By Erin Waks
Three months after moving to Paris, the fashion capital of the world, I thought this would be a wonderful chance to get involved with one of the most iconic events in the fashion world – Paris Fashion Week: Haute Couture. This year, as we all know has been like no other. The world has had to rapidly adapt to online versions of everything – online socialising, online education, online shopping, you name it.
It has been no different for events in the fashion world. Nonetheless, most years it is notoriously difficult to get a seat in even less-known brands’ shows. This year, I thought I would try my luck, banking on the hope that however the designers adapted to an online format, there would be space for budding fashion journalists to sit in.
Cue 2 hours of me sitting at my desk, composing over 60 perfect emails in both French and English, asking ever-so-politely if I could pretty please have an invite to quite literally any event at all.You can imagine, then, my surprise and delight after receiving not only one, but two invitations! The first from designer Olivier Theyskens for Azzaro Couture, and the other from famed Russian designer Ulyana Sergeenko, showcasing an exquisite collection inspired by Vera Kholodynaya, the famous Russian silent film actress.
And that is how, on 25th January 2021, I found myself sat in my apartment, laptop open in front of me and armed with plenty of snacks, somehow watching the events of Paris Fashion Week live. Whilst not the setup I had imagined for such an event, I can say it was truly enjoyable, aesthetic and highly impressive.
The thing to note about the success of Paris Fashion Week 2021 is how the brands managed not only to recreate the glamour and style of the iconic event, but to adapt their presentations and collection releases to be even more dazzling online. Instead of merely recreating a catwalk to watch from the comfort of one’s own home, the artistic directors and brands developed highly impressive creative videos showcasing their new designs. Far beyond what would be possible in a live fashion show, these creations demonstrated the collections in an innovative, creative and visually pleasing manner.
Beyond the visual, the graphic and the aesthetic, I think it’s important to note the potential social impacts of moving the shows online. Fashion, particularly Haute Couture, has been seen as something reserved purely for the wealthy, those able to afford the designs. But is the new format, which allows more people to actually access the shows, since physical space is not limited, indicative of a shift in the fashion industry, becoming more inclusive? Whilst I don’t think this shift has occurred yet, we are perhaps heading down a path towards fashion becoming more open. After all, being able to understand and see the collections of Haute Couture brands is only the first step in making them comprehensible to all.
And let’s not forget the positive environmental impact moving such an event online has. From digital invitations, all the way to drastically reducing the number of flights needed to transport everyone involved to the French capital, there is no doubt that there are clear advantages to such a presentation of global fashion brands and new collections. Is this the start of a more ethical, environmentally conscious movement in the Couture fashion industry?
And that is how I, a simple Durham student on her year abroad, found myself immersed in the magic that is (Digital) Paris Fashion Week. However, it isn’t as simple as sitting back and watching gorgeous designs from my laptop – there is a huge amount that can be learned too, and the event is a huge milestone in the way the digital can be a shift in the right direction for the world, and the fashion industry.
Images by Azzaro and Ulyana Sergeenko