that a brand can pick and choose from, depending on their approach. Instagram is also developing ways to feature upcoming fashion week content more prominently to users on the app, Chen said.

The playbook lands during an interesting time for social media activity. Newer platforms like Tiktok, the Gen Z favourite which was downloaded more than 11 million times just in March 2020, are growing fast. YouTube is making major investments to court the fashion crowd, following its hiring of Derek Blasberg as head of fashion and beauty partnerships in 2018. Instagram was only projected to see time spent on the platform increase by 1.5 percent in 2020, according to data from eMarketer. But now the research firm expects Instagram will see the biggest boost from the pandemic, during which American and Europeans on lockdown have spent more time on their phones, with gains as high as 14 percent.

These last three months, we have seen a huge shift in the way fashion is using Instagram.“These last three months, we have seen a huge shift in the way fashion is using Instagram,” said Chen. “So many brands that had never gone live are suddenly going live.” Capitalising on the increased engagement is a challenge. Advertisers are scaling back marketing spend to cut costs as shoppers stay home and do some cost-cutting of their own. Facebook, Instagram’s parent company, reported a steep decrease in advertising revenue in March but said the market started to recover in April, during which advertising revenue was flat year-over-year. Brands are also spending less with fashion, luxury and beauty influencers, many of whom have their biggest audiences on Instagram. Branded content posts fell from 35 percent of influencer posts in February to 4 percent in April, according to tracking agency Launchmetrics.

But the pandemic provides an opportunity for Instagram to further weave itself into the fabric of the fashion industry as more users watch longform video and livestreams on the platform than they did before the pandemic — views of the latter are up 70 percent year-over-year in the last month. Instagram not only stands to gain by capturing more of the digital advertising market, but also by expanding its in-app shopping functionality. In 2019, Instagram made it possible to shop from brand posts without redirecting users to a web browser, and allowed influencers and spokespeople to cue followers to shop their posts, too. Instagram gets a cut of the transaction, and brands fulfill the sales themselves.

Chen said the functionality is still in test mode, closed to limited accounts in the US, but plans are still set to expand that product. On Tuesday, Zuckerberg announced that Facebook is introducing in-app storefronts for brand accounts, and Instagram will also soon add shopping tags to live videos, allowing brands to prompt shoppers to buy during a livestream. Instagram will also highlight the shoppable product in a tab on the “Discover” page, much in the same way it does on its editorialised fashion and beauty shopping account, @Shop.

Fashion brands now in desperate need to push their direct-to-consumer sales but lacking the know-how or marketing funds to draw audiences to their websites could consider using Instagram’s social commerce tools to reach shoppers directly. Instagram’s guide encourages brands to use their shopping tags to drive sales in the main feed and on Instagram Stories. “If you’re not see-now-buy-now, you can still take advantage of this high-traffic time by sharing posts with shoppable products before and after fashion week,” reads the playbook. “Use shopping tags to make this experience as seamless as possible.”

Chen and her team are rolling their sleeves up in the hopes of ensuring that Instagram becomes the digital fashion show go-to, encouraging designers to get in touch and join a private Facebook group for live updates. “Our general philosophy is: we want to teach you how to use the tools so you as a brand — or as an individual or as a creator — feel empowered to use Instagram in your own way,” said Chen, adding she expects to see brands be more experimental in their Instagram strategies moving forward. “In times like these, some of the most creative ideas will surface.” In the end, Instagram’s efforts may result in a single global gathering place for brands, but much of this advice has to do with speaking to the consumer, not the trade. In the coming months, brands must also figure out how to sell collections to buyers who are unable to visit showrooms. The Fashion Week Problem is far from solved.

Revisiting Richard Prince´s Nurse Series For Louis Vuitton

In an effort to battle the COVID-19 pandemic, surgical masks have become a sign of the times, and they're not going anywhere anytime soon. It seems wearing masks will be the trend of choice for the foreseeable future as the narrative around the face coverings has morphed into a combination of both protective gear and fashion accessory. Long before the current crisis, however, Louis Vuitton presented a subversive take on health and safety on the Spring/Summer 2008 runway. With Marc Jacobs at the helm and a creative collaboration with artist Richard Prince, a dozen models donned a chic take on the classic nurse uniform, complete with branded face masks. As healthcare workers have become the frontline heroes of the pandemic, CR honors National Nurses Day with a look back on this memorable moment in fashion history.

Throughout Marc Jacobs' tenure as creative director of Louis Vuitton, the designer made a name for himself by bending the house codes and modernizing the image of the French maison. In this process, Jacobs collaborated with a range of legendary artists like Stephen Sprouse, Yayoi Kusama, and Takashi Murakami, who all applied their flair to sartorial pieces for Louis Vuitton. “I was always really intimidated by the art world" Jacobs said. "Then I got to know these artists a little bit—some a lot—and that fed my interest in their work.

