Last night, for the first time in years, I went on Facebook awaiting a very exciting new experience for the Philippine fashion industry. Rajo Laurel, one of the Philippines’ biggest fashion designers staged his first online fashion show. I was there waiting in anticipation on the same Facebook page the elites and celebrities he dressed are viewing. The digital stage equalized people. Well, Somehow. Until you look at the stories in their social accounts and you see the after zoom party held and you’re still not invited. Okay, about 1k plus, plus of us.
Nonetheless, it felt like, for the first time, I sat front row at probably one of the quickest fashion shows I’ve ever been. A fashion show I can rewatch over and over again. Now, as a fashion design student at the time of Covid-19, we plan our collections day-by-day, questioning what the next few months will present. Normally, at this time, so close to the end of the first semester, we’d be thinking about the final year fashion show. Yet we’re continually faced with I-don’t-knows and still-waiting-for-University-decisions before we can lockdown on any idea.
Of course, the majority of the class would rather have a physical fashion show in a room clad with family members, friends, and industry people, plus, models, students, and University staff volunteers. I mean, when would we ever have a chance to do it. It could possibly be our once in a lifetime experience. Who knows if our future involves fashion shows. However, as the rumors circulate (okay, maybe not rumors but a possible option, just in case?) that a virtual fashion show is in our fourth-year future, we wonder, how is it possible? I am always up for the challenge of something new, especially if it involves the computer and the Internet. But even I wonder, how?
This year, Shanghai staged its fashion week virtually. Unfortunately, Shanghai Fashion Week online had finished before I even knew it was a thing. I only heard about it during a webinar on the Future of Fashion Show via Vogue Global Conversation early this month. The idea of a virtual fashion show caught my interest. The conversation, on the other hand, felt somewhat adamant about the change of show space. Or at least, not fully willing to let go of the old. Fashion, as always, is open to the possibilities of change. While there is a common agreement amongst the speakers that a stimulating experience in being part of the community of the brand is still important (and simply nice to have), the possibility and the chance to do something online is not looked down upon, and even inviting. One speaker noticed that having access to the shows online brought in thousands more viewers compared to the 600 invited and ticketed guests in the physical show, allowing for a wider range of customers.
So last night, Rajo Laurel celebrated his birthday with a first in Philippine fashion industry. Together with Saga Events, they revolutionized the industry by staging a virtual show amongst the community quarantine the country is still experiencing. It showed a new collection from the fashion designer where unlike a recorded version of a fashion show, it was shot as if the viewer is right there sat front row. Except with different backgrounds.
I expected a show filmed live as it was literally happening. Alas, videos of pre-recorded model walks were pieced together, projected online live from the events team’s Facebook page. The show aired at 6 pm (10 pm NZ time) in the tropics where the sun sets at 5 pm all year round, the models were walking outside under the blazing sun as though it was 12 noon. The opening remarks, however, which seemed to have taken so long (such a typical Filipino event feature) were live. The bit of the live show that made it feel like it was really happening as you’re watching it. Fast forward to the actual fashion show, compared to the opening bit, it happened in a snap, almost literally. Especially after a brief blip on the connection, which caused me to miss a good chunk of the show’s beginning where most of the individual garments were shown. With a triple split-screen effect at the end, it was difficult to catch up on the missed looks. However, it did make for an exciting virtual show.
Now I realize what stimulating, inspiring experience that is missing online. While it gave me a sort of feeling of being on front row seat, it however still lacked that packed presence of over-dressed people, alcoholic beverage in hand while feeling the atmosphere of being in with a like-minded crowd. Not that bumping into people who you do not know is stimulating and inspiring. But for a student, it gives a sense of excitement for the future. I must say though, I appreciate seeing the clothes more up close than my past experience of being at the last row where I barely see the models walk amidst heads and shadows of those with a better view. In this way, everyone sees exactly the same view.
I don’t know if a live recording of a model walking an empty catwalk is ever possible, but having the possibility of showing a new collection online is somewhat interesting, exciting, and cool, too. Especially when one can barely afford a ticket to a show, let alone a plane ticket to physically see a show. The pieced pre-recorded videos are forgivable given the situation in the country, and, even became a plus as it made for a smooth flowing show and allowed for a show to be produced in just two weeks. And I appreciate that I can revisit the show online and feel the same experience of being there when it went live.
Just like in the Vogue Global Conversations, there is room for both physical and virtual shows in the future. Then maybe the future is not to plan for showing online but to visualize, plan and design a show that both in-person guests and online viewers can appreciate at the same time.