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Couture Shows Without the Runway Presentations Just Don’t Cut It

The first-ever digital couture week kicked off earlier this week. We weigh in on our thoughts – do you think it's a yay or nay from us?

Exactly a year ago, in July, we attended Virginie Viard’s debut Chanel couture showing at the Grand Palais in Paris. We still remember the remarkable floor to ceiling library against which the collection was unveiled like it were yesterday. A couple of months after, we attended the Valentino couture outing in Bei Jing’s storied Summer Palace, an equally arresting In fact, show sets are oftentimes what jolt our memories of the many collections we have attended through the years. Little did we know, the couture showing last year would mark our last for the conceivable future.

Since Miss Corona embarked on her world tour a few months ago, travel has officially left the building. Gathering in large groups, too, has been a no-no. For the fashion industry, this has meant the cancellation of live runway presentations. But the show must go on – if not in real life then digitally. The Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode (FHCM), the authority on French fashion and Paris Fashion Week, announced a digital fashion week in place of the live couture showings typically slated for this time of the year. Earlier this week, we sat through the first-ever virtual couture presentations – namely the showings of the house of Chanel and Dior.

Leading up to the digital showings, we were expecting the couture presentations to pan out the way they would’ve if we were there in the flesh – save for the fact that we’d all have a front row seat at the comfort of our own homes – or for brands to have put together a ground-breaking interactive digital experience to completely swoop us off our feet. The reality of it, however, was neither of the either or we had anticipated and it certainly didn’t knock our socks off.

Parked in front of our laptops 10 minutes prior to the first showing that we tuned into, it really hit home that a digital experience no matter how stellar could hardly be a replacement. We were not in the midst of a breath-taking set typical of couture showings which were needless to say, a big part of the experience. At home, distractions were aplenty, too. The phone would go off, the vacuum cleaner blare unexpectedly, a thunderstorm might be brewing outside. Our attention was split – not the most ideal when you’re trying in your entirety to immerse into mood of the show.

As the show began playing out, for both Chanel and Dior, it felt very much like a campaign film. No less stunning in its visual effect but nowhere near as impactful as all the shows we’ve sat through wide-eyed with enthusiasm. The thing about couture is the novelty of seeing the craftsmanship in person. The intricate savoir faire, the way the clothes move as models parade down the runway, the glisten of a heavily embroidered piece – through the screen, the magic is admittedly lost. Particularly, because it is couture – the grandest outing across all fashion weeks. Without the whole nine yards, couture’s offerings blended into the ready-to-wear realm. The utter blasphemy, we know.

We’ve had previous members of the Kulala team reflect on their virgin fashion week experiences from which, it’s easy to pinpoint the unbridgeable gap between the real and the reel when it comes to fashion. For digital fashion weeks to be a thing in the future, perhaps we could seeing it happening if we were plugged into a VR set. Digital shows through a computer screen might not cut it for us but we’d raise our bets on virtual reality.

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