What Fashion Week and Trade Shows Will Look Like This Fall, and in the Future

MakersValley Blog | What Fashion Week and Trade Shows Will Look Like This Fall, and in the Future
Tashfia Parvez

Tashfia Parvez

Let’s establish this first: why do fashion industry trade shows even matter? Well, trade shows are a major source of inspiration and empower you to stay abreast of emerging fashion trends and up and comers in the fashion industry. They are great resources for boutiques, independent retailers, and established fashion brands to connect with several buyers, brand owners, and even customers, and to discover new merchandise to add to their upcoming designs or assortments.

In fact, according to a study conducted by the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR), 86 percent of trade show attendees are influential buyers. Furthermore, closing a sale that begins with contact at a trade show runs about half the cost of closing a sale that doesn't have the exhibition advantage: $550 and 1.4 sales calls compared to $997 and 3.6 sales calls.

The big concern now is what will these fashion and trade shows look like this year, in the middle of an ongoing pandemic, and will they reshape the future of Fashion Weeks and Couture Shows forever? Keep reading to find out.

Main Changes to Fall 2020 Fashion Trade Shows

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Two main trends will impact trade shows in the foreseeable future - they’ll either go digital or reduce the number of shows throughout the year, with other shows indefinitely postponed or outright canceled.

The British Fashion Council announced at the end of April that it is launching an entirely digital “cultural fashion week platform” for fashion designers to use as they see fit. The platform will have access to interviews, podcasts, designer diaries, webinars, and digital showrooms. And for the first time, it will be open to the public as well as industry experts.

The new format will serve as a "meet-up point", allowing designers to generate sales through the public with their existing collections, as well as through retail brand owners with orders for next season’s products. Paris, Milan, Shanghai, and Moscow have all also planned something virtual for their respective fashion weeks.

Pivots to the trade show digital format have already begun ahead of the fall 2020 season. Fashion Unites was a virtual edition of the Carine Roitfeld Runway to raise money for the amfAR Fund to Fight Covid-19 and streamed in early May. This showcase was branded as a luxury fashion runway show conducted completely from home and featured several famous models strutting along, directed by famous fashion week experts. However, the virtual show became less about the clothes and trends, and more about the pleasure of seeing these celebrities in their homes. As the New York Times pointed out, even though this virtual show gave viewers a glimpse behind-the-scenes and provided the human connection that fashion needs, ultimately it failed to successfully present the designer collections.

Michel Gaubert (one of fashion's leading sound directors) told Vogue UK, “it would be difficult for buyers to gauge fabrics and wearability. I sometimes order from line sheets and it is very difficult if you haven’t seen the clothes in real life.”

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French designer Alexandre de Betak said to Vogue that even though a digital-first strategy is essential, it cannot replace the in-person experience of fashion shows. However, the IRL shows need to be designed and edited in a way that is more mobile friendly. The audience needs to be able to easily reshare fashion show branded content on their personal social media accounts, so shows would benefit from optimizing the live experience for mobile screens and democratizing event coverage beyond the single lens.

De Betak further states that not every big name in fashion needs to attend every show. In fact, shows should be more tailored toward a specific audience. “If a brand is strong at luxury retail, more buyers. If it’s a press play, more editors. If it’s a hangout, make sure to invite the friends of the designers.”

Using the example of Simon Porte Jacquemus’ show in the lavender fields of Provence, France, de Betak said, “it was the least traditional show: off-site, off-calendar, and off-audience, because the audience was only about 10 or 20% professional. [It] proved that with a smaller audience you can still create a gigantic buzz.”

Ermenegildo Zegna is getting rid of its traditional Fashion Week schedule and adapting a novel concept they are calling “phygital” (physical space and digital technologies). Saint Laurent, Armani and Gucci all announced plans to create their own show schedules, with the latter also reducing its annual shows from five to two. Armani and Gucci also want to merge men’s and women’s collections and present them at a single show. Lulu Kennedy, founder of Fashion East said, “We’re experimenting with rolling our menswear designers into the women’s schedule too. The idea of separate shows for gender seems antique in 2020.”

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Upcoming Fashion Show Trends to Look Out for in the Future

For shows post-pandemic, expect more adaptation of sustainable practices while hosting such events, innovation and creativity and the introduction of more seasonless collections.

So far, sustainability has only been focused on in the sourcing and ethical production processes. But now, sustainable and minimalist practices can be adapted in the organization of such events as well. “The too-much-is-never-enough era has come to an end, but it does not mean it is the end of the fashion show. They will be more considered and maybe less flamboyant,” Gaubert stated, referring to shows which are beginning to use existing spaces instead of extravagant sets to host these temporary events.

Related: Find out how going seasonless and being more sustainable can help your brand fight fast fashion more efficiently.

Other fashion show sponsors are going one step further, coming up with more innovative ways to reshape the future of these shows for good. This includes replacing runway shows with in-store events, presentations, dinners, or social media–led campaigns and substituting backstage interviews with designer phone calls. Younger designers are also now hosting pop up stores around New York Fashion Week instead of official events. This tactic gives them an opportunity to build a more personal relationship with retailers and buyers.

Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Tbilisi has plans to organize a new cultural fashion hub, where fashion week will take place once social distancing measures lessen. This hub will host various industry experts including designers, artists, and professionals of creative crafts.

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Ukrainian Fashion Week, following in the footsteps of the British Fashion Council and Gucci, called the upcoming season, “NO SEASON season.” They too are aiming to launch a platform for designers and buyers to collaborate on using both traditional and digital formats. Participating designers will have the opportunity to showcase collections from the new season, as well as ones that were not shown last season but remain trendy.

Emerging label Pyer Moss announced they would organize a drive-in to show a feature-length film called “American”, which would also document the inner workings of the brand.

The key takeaway from all this is that fashion shows in the future will no longer be limited to runways of chicly dressed models strutting along to upbeat music. Fashion labels will now incorporate many other forms of art and curate more personalized events. These future shows will also be highly digitized, but if solely depending on that format, will fail to replace the essence of in-person shows.

The market for in-person fashion shows will remain, but they will no longer be as gaudy or exclusive.


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