Talking about the impact that digitalisation and new information technologies have  had in our daily lives and how they have changed our social behaviours is not  revolutionary. It has been a while now since accessing information and remote  realities is a click away for (almost) everyone, from anywhere and at any time.  

Thinking of 2020, digitalisation becomes even more relevant. Living in a reality where  physical contact has become potentially dangerous and our homes have transformed  into multidisciplinary living spaces from which we must access and experience the  rest of the world; digital technologies have become the tool allowing us to produce  (and enlarge) our current realities. In just a day someone can have a work meeting,  attend a 2-hour seminar, watch a live performance and talk to several friends living in  different time zones; all within the same four walls.  

Fashion, as any other creative field reflecting the zeitgeist and adapting to the social  demands of a given time, was a pioneer in joining this digital revolution. But how has  this been changing the reality of fashion throughout the years?  

During the time of couturiers such as Coco Chanel, Christian Dior, Yves Saint Laurent  or Cristobal Balenciaga (to mention just a few) garments were at the core of fashion 

creation. Their fashion shows resembled more a gathering of friends, hosted in a  beautiful apartment, where guests could fully appreciate the impeccability of the  clothes and be delighted by the magnificence of the garments that the designer (along  with a team of highly skilled seamstresses) had created. A nostalgic, long gone way of  envisioning and communicating fashion, which was brought back to life by Hedi  Slimane in his last show for Saint Laurent.  

At this time the fashion press and fashion critics were the only channel through which  collections could be brought to the general public. Magazines, like Vogue or L’Officiel,  were the only source of communication that showcased the ideas of the new fashion  genius and made fashion’s dream accessible for a targeted audience of curious  connoisseurs. 

It was not until the 21st Century, with the increase of the internet’s prominence, that  fashion communication started to evolve and content began to be generated at a  higher speed. However, we could consider that the biggest breakaway was initiated  by Alexander McQueen with his (sadly) last show, Plato’s Atlantis (2009), which  defined the future of fashion as we understand it today. McQueen teamed up with  Nick Knight’s SHOWstudio to broadcast the runway live over the internet, targeting a  worldwide audience who (at once) were informed by Lady Gaga in a tweet. The first  (and definitely not last) time when high fashion met the power of digitalisation and the  masses. 


The topic of digitalisation and accessibility thus initiated a controversial conversation  within high fashion, switching the ways in which brands needed to communicate and  engage with their audiences; and also boosting the number of people interested in  fashion itself. French fashion houses (with a long history and heritage) were more  reluctant to ‘massify’ luxury by communicating to everyone through the Internet;  whereas newer brands positioned in “premium and mass” segments were already  taking over the Internet and adapting their marketing strategies in order to target the  broadest audience possible.  

From that moment on, fashion changed forever and the meaning of luxury was  redefined. Every brand, sooner or later, was required to join the digital revolution. One  example of this could be the French brand, Céline. This minimalist fashion house  targeted powerful and intellectual (yet feminine) women who prefer not to flaunt. The  artistic director (for over a decade), Phoebe Philo, was not a big fan of social media  and so Céline was one of the latest entrants to the digital world, joining Instagram  only in 2017. Months after, Philo left, and Hedi Slimane took the reins of the firm,  deconstructing everything that the brand stood for and transforming it into a digital  success.  

During the last few years, the emergence of digital-based fashion brands, the boost of  luxury-oriented fashion e-tailers and brand’s e-commerces, the speeded up  production of digital content, the dawn of influencer culture, and the increased  importance of data, have been at the core of the conversation within the fashion  industry, and the new reality of fashion practitioners.  

Designers needing to be able to build an appealing image in social media, magazines  needing to implement digital and social strategies as part of their media plans, live  streaming fashion shows (and backstage content) on different social media platforms  having become a new rule, the number of followers that an influencer or a model can  reach becoming more important than their skills… All these new needs have shaped a  new (digital) reality that has been embraced (and adopted) by fashion lovers as well  as fashion businesses.  

However, 2020 has pushed fashion (as many other industries) to shift toward an even  more digitally-focused panorama. Living in a moment when the physical is restricted  and almost cancelled; fashion shows, fashion events and fashion’s mode of  production have been re-invented in order to meet the restrictions and adapt to what  people are experiencing at this very moment.  

Cancelling, for the first time in many decades, 2020 fashion weeks, has compelled  brands and marketing leaders to reassess the way of envisioning collections and  reinvent their creativity; bringing about the so-called Digital Fashion Weeks 

(organised differently in each fashion capital), but especially new, bold, socially- and  culturally-oriented ways of engaging and connecting with a public that must stay at  home and have no access to cultural nor leisure activities. 

We can take the example of two world leading brands, such as Loewe and Marni. On  the one hand, Jonathan Anderson introduced us to Loewe’s SS 2021 men’s and  women’s runway with a 24-hour live stream, featuring creatives across different  cultural fields talking about their practices and performing. On the other hand,  Francesco Risso decided to present Marni’s SS2 collection in an experimental and  un-scripted short film that portrays the beauty of the daily life of different people from  around the world, shot by their close friends and family wearing the brand’s  remarkably colourful and vibrant collection.  

Therefore, we could state that Fashion has reached a point where social media  platforms have attained the power to not only reproduce realities (clothes) and  globally spread them through digital mediums, reaching a broader population of  potential consumers and fans; but to produce the actual realities (digital universes)  that, afterwards, translate into the physical ones (wearable garments). In other words,  the garments themselves have lost importance, and their associated meanings and  digital prominence are now what matters the most.