The emergence of COVID-19 as a global pandemic in the early months of 2020 suddenly brought the traditional fashion week format to a halt. All but essential businesses shut down or pivoted their operations. Broadway musicals were canceled, concerts were rescheduled, and fashion shows were postponed. The future of fashion week was unclear, but with the digital landscape evolving, innovative ways to adapt to pandemic regulations and health standards helped push fashion shows together. New York Fashion Week (NYFW) hosted runway shows and presentations from September 11 to September 16 ahead of London, Milan, and Paris with limited in-person and virtual showcases.
Although there were noticeably fewer live shows this season, virtual events paved the way with new opportunities for designers to release their collection. Vogue Runway’s NYFW review calendar listed 177 labels before the coronavirus hit the United States. That number dropped when the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) released an updated list in late August of 60 labels. Behind the glamour of fashion week is the livelihood that it brings to industry professionals.
To meet that demand, IMG, the management company that oversees NYFW: The Shows, met with Governor Andrew Cuomo. With Cuomo’s approval, fashion week was able to move forward with production. “New York City is the fashion capital of the world and New York Fashion Week celebrates the ingenuity of this city, and our unmatched creative talent,” Cuomo stated in a press release. “Safety, as always, is our top priority and we commend the hosts, and all participating designers, for their innovative, New York Smart solutions to bring this event to life.”
The Riviere Agency, an event production, public relations, and influencer marketing agency, is one of the many companies rigorously working amid the changes. The agency is known for its “buzzy launches, events and working on Miami Swim Week, New York Fashion Week, London Fashion Week and Paris Fashion Week,” founder Lori Riviere tells us. She further illustrates that fashion show production was put to a standstill while the world tried to grapple the coronavirus outbreak. “Things came back a bit earlier this summer in Europe, but in the United States, fashion show production was still suffering due to our government’s poor response to the pandemic.”
The sudden halt that Riviere describes put industry professionals out of work, just like millions of other Americans. Makeup artists, stylists, designers, stagehands, models, and more had to find solutions to continue thriving during social distancing guidelines. The importance of fashion week in many people’s lives did not diminish because of the pandemic. The digital showcases helped to continue and expand the conversation of upcoming collections, which is beneficial not only to the designers but every single person involved in the show’s production.
Moreover, the industry’s answer to a fall fashion week was ingenious, and it perhaps boasts a long-overdue production update and format. On July 24, the CFDA revealed its new digital platform, Runway360. The platform and others like it, including Runway Buy and NYFW.com, utilize the power of technology to broadcast fashion shows for a socially-distanced world. The platforms allow fashion week to have a digital component, for example, Runway Buy incudes a shoppable element to some runway shows.
The Riviere Agency is helping its “clients and industry players develop creative strategies to navigate the current landscape” with outlets such as Runway Buy. Virtual fashion week platforms make way for independent designers and major fashion houses to showcase their designs to a much larger audience. From viewing digital look books on Runway360.CFDA.com to watching live stream runway shows on NYFW.com, the possibilities for this new kind of fashion week are not only essential for the following of pandemic restrictions but sustainable in the long run.
The digital offerings that came to fruition in recent months might be here to stay post-pandemic, but Riviere thinks nothing will replace the live aspect of runway shows. She perfectly describes the alluring moments of fashion week “when everyone gets in the room to find their seats, snap a photo with their favorite celebrity, or pose for a selfie” as a “magical feeling that can’t be duplicated.” The insider experience of attending fashion week is watching the “three-dimensional look of the clothes coming down the runway, listening to “post-show chatter about favorite pieces,” and “seeing friends you haven’t seen since last season,” Riviere further explains.
To continue their efforts of supporting their clients and the fashion community, The Riviere Agency is fundraising for freelancers impacted by COVID-19 through the Freelance Co-Op. Independent industry workers were heavily affected during the coronavirus pandemic, and many could not claim unemployment. Riviere said, “We knew that many [people] were owed money from jobs already completed would not be paid. We just wanted to find a way to send some love back into the community.” Freelancers are crucial in the creative industry of fashion, and supporting them in a time like this is important.
The pandemic’s adverse effects on the fashion industry were met with an even stronger response from the fashion community. The industry created innovative plans to get through an unprecedented time. Riviere said it best “nothing is going to replace live shows or events,” but we can look forward to industry professionals to bring beloved designer collections to viewers safely in new, innovative ways.