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Designers opt for pre-recorded shows at Milan Fashion Week, but not Valentino

By Don-Alvin Adegeest

24 Feb 2021

The prospect of a phygital fashion week, that odd-sounding hybrid of physical and digital fashion shows, was nearly unanimously shunned by most designers, as Milan Fashion Week will only showcase two live catwalk presentations, that of Daniela Gregis and Valentino.

Gregis, best known for her timeless and modern rustic collections, will show on Wednesday, 24 February, and Valentino will show live on the closing day of March 1st. Valentino’s ready-to-wear show will follow the brand’s filmed haute couture presentation in January, where creative director Pierpaolo Piccioli told Vogue: The collection has “no stories. Nothing figurative. I wanted to work on surfaces, not in a decorative sense, but workmanship which becomes the surface itself.” Whatever Valentino’s narrative, the Roman fashion house has not replaced its runway format of showing seasonal collections.

Milan Fashion Week opts for digital over physical

Italy’s National Chamber of Italian Fashion (CNMI) in November said its upcoming Fashion weeks in Milan would be presented in a phygital way, remarking that Italy is finding a balance between a traditional “touch and feel approach” in fashion and new digital alternatives during the coronavirus pandemic. The CNMI may have spoken too soon, as the majority of brands prefer to show digital, pre-recorded presentations, without audiences, instead of digital and live.

Brands including Bulgari, Kiton, Mila Schön and Herno are part of a small selection of companies taking appointments for press and buyers to see collections in person. Others are wholesaling via digital e-commerce platforms, like Nuorder. In September the CNMI announced a partnership with Los Angeles-based Nuorder, where a virtual showroom, digital collections and linesheets will connect a selection of Italian brands with Nuorder’s database of 500,000 retailers.

Travel embargo

As many press and buyers from the U.S. and Asia – even Europe – are unable to travel during lockdown, fashion week organisers have reconfigured how brands can showcase collections in digital formats and still achieve a maximum return. There appears to be some success to showing digitally, as demonstrated by Chanel’s September ready-to-wear show in Château de Chenonceau in France’s Loire Valley. While staged live, it was physically watched by just one audience member: the actress Kristen Stewart, a Chanel ambassador. Despite the absence of buyers, press and front row celebrity contingent, the show received over 2 million views on youtube.

A data deepdive by Launchmetrics compared the digital versus physical formats in Milan for SS21, finding that influencers generated some of the highest placements. Chiara Ferragni, who didn’t attend events, shared one of her favorite looks from Fendi and earned 461,000 dollars in Media Impact Value (MIV), according to Launchmetrics. Whether or not a high score in media value translates into sales is difficult to gauge.

Whatever the format - physical, digital or phygital – successful brands are presenting collections alongside innovative marketing and social media campaigns to reach the widest possible audiences. As always, the freshest voice is rarely the loudest.

Image via Valentino.com