Rethink the Runway: How Fashion Month Is Changing Amid the Pandemic

Rethink the Runway: How Fashion Month Is Changing Amid the Pandemic

Fashion Month, which takes place annually in major cities across the globe, is an eagerly anticipated event in September, where top-of-the-line labels put their latest collections on display. But uncertainty over the spread of COVID-19 means the events will look quite different this year. Some designers have postponed their shows or pulled out of Fashion Month altogether. Yet innovative solutions are already being devised to combat pandemic sales declines, as big-name fashion brands search for new avenues for marketing to potential buyers.

Some famous designers have identified clever approaches for publicizing their fall and spring collections through expanded digital marketing campaigns. Others have been bucking convention and scheduling their own fashion shows at later times of the year. As in fashion, the quickest companies to adapt to changing circumstances and consumer trends will survive. Even in the middle of a global pandemic, the fashion world — and its fast-paced annual showcase — must go on. Here’s how some big-name brands are modifying their approach to Fashion Month during the ongoing health crisis.

Who’s In, and Who’s Out?

COVID-19 has caused several major labels to reconsider the typical fashion calendar, with some arguing that it long needed an overhaul. While most companies release new lines in September as a preview for spring, Michael Kors, for instance, has decided to forgo Fashion Month festivities, opting for a later showcase likely in October or November. This approach has the potential to let each designer’s work shine on its own without getting lost in a crowd. Another luxury giant, Yves Saint Laurent, has made the decision to upend the traditional Fashion Month calendar, focusing its efforts on meeting customers where they are. As several chains collapse due to slumping retail sales, the push for online merchandising has exploded, necessitating a new strategy. These and other brands have revamped their virtual sales efforts to meet the moment, advertising heavily through social media and other digital formats.

Some, like Louis Vuitton, crafted a marketing campaign in China, assembling a team of global ambassadors to film videos, thanking frontline medical workers. The ads were a tremendous success for the company, garnering over 4.2 billion views and interactions. Dolce & Gabbana has used the pandemic as an opportunity to invest in medical research, to help find effective treatments for COVID-19. They contributed millions of dollars to Humanitas University as their scientists and researchers strive toward finding a cure. Rather than tightening their belts, quite a few luxury fashion brands have instead determined to soul search, refine their corporate values and image, and be part of the solution.

New Norm: Digital Outreach

Not every brand has decided to press the brakes entirely on their annual showcase, however. London-based fashion house Burberry intends to skip traditional runway walks this year in favor of virtual spreads that emphasize sustainability. The company has promised creative series of photographs, displaying their latest collection digitally against the backdrop of Great Britain’s land and cityscapes. For example, the brand’s 2021 resort wear spread features some of the company’s own employees as models, outside headquarters in London. In a slightly different approach, Armani showcased its fall collection online, sans live audience. The stunning runway show from a top designer demonstrated that high fashion can still be fabulous—even as a socially-distant affair.

Furthermore, magazines that cover Fashion Month have ramped up their digital outreach, as people spend more time at home, browsing the internet and shopping online. For example, in light of recent events, Vogue Paris published their March issue for free in PDF format, ensuring a wider audience for this year’s fall collections. Increasing accessibility improves the chances of closing sales, making it an integral marketing strategy in the COVID era. Although the glitz and glamour of Fashion Month look different this year, the pulse of the fashion world is still beating strong. As companies push to innovate and set trends, consumers have tons of options to purchase high-fashion pieces online and still look chic in these uncertain times.

About The Author

Anne-Marie Pritchett, a.k.a. AMP, is a lifestyle writer and editor with ten years of experience covering the luxe lifestyle scene, including travel, fashion, interior design, food and spirits, art and culture, beauty and more. Her biggest creative influences derive from worldly experiences and the people she’s encountered and interviewed along the journey. AMP is also a copywriter and strategist who creates lively, innovative custom content for a variety of international brands including Coach, Cabela's, Caesarstone, Walker Zanger, Crate and Barrel, Basis and more. For editorial consideration please contact [email protected].

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