by MIKE CHAIKEN
Fashion fans and fashion retailers hoping to make an exodus to New York City to check out what’s on trend will have to wait till next year as the big runway shows likely will become virtual in September and fashion trade shows set for September and October have been canceled altogether.
All the changes are due to the everchanging nature of COVID-19’s impact on public activities.
The Council of Fashion Designers of America began taking applications this month for designers wishing to show during the NYFW Women’s shows in September.
To preface the application link, the CFDA posted, “in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we strongly encourage all designers to forego in-person live events in favor of digital shows and presentations.”
To add a carrot to that stick, the CFDA announced the implementation of RUNWAY360.
The CFDA’s website explains RUNWAY360 is “a unique and innovative digital platform developed to support American designers by bringing together every aspect of a collection launch in a one-stop-shop environment.”
“Designers will be able to present their collections, providing each participating brand with a modular, customizable page for their storytelling and digital activations,” the CFDA explained. “The portal will support AR/VR, 360-degree capabilities, live video streams, e-commerce extensions, consumer shopping features, and social media integrations. The hub allows designers to host virtual press conferences, and present press kits and show and product images, for example.”
In a press statement, Steven Kolb, president and CEO of the CFDA, said, “This transformational time in fashion requires innovative business tools…. RUNWAY 360 is more than a response to social distancing and restricted travel. The digital platform will help designers faced with short term needs caused by COVID-19 and support future market weeks including live fashion shows.”
The fashion industry already has been playing around with digital platforms as a substitute for in-person runway shows as the world tries to bat back the pandemic.
London Fashion Week presented men’s collections via the web in June. Haute Couture Fashion Week in Paris also went entirely web-based earlier in July.
In both cases, designers broke away from the concept of runway shows except on video. For this venture into the virtual realm, designers stood before cameras and explained their collections. Some, like Christian Dior, presented conceptual videos, which were like mini-movies. Others merely presented “coming soon” announcements.
Although the CFDA and NYFW don’t represent all fashion designers, and there are numerous fashion events throughout New York during fashion week that are outside of CFDA’s purview, those events likely will face the same dilemma in the wake of the virus.
New York City, which had been one of the hardest hit cities until huge spikes in cases hit states like Florida, Texas, Arizona and California, still has not allowed large indoor gatherings because of COVID. Masks and social distancing are required except in extraordinary circumstances. This would make seating at the shows, which are typically shoulder-to-shoulder standing room only events, problematic. Even more difficult will be hair, makeup and backup preparations where space is difficult in the best of circumstances.
Additionally, New York state is requesting people who are coming from 31 states of the union to quarantine themselves before mingling with the general populace. Models and creative staff, as well as guests, who aren’t local to New York City would be left cooling their heels before they can work.
Trade shows also have been victimized by COVID.
One of the stalwarts on the New York bridal market scene, The Knot Couture, canceled its event planned for this past March.
Plans for the next event, typically held in October, have been canceled as well.
The Knot Couture, instead, will be handling everything virtually this year.
In an email to registered attendees, The Knot announced, “on September 15-17, you’ll be able to see curated Spring 2021 collections from top bridal designers and shop virtually in a single, centralized location.”
Curve New York, a trade show for the lingerie and intimates industry, also announced it was canceling its fall events in New York.
“It is with deep sadness and a heavy heart that we are officially cancelling the Curve New York September 2020 show,” said Curve in a press release. “We know this is an enormous disappointment to the retailers, brands/exhibitors and the lingerie community at large.”
“This was a very difficult decision to make, however the safety and health of our community comes first,” said the release. “The uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic remains unclear, and with border restrictions and possible quarantine requirements, we have an ethical responsibility to cancel the Curve NY show.”
Curve also announced its intent to handle the business typically carried out at the show in a virtual venue.
Another trade show, COTERIE Marketplace, which serves the retail women’s fashion industry, also canceled its event. COTERIE had been slated for the end of September.
On its website, COTERIE said, “Given continued uncertainty around international travel and border restrictions as well as the importance of health and safety for the entire fashion community, the difficult decision has been made to cancel the upcoming September 22-24, 2020 live event in New York.”
The site said, “COTERIE will instead refocus its efforts on their newly launched digital trade event for Fall 2020, providing an opportunity for business continuity and better connectivity of the fashion industry in a more responsive and effective marketplace.”
Not all in-person fashion events have been canceled. La Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode, which handles Paris Fashion Week, announced it will go forth with live runway shows in September and October.
However, that plan could be changed as France this past week experienced a spike in new COVID-19 cases, necessitating the government to take preventative steps, such as requiring masks and social distancing, to tamp down the increased cases of viruses. The situation could make the Paris shows as problematic as New York’s.