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Nicola Mira
Jan 25, 2021
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Pascal Morand of French Fashion Federation says virtual fashion weeks are “an interlude”

Translated by
Nicola Mira
Jan 25, 2021

The Covid-19 pandemic has confined fashion weeks to the web, but this is only “an interlude”, said Pascal Morand, executive president of the French Fashion and Haute Couture Federation, who believes in the future of the Paris Fashion Week.

Can we still talk about a Paris Fashion Week when everything is happening online?

Pascal Morand: This third digital fashion week is nothing new for us, we were very quick in setting up a website [to live-stream catwalk shows and presentations last summer]. The second fashion week was phygital, a mix of physical presentations and web shows.

For the latest, we were ready, there were no surprises. In future, when we’ll return to physical shows, a digital dimension will remain. What was initially an element of resilience, has become a driver of innovation and creativity.

We’ve fully plunged into the 21st century. In yesterday’s world, digital was a complement to physical, now it's the opposite. Across all market segments, the share of e-tail sales has grown from 13% to 25%.

Only what can’t be digitalised stays physical. We’re all tired of Zoom meetings, where basic sensory needs are far from fulfilled. [On-screen] visualisation is never the same [as reality], and this is especially true in fashion, where there's motion, fabrics, fluidity and precision.

The digital dimension is very far from a specifically human kind of visual resolution, in terms of contrast, colour and depth.

There is something of an interlude in the way we are experiencing life, and it's affecting all [fashion] capitals. But Paris’s appeal for emerging labels remains unchanged. Paris is where they want to make a name for themselves.

How is the crisis impacting the sector?

PM: The impact is significant. Looking at the French apparel market in the narrow sense, in 2020 it slumped by between 17% and 18%. The better-equipped labels are those that have greater digital clout, and are exporting to China.

Luxury labels export up to 90% of their revenue, notably in Asia and China, and often have a well-established digital presence. This is perhaps a survival factor, generating resilience and the ability to bounce back in the present situation.

Being embodied in a designer or creative director gives labels an extra asset. The labels showing at the Paris Fashion Week have enough strength to navigate this period. It's tough for younger labels, and we're supporting them.

Some labels have dropped out of the official calendar, others present fewer collections, smaller labels are developing a taste for the web. What will happen to fashion weeks after the pandemic?

PM: The risk inherent in going digital is losing the sense of rhythm afforded by fashion weeks.

Certain rituals are disappearing, but it is by no means the case with us. There is a great need for creative expression. We’re noticing how creativity is extending to other domains, with film and video-makers, comic-strip and video-game designers getting involved.

When normal life will resume, we will need to reconsider how to stage catwalk shows, how to create physical events with a digital complement.

If everyone drops out of the system, everyone loses out. In the current situation, it’s good that there are safeguards, elements of credibility. The official calendar has always been a democratising factor. Everyone on it enjoys equal standing, both major labels and those that have recently joined, despite the huge difference in revenue and reputation.

And audiences are a way of channelling influence, of communicating, they breathe life into events. They also have an impact on the digital dimension, because show guests disseminate information.

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