Trying on a couture gown, stepping inside a luxury boutique, building a red carpet-worthy wardrobe: some dream experiences are becoming more accessible. Lockdown has pushed fashion houses to reinvent themselves. The good news is that their transformation is digital, meaning that even if you don't have a fat pocketbook, all you need is an internet connection. Simply turn on your browser, click on the right addresses, and enjoy.
Who could have imagined just 10 years ago that the luxury industry would one day open itself to such a large public? Some houses, even most houses, hadn't established their own e-shops at that time. It was difficult to imagine that the internet and luxury would work together very well, if one considers that it is -- was -- the reserve of those who can spend without counting, and that luxury is generally associated with exclusivity.
However, confinement has to a certain extent accelerated its democratization. While certain brands had anticipated a shift to digital, others have approached the conditions imposed by the pandemic as an opportunity to reinvent themselves and find new, non-physical ways to reach their communities. The advantage is that many more people can now enjoy their universes.
Everyone's in the front row!
Fashion Week. These two words are perhaps just details for a lot of people, but for some of us, they signify a lot. They have usually equated to waiting in line for hours behind concrete barriers for the chance to see an arm, a flash of chicly coiffed hair, or, most commonly, the backs of the world's most influential fashionistas. Worse still are the lotteries which award a ticket to only one show. Quarantine measures have upended the calendar of the catwalk shows, clearing the way for the first digital fashion weeks.
It is currently possible to watch the presentations, events, and performances of the recent Haute Couture Week via one platform (https://hautecouture.fhcm.paris). This is the first time ever, and a similar initiative will be implemented with the Men's Fashion Weeks in Paris and Milan. Will it last? Not likely. But certain designers and fashion houses have already let it be known that they are considering breaking the frenzy of the catwalk shows by approaching their presentations in new ways.
Luxury accessible from the sofa
For years, Olivier Rousteing, Balmain's artistic director, has been creating initiatives to make high-end fashion more accessible. He recently showed this capacity for innovation by opening a virtual showroom for his cruise collection. In itself, the concept isn't new, as houses like Gucci also did this in response to lockdown. But Olivier Rousteing took things further, identically recreating the house's legendary flagship at 44 rue François Ier in Paris. It's even the artistic director himself -- or his avatar -- who greets visitors, both fashion professionals and individuals from the public, to unveil the new looks. It's an innovative concept which could inspire other people in the industry with new ways to stay in touch with their public no matter the situation.
Today, it is also possible to try on couture dresses without having to stroll Avenue Montaigne. While wearing sweatpants on the couch, one only needs apps or games like Drest (www.drest.com) or Animal Crossing (www.animal-crossing.com) to "wear" Prada, Gucci, Marc Jacobs, Valentino or Oscar de la Renta. It's a whole new playground for fashion addicts who can create an infinite number of looks for their own avatar, post them to social media, and become the stylists or even artistic directors of tomorrow.