For the Spring/Summer 2008 runway show, Jacobs tapped Prince after seeing his 2007 exhibition Spiritual America at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City. The end product unveiled a blend of fine art and fashion as the show opened to a series of 12 models–including Naomi Campbell, Eva Herzigova, and Natalia Vodinova–dressed in see-through nurse uniforms with each letter of the fashion house's name fixed on the center of their nurse's caps. Additionally, each model was styled with a black lace face mask adorned with the iconic LV monogram print.

The striking theatrics of the show's opening was a nod to Prince's famous Nurse paintings, one of which can be seen as the cover art for Sonic Youth's 2004 album Sonic Nurse. The nurses that appeared on Louis Vuitton's runway embodied the same sexually charged kink that Prince prescribed to his paintings, modeling them after the covers of '40s-era pulp romance novels.

Elsewhere, the show followed a playful style with bright colors dominating and sparkling sequins, glittery lurex, and crumpled taffeta adding texture. As for accessories, handbags were also touched by Prince, featuring the artist's Jokes series (also used in Raf Simmons' debut campaign for Calvin Klein) printed across the side of monogrammed bags in a washed out watercolor finish. The collaborative handbag collection would later receive a launch party at the Guggenheim, where the LV nurses would again model the exclusive pieces.

In the wake of the current pandemic, several accounts took to social media to recall Louis Vuitton's Spring/Summer 2008 show as an image of what fashion might look like in the coming months. Jacobs' himself even reminisced on the show in an Instagram post–"wish I’d have held on to one of these" he wrote.

Kendall Jenner To Pay $90,000 In Fyre Festival Lawsuit

Kendall Jenner has settled the lawsuit concerning her involvement with the 2017 Fyre Festival. The model has agreed to pay $90,000 in the settlement over the now-deleted Instagram photo she posted in January 2017 to promote the failed music festival, according to court documents filed Tuesday. Jenner was sued in August 2019 in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in New York by Gregory Messer, who is recovering money for creditors that lost money investing in the festival. Other celebrities involved in the Fyre Festival, including model Emily Ratajkowski and musicians Migos, Pusha T and Lil Yachty were also sued.

Court documents state that Jenner was paid $275,000 for the Instagram post and that the post did not specify that she was being paid to promote the festival. The court documents also state that Jenner suggested in the post’s caption that her brother-in-law, Kanye West, would be performing at the festival. The Fyre Festival has resulted in several lawsuits since the music event failed to come to fruition. The festival spawned Hulu and Netflix documentaries detailing how the Bahamas-based music event lured guests on false claims of celebrity attendees and luxury accommodations, but later presented guests with FEMA disaster relief tents, food shortages and no musical acts.

The festival’s founder, Billy McFarland, initially raised $26 million for the festival, using most of the funds to pay musical acts that didn’t show up and launch the social media campaign that Jenner participated in. McFarland pleaded guilty to wire fraud charges in March 2018 and was sentenced to six years in prison. He’s also been ordered to pay restitution of the $26 million he raised.

Dior To Bring Museum Exhibit To China In July

As fashion exhibitions worldwide linger in lockdown limbo, Dior is preparing to bring its blockbuster retrospective to Shanghai in July. “Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams,” which bowed at Les Arts Décoratifs in Paris in 2017, will run at the Long Museum West Bund from July 28 to October 4th. “After enchanting visitors to the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, this unique retrospective comes to life anew in China with a fresh scenographic narrative featuring many exceptional pieces,” the house said in a statement.

Curated by Oriole Cullen, the exhibition will feature more than 250 haute couture dresses, illustrations by René Gruau and Christian Bérard, and works by leading Chinese artists to highlight the historic bonds between Dior and China. The French fashion house will host an event on July 24 to inaugurate the show, although it could not confirm whether chief executive officer Pietro Beccari and women’s wear artistic director Maria Grazia Chiuri will attend, given ongoing travel bans linked to the coronavirus pandemic.

The World’s First Animal Crossing Fashion Show Is Here

Nintendo has sold more than 13 million copies of Animal Crossing: New Horizons since its release on March 20. The avatar-style game allows players to create their own worlds and communities –but just as important, players can also design their own outfits. This is why it’s interesting: Unlike other video games where only specific customisations can be made, Animal Crossing allows users to essentially design a garment from scratch, creating the exact hem length, flounce, or pattern on the outfit their avatar wears. Unsurprisingly, the game has quickly been adopted by the fashion community, with dozens of Instagram accounts sprouting up to showcase runway-inspired designs from Dior, Sports Banger, and Louis Vuitton, while brands like Valentino, Anna Sui, and Sandy Liang create custom garments for the game.

Reference Festival, a Berlin-based fashion organisation, is taking Animal Crossing’s fashion potential one step further with a virtual fashion show of Animal Crossing avatars dressed up in current season looks inspired by Loewe, Prada, and GmbH. The show was conceived by photographer Kara Chung, who runs the Instagram account @animalcrossingfashionarchive, and stylist Marc Goehring of 032c. “We met through a mutual friend, curator Evan Garza, who had contacted the both of us for an Animal Crossing piece on Art Forum. We connected on a call right after, and thought it’d be a fun way to collaborate!” Chung and Goehring tell Vogue.

