With fashion week season already upon us and our social media feeds filling with glimpses of the catwalk, it’s a good time to reflect on how the industry is changing the way it presents itself and the relevance of live shows in a digital age.
The catwalk will always play a pivotal role in how we consume and view fashion – but it’s fascinating to see how seamlessly digital technology is being absorbed into the schedules and how this is both aiding and perhaps hindering the way fashion is presented.
For the first time this season London Fashion Week has fully integrated the digital schedule with the live shows underlining its importance at LFW – and illustrating just one way in which London leads the world in this respect.
Live streaming is now seen as an almost ubiquitous part of the process – with millions of people tuning in world wide – democratising fashion in a way that would have seemed fantastical just a few years ago. Trail blazers SHOWstudio have also transformed the way shows are discussed and dissected in tandem with live streams – so fashion followers don’t even need to wait the few hours it takes for articles to be filed to get an instant reaction from a panel of fashion experts.
Digital presentations have given new designers a route into fashion week which allows them to present their collections at a fraction of the cost that expensive theatrical live shows often spiral into. This has been hugely positive for breaking new talent – and is again where London comes into its own. Designers like Carri Munden of Cassette Playa have used digital presentations to amazing effect – attracting just as many VIPs and press to her screenings – which underlines the fact that designers no longer need to present a traditional catwalk.
As the Director of LCF’s Digital Anthropology Lab (launching in October), Lynne Murray affirmed: “We no longer aspire to view or attend just another catwalk show. Fashion is ultimately about theatre, and in this digital age, when all brands have social media presence as standard, experimenting with the very way in which brands present their collections at Fashion Week is one of the most exciting developments in the fashion space. This could include designing customizable garments straight off the runway with Knyttan, or viewing virtual collections first and live with Topshop, to holographic theatre from Burberry.”
This season I am particularly looking forward to LCF graduate Min Wu’s digital presentation on Saturday. Digital presentations allow for an additional layer of creativity and interaction with the audience – it demands a more varied set of skills which we cultivate and encourage here at London College of Fashion across our undergraduate and postgraduate portfolio.
As a designer you have to demonstrate that you can translate your vision through a number of filters – be it through film or live performance. Consumers of fashion use multiple platforms to view the collections and to stay relevant designers must always have this in mind.
But as designers continue to execute increasingly spectacular digital innovations, do we need to be aware of its hazards as well as its potential? Digital Disturbances – a new exhibition in our Fashion Space Gallery raises questions about the limitations and desirability of integrating digital phenomena and content into the fabric of the material world. Information can be lost, gained or distorted as it is translated from the material to the digital. Kunihiko Morinaga’s label Anrealage dramatically alters our perception of clothes merely by manipulating the sizes of mannequins using computer design, and more sinisterly Simone C. Niquille has used digital technology to explore how identity can be represented on clothes to avoid detection by CCTV cameras.
Although these designer’s work challenges how far we can rely on digital technologies for a realistic view, the creative opportunities of a virtual world should not be ignored.
The trick to digital according to Lynne Murray is, “to think of it as a new creative medium; using digital technologies to display collections is simply another way to present brand vision and it is a compelling new tool we are only just seeing the start of” – and I know this season will see a stronger than ever presence of innovative digital displays.