• The first-ever online Paris fashion week kicks off with the world of runway shows thrown into an existential crisis by the coronavirus. 
  • After Congolese U.S.-based designer Anifa M presented a digital runway show during lockdown, a new command for fashion to adapt was made, and Dior is one of the first to heed the call.
  • This week, Maria Grazia Chiuri and Matteo Garrone showcased a new collection at Haute Couture Week on miniature mannequins in a fantasy film. 

Barbie may have plenty to boast about, but can she say she's ever worn Dior? Well, these miniature mannequins can.

As winds of change triggered by the coronavirus have begun to blow over the fashion industry - the fashion week model as we know it - has been made over. From virtual to fantasy, fashion is trying on a new coat. 

At the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic, the fashion industry was immediately – and visibly – hit, as it affected several fashion week events around the world. In response to this, there was a collective call for this fraternity to redesign itself. The health crisis, therefore, acted as a clear catalyst to what the industry needed to do for some years now  adapt. 

Employing Alice in Wonderland as a metaphor in an article headlined Fashion will have to redesign itself in order to survive beyond the Covid-19 pandemic, I wrote, "if fashion continues to chase the White Rabbit exclaiming 'Oh dear! I shall be too late! with its approaches to fast fashion production, to going green in a bid to ethically align itself with its beauty counterpart, and trying to be body positive so late in the game, it will find itself in a wonderland of stagnancy despite its quest for enlightenment, unable to climb out the rabbit hole". 

"The Cheshire cat in Alice in Wonderland says, 'we're all mad here!' – a symbol of how change incites antagonism on the grounds of it being 'crazy'. The coronavirus pandemic is a mad hatter's tea party – in our stillness we're still chaotic - and it has changed our lives in a frightening way, but we're going to have to use this time apart to reconsider the model and reinvent our runways and rails," I opined. 

And in May, Hanifa's Congolese U.S.-based designer and founder, Anifa Mvuemba, in an unprecedented move, presented a 3D fashion show on Instagram with ghost-like figures virtually clad in her garments. Again, omitting real-life models. It gave us a very welcome peek into the future of the exhibition aspect of collections, and it was a moment that earned many headlines. In the same way Rihanna's Fenty Beauty heightened pressure for cosmetics brands to attempt to offer 40 shades of foundation, another black woman prompted innovation in her field.

So in marrying my metaphor of fantasy with Hanifa's futurism and innovative show, credit must be given to Dior for reimagining their approach to Paris Haute Couture Week.

This season, Dior showcased a miniature haute couture collection in a film directed by Matteo Garrone – a far cry from its usual glitzy runway shows.  

A caption on an Instagram post made by Dior notes: "For the Autumn-Winter 2020-2021 Haute Couture, @MariaGraziaChiuri recaptured that sense of wonder with miniature dresses contained in a traveling trunk bearing the emblematic Paris facade."

The miniature gowns are dreamy, intricately crafted, some are whimsical with an edge, and well... very gala dinner ready. The collection is also said to be an exploration of a "broad range of interpretations of femininity".

But acknowledging this moment – for me  is less about the sartorial offering this time around and more about the concept as a whole.

READ MORE: With no paparazzis or parties, Paris prepares for virtual Haute Couture Week 

"I would like to use another way to approach the couture project, with the idea to represent this dream with a different media. And for that I need to thank Matteo, who helped me realise my dream. I realised the collection, he realised the film, but it was a very close collaboration with only one message: that creativity gives, in any case, hope for the future," says Maria Grazi Chiuri, Dior artistic director.  

For those who have not yet seen the fashion film, The Cut described it as follows

"Woven into the fantasy is an important reference from fashion history. During World War II in France, in order to promote the idea that the country’s couture was still very much alive, artists and fashion designers collaborated on a project called Théâtre de la Mode, in which couturiers created miniature clothes for dolls. These dolls were then shipped across the world to remind the public of the power of art in difficult times. Given their tiny scale, the attention to detail had to be obsessive, and Dior has replicated that here. The horny tree nymph’s dress took three seamstresses 300 hours to make." 

You can watch the short film here

However, as intrigued and excited as we may be about the 'digitisation and miniaturisation' of shows and collections, it begs a question about a potential problem for a part of the fashion vehicle. Models. You see, this new fashion week model may soon require no models, as digital innovations render them almost obsolete. 

The move to e-adapting several industries has already cost many their jobs, as we've seen with the gradual collapse of print and retail respectively. Will fashion also shed jobs not only models as it learns to present collections through virtual means? 

I guess we have to stay tuned.

Additional source: AFP

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