Model walks down runway at a crowded fashion show

New York Fashion Month: Reimagined Runways & Unconventional Audiences

Rachel MalakFashion

Model walks down runway at a crowded fashion show

Back in May when the 2020 MET Gala was officially cancelled, I remembered looking forward to September. Everything we missed out on while quarantined — the designers, the interviews, the celebrity spectacle — would be reinstated via Fashion Month, but with the added excitement of COVID in the rearview. 

Wishful thinking, yes. 

Fashion Month clearly didn’t go on as scheduled. Instead, months of planning yielded a reimagined celebration of style. Designers were forced to get more creative than ever. The media needed to reach audiences in new ways and with refreshed messages. Most importantly, Fashion Month needed to proceed health-consciously.

New Platform means New Audience

An unprecedented year necessitated an unconventional fashion showcase this month. With limitations on audience numbers and press passes, major labels turned to a relatively new platform that has become synonymous with quarantine entertainment: TikTok

This virtual Fashion Month approach has started closing the gap between the elite, high-culture connotations of star-studded runway shows and the everyday guys and girls of Generation Z. TikTok has brought new meaning to “the overnight sensation,” creating thousands of viral stars since the pandemic struck. As such, it’s only fitting that this generation — one that has been dictating popular culture in many ways — is joining forces with the likes of Louis Vuitton and Saint Laurent. A year ago, the idea of streaming high-fashion shows on a short-form video platform known for dance trends and prank wars would have been practically unthinkable, but an evolution is now underway. 

TikTok Fashion Month just might be a turning point in the fashion industry: one that makes the medium more accessible and therefore even more influential. In fact, it seems as though designers are paying more attention to their impact than ever before. 

Siriano Masks: From NYC Hospitals to CT Lawns

For example, fashion enthusiasts watched eagerly as each noteworthy designer showcased their pandemic-friendly collections in pandemic-friendly ways. 

For Christian Siriano, this meant sending mask-clad models down the runway of his Connecticut lawn. Socially distanced audience members, including the likes of Billy Porter and Zana Roberts Rassi, enjoyed picnic-style refreshments as they took in Siriano’s Spring 2021 Ready-to-Wear collection. 

The Project Runway mentor made headlines throughout the pandemic for turning his New York City atelier into a mask-making workshop. His dedication to inclusivity has always been apparent, but the thousands of masks he’s made for essential workers in New York City will likely be remembered as his most thoughtful contribution to date. 

Still, Sirano did not go unscathed by COVID’s border-closing precautions, for example. One of the hiccups in Sirano’s Spring 2021 showcase was his collection’s lack of shoes, which his team would typically make themselves in Italy. Enter Sarah Jessica Parker and her high-end shoe line. Her SJP collection turned out to be a near-perfect match to the fabrications Sirano used in his Fashion Week show: the brightly colored icing on the cake of his phenomenal show. 

SJP's Digital Drop

Parker’s latest collection for her SJP by Sarah Jessica Parker stores has been introduced via daily drops. Throughout Fashion Month, a new shoe has dropped each day, appearing on the SJP Collection Instagram page in their virtual spin on NYFW. If Christian Siriano’s accessorizing tells us anything, it’s that the line has been a hit! 

SJP has taken to Instagram lately to promote the importance of mask-wearing while lending a hand at her flagship store. In an interview with E!, Parker talked about the significance of her stores and how the pandemic has changed the shopping experience, noting “A shop is about people. It’s about customer service. I’m very old fashioned. I really believe in, like, taking care of people.” For her, the pandemic has changed the context (and yes, some of the accessories), but it only enhanced the passion she has for helping others feel like their best selves.

Moschino in Milan

Jeremy Scott was perhaps among the most inventive when it came to Fashion Month innovations. Moschino stayed true to its playful brand with a marionette fashion show. Puppets modeled the Spring 2021 line, highlighting both the exquisite detail in the collection and the youthful, dress-up themes we’ve come to expect from Scott. 

But it didn’t stop there. There was even a marionette audience at the Moschino show. The front row saw the likes of Anna Wintour and Edward Enninful as miniature dolls, reminding us all of the spectacle that makes Fashion Week so special. 

Paris Gone Virtual

Alex Badia, Style Director at WWD, recently recapped experiencing Paris Fashion Week from the comfort of his New York City apartment in a YouTube video. What the shows lacked in tangible experiences, they made up for in multimedia artforms. Badia noted everything from the videography to the set design when commenting on the clothes themselves, which he says enriched the experience for him. 

He noted LOEWE’s “Runway in a Box,” for example, which was sent to show guests all over the world, containing fabric samples, paper-doll models, and even a pop-up set. The Hermès show Badia attended also aimed to impress. The creative team partnered with video artist Cyril Teste to shoot a one-take, behind-the-scenes Men’s Spring 2021 show that really captured the energy of a traditional Fashion Month experience. As noted by Alex Badia, these levels of innovation became one of the most telling themes of Spring/Summer 2021 showings.

Looking Forward

Nothing was normal about this year’s Fashion Month. A variety of noteworthy names each put their own spin on precautions and shared some incredible art. No one was at a loss for creative energy. The pandemic clearly inspired a hopeful future among designers and fashion fans alike. As they say, the show must go on.  

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