While some opted for in-person shows with limited and distanced guests, several designers took to the digital realm to showcase clothing through artistic mediums like film and photography projects. Scaling larger-than-life runway presentations down to the size of a computer screen is no easy task, however, designers stepped outside their comfort zones composing new and inventive approaches to the traditional catwalk presentation in an effort to create engaging virtual experiences for those on the other side of their device screens. Between lush visuals, musical scores, and docu-style formats, there was no lack of excitement despite mandates of social distancing.
The season posed challenges for designers, yet each participating house helped create a new and modernized concept of the traditional fashion runway we all know and love. As the future of the fashion shows seems more and more unclear, the format of the fashion film has provided an alternate strategy for designers to artfully present their collections in a safe and effective ways. While the big production fashion shows may be a thing of the past, we look towards a future of experimental (and socially distant) ways to show off the sartorial splendors fashion month offers up.
The unveiling of Michael Kors Collection Spring/Summer 2021 was accompanied by a documentary film, Up On The Roof, which explored the strength and spirit of New York City. Narrated by Kors himself, the short video unearthed the designer's inspiration for the season—nature interpreted through an urban lens.
The essence of the collection was embodied by budding filmmaker, writer, and visual artist Haley Elizabeth Anderson. Showcasing the beauty of the metropolis Kors calls home, the film also featured surprise guest and founder of the New York Restoration Project Bette Midler, whose commitment to transforming urban spaces only affirmed the brand's heartening message.
Becca McCharen-Tran, designer and founder of Chromat, enlisted the activist Tourmaline to create the brand's Spring/Summer 2021 film entitled Joy Run. In partnership with Reebok, the film and collection personify Chromat's long-standing goal of a more diverse and gender-inclusive athletic space.
The film tells the story of two trans athletes, Andraya Yearwood and Terry Miller, who became activists for the trans community when Connecticut parents petitioned to ban the two from playing on female sports teams. Olympians who have been discriminated against also tell their stories, including Caster Semenya, who was forced to undergo sex testing and withdraw from the competition after winning the 2009 World Championships.
Tran and Tourmaline juxtapose stories of struggle with stories of activism, hope, and joy, hence the film's title. The duo's goal is to show sports as an enjoyable and joyful space for everyone at any level, regardless of gender identity.
The Salvatore Ferragamo show took place in person at the Rotonda Della Besana in Milan, but it opened with nine minutes of Alfred Hitchcock-inspired fashion film directed by Luca Guadagnino. Titled Suspense, Intrigue and Beauty, the film features Ferragamo-clad models like Anok Yai, Mariacarla Boscono, and Maggie Cheng strutting through grandiose Milanese locations, heels clacking with each step. Like many of Hitchcock's films, the Ferragamo film presentation evoked an elegant blend of suspense, intrigue, and beauty that climaxed with the opening of the runway show.
Instead of a regular Loewe runway show, creative director Jonathon Anderson opted for a "Show-on-the-Wall": a box filled with everything he wanted his audience to experience, delivered promptly to them ahead of the collection's release. The box included posters of the Spring/Summer 2021 looks, sheet music, a roll of wallpaper, and more. In an exclusive mini film, Anderson walks through the concept of this experience, unveils the posters, and describes each look.
Jeremy Scott's Moschino collections usually follow the more-is-more mantra, but for this unorthodox season, the designer took a scaled down approach by literally shrinking everything. He debuted the Moschino Spring/Summer 2021 collection through a puppet show with marionette dolls as models wearing miniature versions of the looks. He even included doll versions of typical show guests.
The press release for Thom Browne's men's and women's Spring/Summer 2021 collection read, "good afternoon and welcome...reporting to you live from 239,000 miles above the earth, in celebration of the first lunar games." The collection wasn't actually 239,000 miles above Earth, but rather at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, where it was shot in a video format. Home to the Summer 2028 Olympic games and many Olympic games past, the Coliseum served as the backdrop for Browne's 2132 Lunar Games: a futuristic version of the Olympics in which models and athletes paraded down rows of steps in a re-imagined opening ceremony. A tailored ode to sport and sportsmanship, the collection included Browne's iconic suits interpreted in new ways.
Fashion's queen of sustainability presented her collection through a short video filmed in the gardens of Houghton Hall in Norfolk. Shot by creative duo Mert & Marcus and entitled McCartney A to Z Manifesto, which refers to an A to Z list of brand pillars that McCartney created ("A" for accountable, "S" for sustainable, "Z" for zero waste, etc.), the film expresses a desire for the connection of nature, art and fashion.
For Maison Margiela's Spring/Summer 2021 collection, John Galliano published a nearly 45-minute long film called S.W.A.L.K. II, a sequel to the brand's summer film released during Haute Couture season in July. Nick Knight directed the film in Tuscany, and it features Galliano himself discussing his inspiration for the collection: the tango, translated through fiery reds and accented with whites and greys. Perhaps the best part, though, is the underwater wedding that takes place at the film's closing. A bride and nine accompanying characters are fully submerged, their Margiela looks billowing in the hazy blue water.
In this unprecedented season, Creative Director Casey Cadwallader unveils his ambitious prelude to Mugler's Spring Summer 2021 collection in a short film directed by Florian Joahn. The film is a tribute to the city of Paris, depicting both the bourgeoisie and the suburbs while introducing a global, dynamic cast of models in Parisian skylines and interiors. An almost trompe l’oeil visual effect permeates throughout the collection against a pulsing electronic backdrop in the film, and Mugler's new line emerges in this psychedelic clash between Mugler’s past and present aesthetics. With that said, Mugler's legacy is intact and embraced, as the short film celebrates the fashion fantasia of the Mugler universe like never before.
With a grand note on fashion globalization, Marni's Creative Director Francesco alongside Artistic Director Babak Radboy delivered a collection on a worldwide scale, fusing live-broadcasting and social-distancing for a show spanning four continents and dozens of cities. Dubbed Marnifesto, the presentation engages with viewers and models as human beings, portraying each person walking in the collection (live or pre-recorded) to show a snippet of their daily lives with their complete individual autonomy, in a venue that is anywhere and everywhere imaginable.
Captured on camera phones by their loved ones, the film is truly a manifesto of visual storytelling in a time of uncertainty, and Marnifesto nonetheless affirms that there is power in fashion film presentation: the power of fashion democratization, and the power of creative masses in the future to come.