Is This What the Future of Fashion Week Looks Like?

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Style Points is a new weekly column about how fashion intersects with the wider world.

There’s something truly uncanny about looking at fashion week images right now, a reminder that on the streets of Copenhagen, stylish women were just cavorting in cute ensembles and attending runway shows. I’ve been clicking through the slideshows like everyone else, but it feels awfully surreal to see things on the other side of the world just…proceeding as usual.

Of course, Denmark has been handling the pandemic markedly better than we have; they currently have 124 new COVID cases, while the U.S. has over 300 times that amount. But it’s not just all the strolling and showgoing that makes the images feel like a dispatch from a time capsule. It’s the way things don’t, at first glance, look markedly different from the usual, despite all the recent talk of evolution, from Dries van Noten and co.’s open letter pushing for change to brands like Gucci re-thinking the fashion show schedule.

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Ganni’s exhibition at Copenhagen Fashion Week

Yuliya ChristensenGetty Images

A deeper dive into the Copenhagen shows reveals that, at the very least, there were some welcome changes that we might hopefully see implemented as Fashion Month unfurls, in whatever form, in September. Number one is sustainability: Copenhagen Fashion Week has pledged to be fully zero-waste by 2022, and eco-friendliness is clearly a priority for many of the designers who showed. Like Ganni, which this season collaborated with Levi’s on a capsule collection of upcycled denim pieces; they will be rentable as part of its new rental service Ganni Repeat. And the sustainable brand Designers Remix, which showed upcycled pieces that proclaimed “I used to be a curtain” (shades of Maria von Trapp) or “I used to be a couch.”

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Designers Remix shows at Copenhagen Fashion Week

Yuliya ChristensenGetty Images

The shows also took what Copenhagen Fashion Week CEO Cecilie Thorsmark has called a “hybrid” approach” to their streamlined three-day schedule. Meaning, they took the form of everything from online films to exhibits to outdoor events that brought Fashion Week out of its ivory tower and into the midst of the city (Henrik Vibskov, for example, showed in a public park.) While none of these are brand-new concepts, they do show that the days of the runway show as default event may be behind us.

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Henrik Vibskov’s outdoor show.

Yuliya ChristensenGetty Images

Panel discussions and talks were also a crucial part of the event, with topics ranging from anti-racism to how activism intersects with technology. “We should be able to use this powerful platform we have…to engage in critical discussions, address crucial topics in the industry and get people to listen to each other and have conversations that are more meaningful and on a different level,” Thorsmark told WWD. “I couldn’t picture going back to just a fashion week.”

Could we be looking at a future of fashion weeks that, like Copenhagen, are shorter, more eco-friendly, and contain a mix of digital and in-person events? The announcements around Fashion Month so far suggest as much. New York has shortened its schedule to three days; London will include a mix of digital and socially distanced physical shows (including a carbon-neutral, digitally streamed outdoor event from Burberry). Milan will follow a “phygital” model—an awkward portmanteau, but one that seems like it will be sticking with us. And Paris’s lineup of in-person shows will be supplemented by an online platform.

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A look from Designers Remix at Copenhagen Fashion Week.

Yuliya ChristensenGetty Images

More broadly, the changes we’re seeing to these coming fashion weeks could, if they work, become business as usual. This season marks our moment to see what a streamlined, less wasteful, truly digitally savvy Fashion Month could look like—and whether it could be a success. We could all stand to be a bit more like the Danes. And, like them, I can’t picture going back to just a fashion week.

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