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Ahead of Milan fashion week, Olivia Marrins details what it will look like on-screen.

As nearly every social event is rescheduled, cancelled, or taken to Zoom, it is no surprise that Milan fashion week has traded up bustling live venues for digital runways. This fashion exhibition showcases autumn/winter 2021/2022 collections across January and February through the theme "Evolution". Consequently, this year’s take on one for the fashion world’s most coveted events will see little of the social buzz surrounding a traditional fashion week. Instead, an isolated audience, watching via screens, will be streamed across the world. A forced alternative to the Milan Fashion Week structure was implemented before the new year, but with little improvement in the current climate, each collection will be seen essentially through digital look books in live streams, social media and designer websites or the occasional in-person runway show.

Fashion houses all over the world anticipate this biannual phenomenon with the excitement of influencing the fashion world with new collections of upcoming seasons. The shows this season will illustrate the chosen theme through prêt-à-porter fashion, textiles and accessories with a refinement to the quality of each production. With each designer or brand taking a unique approach to their show, the status quo has been truly left behind. What’s more, this year will feature a new element to the event: fashion week’s involvement with Fashion Film Festival Milano to screen short fashion films. 

The alternative methods taken by each fashion designer has allowed collections to be expressed in innovative ways, allowing the essence of each statement piece on every model to be walked straight onto our laptop or television screens. But it was a collaboration between Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons which brought an element of surprise to the online runways of menswear’s fashion week in Milan. The duo’s unique take on Simons-esque ideas played with the obscurity of "normality" today: contrasting a quirky, abstract runway set up with their featured clothing item, long johns, left Milan with an eccentric creation.

The pressure of digital fashion week has forced designers and brands to ultimately rethink and reimagine each image, performance or exhibit. However, it has seen the resignation of many fashion houses’ involvement with the event this year. In the hope of having a much more socially, interactive show for autumn/winter 2021, fashion houses such as Giorgio Armani, Dsquared2 and Bottega Veneta have announced their step back from the runway.

Not only does fashion week delve into the fresh ideas of a new season, creating a spectacle of prêt-à-porter for fashion critics, buyers and designers amongst fans in preparation for the turn of the fashion year, but crucially display the attraction of great production value and sophistication, which makes a seat at Milan fashion week so sought after. It is argued that the production value of the event as a whole could face a detrimental effect on the online fixture. But with the media consumption significantly rising due to fashion week being streamed online, it is impossible to imagine how the production value could decrease considering that that is what fuels the revenue of fashion’s biggest event.

Yet the main issue remains: can online fashion week ever resemble the authenticity of the real runway? For fashion professionals, buyers and few designers the atmosphere of fashion week will stay in place as they are invited to sit socially distanced, but for the many who miss out, will the glossy pages of Vogue and runway screenings suffice, or will online streaming eventually replace the in-person fashion week going forward?


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