The final show takes the form of a three-minute video, and like a prestigious IRL fashion event, it’s soundtracked by Michel Gaubert. “This is the first all digital fashion show I have worked on, and I approached it the same way I would approach a physical show, which is instinctively,” Gaubert says. “The difference here is that the show is actually a video clip of an incredibly popular video game – and I aimed for a playful, free-spirited fashion moment; fun and games.” Set to music by Joon, the Animal Crossing figures hit the runway in Craig Green, Paco Rabanne, and Chanel looks while an audience of foxes, cats, and a hot pink Birdo-esque creature look on from the front row. “I hope it will reach a lot of people from every horizon, and especially people who may only have a vague idea of what a fashion show actually is like,” Gaubert continues. “It was important for me that the music remain as accessible as the game, the show had to have a fun and enchanting spirit as it is a bit of a sweet little parody—just like Animal Crossing itself is an imitation of life which connects a lot of people these days, for the same reasons.”

All-in-all, the final video is not that different from a real fashion show. Although, who’s to say what’s real nowadays? As Goehring describes it, putting together the event was quite similar to prepping a physical fashion show or shoot. “To be honest, [we prepared] very much like a normal pull in the first stage when working on a shoot: I went through my favourite collections of the season and picked the looks,” he says. Of course, as in any fashion editorial, there were a few wrinkles. Now, instead of working with PRs to determine which looks would be available for a shoot date, Goehring worked with Chung to select looks that would translate well to the aesthetic of the video game. “You have to really think about which specifics you can delete from a look and what you pixelate, so that in the end it remains this one specific look which everybody knows – and it’s recognisable!” he continues.

For Reference Festival, staging a virtual fashion show on a popular video game is an extension of the organisation’s non-traditional approach to fashion events. (Last year, the group debuted a 24-hour fashion festival-turned-party.) “I believe that the future of fashion is a broad field of many aspects, and that anything virtual and engaging, and gaming in particular, are among them,” Reference Studios founder Mumi Haiati tells Vogue. “An intention of the first edition of our festival was showcasing new formats of presenting fashion, innovation at its very core—a subject that has now become more important than ever. With the second edition we will carry on doing so and push the idea even further. Gaming specifically adds an aspect of community which of course is a most significant factor in contemporary communications.”

So will specific brands follow suit and stage their own Animal Crossing runways? Can we kiss dreams of Milan Fashion Week goodbye and instead pray we can find a Nintendo Switch? Let’s not go quite that far. Goehring says replacing IRL runway shows isn’t the point. “It’s just a fun project between two fashion industry related gamers. High-five, Kara!” he cheers. To Gaubert, the video represents a joyous escape from the physical world. “You can live your life in a game as you like while being stuck at home, and you can wear your favourite looks from Undercover, Prada, and Raf Simons as you buy turnips or plant red mum flowers in a gender-free environment.” Doesn’t that sound like a little slice of paradise? Though like anything good these days it comes at a cost. The Nintendo Switch gaming console is sold out globally, making it harder to score than a Supreme box logo tee. For now, this fashion show video will have to do.

Gucci Releases Alessandro Michele’s Lockdown Diaries – And Announces A Major Change To Its Show Schedule

Like most of the fashion industry, Alessandro Michele has been using the lockdown period to reflect on the system while self-isolating at his home in Rome – reaching some major decisions about the future of Gucci in the process. The brand will now show just twice a year, presenting seasonless collections.

On 23 May, the Italian house released several entries from Michele’s personal diaries over the last few months – which hint at a radical shift in the way the creative director will approach the “fashion circus” he honoured in his spectacular autumn/winter 2020 collection. Chief among his preoccupations? Drastically increasing the sustainability credentials of the house – with the brand due to share more details of his plans during a virtual media conference on 25 May.

“Our reckless actions have burned the house we live in,” Michele writes in an entry titled “We Turned Out To Be So Small” from 29 March. “We conceived of ourselves as separated from nature, we felt cunning and almighty. We usurped nature, we dominated and wounded it. We incited Prometheus, and buried Pan. So much haughtiness made us lose our sisterhood with the butterflies, the flowers, the trees and the roots. So much outrageous greed made us lose the harmony and the care, the connection and the belonging. We ravaged the sanctity of life, neglectful of our being a species. At the end of the day, we were out of breath.”

As beautifully poetic as his language is, Michele’s more recent entries make clear that he has concrete solutions in mind for repairing the “devastation” caused by the industry in the past. (As he warns in a note from 7 April, “Our history is littered with crises that taught us nothing.”) In a series of posts from the beginning of May, he announces his decision to “build a new path, away from deadlines that the industry consolidated and, above all, away from an excessive performativity that today really has no raison d’être”.

In practical terms, that means overthrowing the traditional fashion schedule of “cruise, pre-fall, spring/summer, autumn/winter” collections: “I will abandon the worn-out ritual of seasonalities and shows to regain a new cadence, closer to my expressive call. We will meet just twice a year, to share the chapters of a new story.” It will be, he promises, a different “creative universe” for Gucci – and, no doubt, for fashion as a whole.