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 Philippine elites and celebrities he dressed were also viewing. This digital stage disregarded my location so far away from where it was hosted and equalized people. For the first time, I sat front row at a fashion shows I probably would have never seen if it was produced in person. I did not have to crane my neck to have a good look at garments through the shadows of the well off.
This was not the first time it’s done in the industry. Shanghai staged its fashion week virtually this year. The presence of Covid-19 that spread across the world had forced brands and events to be produced digital. Conversation on the future of the industry has been in discussion for so long now. However, early this month it was opened to a wider range of audience for free at the Vogue Global Conversation held early this month digitally. The people in the industry expressed a feeling of being adamant about the change of show space. Or at least, not fully willing to let go of the old. 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. Fashion, as always, is open and even adapting to the never ending change in society.
So last night, in true Filipino spirit of resilience, 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. The show was an hour long (including a long wait at the beginning) where emcee sat in a space in her home in Metro Manila (I believe it is), speaking to the designer in his own space in the province of Batangas. Saga Event’s Robby Carmona, the managing director of the show, was also present online to talk about the process of digitalization of the show.
I have to be honest, I expected a show filmed live as it was literally happening. Alas, they were a cut and sewn videos of pre-recorded model walks, projected online live from Saga Event’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, but the models were walking outside under the blazing sun as though it was 12 noon. The opening remarks were live, however. Although it took too long (typical in a Filipino event), it was the part that made watching the show felt live. Fast forward to the actual fashion show, compared to the opening, 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 fashion presentation’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 looks I missed. However, it did make for an exciting virtual show.
I realize now what stimulating, inspiring experience that is missing online. On the one hand it gave me a sort of feeling of being on front row seat allowing me to appreciate the clothes up close. However still lacked that presence of over-dressed people, alcoholic beverage in hand confined in a space to watch people walk by. For a student, this gives a sense of excitement for a potential future.
I don’t know if a live recording of a model walking an empty catwalk is the future. However, the speakers at the Vogue Global Conversation does make a great about this possible future (even after Covid-19 is dealt with): there is room for both physical and virtual shows in the future. 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.