Fashion Men's Fashion

Let’s Never Go Back to the Runway

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In the spring, designers announced new approaches to fashion week that seemed to add up to a chaotic, decentralized, impossible-to-follow system. But in practice, the new digitalized way of conceptual videos and runway live streams that’s emerged in the last five months is actually proving to be much more consumer oriented and possibly more creative (and certainly more sustainable) than the old runway regime. What if fashion…*stoner voice*…becomes like Coachella… but on Netflix? In other words, what if fashion shows become cool video events—with occasional smaller in-person shows, like concerts that get livestreamed? Each show is like a new chapter in the series, and what shows up in the stores is what shows up in stores, baby!

There will be runways in Paris and Milan this fall. But the recent digital menswear shows suggest that fashion shows may not and should not ever be the same again. For one thing, the new video-first fashion system potentially levels the playing field such that brands big and small sink or swim by the strength of a creative short film.

Take the video by Antwerp Six legend Walter Van Beirendonck, which might move you to tears. The collection was shown on eerie dolls, their lips and brows smudged with neons; the camera lingered beautifully over slightly chubby tailoring in crayola tones, outerwear with mirrored panels (because mirrors keep away evil forces and demons, remember), and stretchy tops printed with abstracted X-rays (a promising entrant in the tight-tops micro-trend ruled by Marine Serre, vintage Gaultier, and Asai); the grungy melancholia of Perfume Genius soundtracked it all. It was an intimate testament to the precarity of hope in this weird season, and the perfect expression of the wacky wearability of a designer who is too often overlooked (with a totally psycho cheetah-print fur beastie as the finale!). “I designed and tailored pieces that serve as protection from evil forces, symbolize the oneness of humankind and represent a reawakening of beauty,” Van Beirendonck said in his show notes. How can fashion ever go back to boring old runway shows after stuff like this?

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And perhaps it won’t! Brands are still announcing new approaches to the fashion system. On Thursday, Louis Vuitton menswear artistic director Virgil Abloh declared that he will no longer show on a seasonal schedule, nor will he base his shows in a single place. (Abloh has shown his previous four Vuitton collections in Paris.)

On Friday morning, Abloh debuted a video for the Spring 2021 collection called “Zoooom with friends” featuring masked, Vuitton jumpsuit-clad models loading shipping containers of Vuitton goods on a barge to leave Paris, with crazy-vibrant, LV-monogram-eyed animated creatures swooping in and around, and great jazzy music Abloh created with his longtime runway collaborator Benji B (previously Phoebe Philo’s music guru during her time at Céline). It was pretty rad.

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