What is the future of fashion shows after the pandemic?

Fashion shows are now 12-hour live streams. Or movies starring mermaids. Or mailed to you in a box.

The digital fashion presentations in Paris and Milan that spanned the last two weeks — and replaced the usual live runway shows for fall haute couture and menswear, as well as women’s resort collections — weren’t physically exhausting, but they were mentally numbing: the live streams, music videos, short movies and Zoom conversations with designers trying to work through what this moment in history means creatively, psychologically and financially.

A model presents a creation by French designer Stephane Rolland during the shooting of a film designed to replace Haute Couture fashion shows in Paris on July 3, 2020 after France eased lockdown measures taken to curb the spread of the COVID-19 disease caused by the novel coronavirus. – With no catwalk fashion shows on offer for the first time in its history, the artistic ambitions of fashion designers has gone virtual: the week of virtual fashion shows starts on July 6, 2020 in the French capital Paris, following the post-COVID-19 pandemic.

As a viewer trying to absorb it all, the days felt like an emotional roller coaster where the rare live fashion show — outdoors with mask-wearing guests — could feel simultaneously admirable and reckless, even when watched on a screen.

One could delight in technology that brought one behind the scenes, only to realise that a lot of what happens in the shadows of a fashion show is as excruciating as watching waiting people wait. Or, more precisely, during Gucci’s 12-hour live stream it meant watching an assistant fan a model wearing fall clothes on a hot summer day so he didn’t pass out. The myth is far more exciting than the mythmaking.

Dior’s menswear embraced diversity through the glorious portraiture of an African painter. Dior haute couture ignored it with its ivory-skinned mermaids and nymphs. Dolce & Gabbana directly addressed the pandemic with a live show at Milan’s Humanitas University, where research into a coronavirus vaccine is underway. Jonathan Anderson’s show-in-a-box, mailed to each guest, offered a reprieve from it. Chanel created clothes for a world as it once existed. Prada offered a wardrobe for the world as it is.

Where are folks going in all these new frocks? Lord knows.

Fashion rustled up a beautiful, desperate dream. Some might see it all as misguided frippery. But truly, has there ever been a time when beautiful dreams are so desperately needed?