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The future of fashion events

Not long ago we heard the current buzzword “phygital”, which translates into uniting physical and digital experiences. Almost every fashion event has gone hybrid in the last one and a half years, embedding the digital element in the creative process to craft unique experiences for viewers. For this issue, WeAr asked various experts working closely with the fashion industry to share their views on the way forward for fashion events, and to tell us which innovative practices they want to see in events further on.
2 March, 2022
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Luxury fashion is probably one of the few industries where pure digital will never replace physical events. Our business model is mainly based on desire and exclusivity. Therefore we will see a comeback of the spectacles taking place in Paris, London, or Milan. For our buying, particularly in the high price segment, it is crucial to see the whole picture, how the collection is merchandised, and which stories are the right fit for our curation.
Nevertheless, on some occasions, it makes sense not to travel to Milan for a denim order and instead use digital order platforms. In terms of digitalization, there is space for improvement on how the brands present themselves in digital showroom formats. Live shopping tools could be a helpful addition to digital showrooms as they could improve the customer experience.


The digital world has opened new paths to connect with audiences in unimagi- nable ways. Recently, the “Metaverse”, where brands can interact with consumers through avatars in a virtual world, hosts digital events such as music festivals or new product launches. It enables consumers worldwide to attend physical events through an avatar digitally, interacting the same way physical attendees are, merging both worlds, what is referred to as “phygital”. Others are experimenting by adding a layer of digital enhancements to the physical event; for instance, designers create AR filters of virtual representations of collections after-shows for consumers to try on garments they’ve just seen going down the runway.


“Phygital” events are the future. Purely physical trade shows, conferences, or runway shows are no longer appropriate. Nonetheless, trade shows thrive on face-to-face meetings, on feeling and seeing the fabrics and materials, on exchange. Therefore, the elimination of physical formats is just as unthinkable as future fashion events without digital elements. I’m hoping that the fashion industry will dare to be even more open and to show courage. We live in a fast-moving world – the fashion industry is no exception and needs to move with the zeitgeist.


Virtual identities are the new social currency, and video games have proved immersive, engaging, and an excellent way for fashion houses to cultivate broader audiences. Over the last year, Balenciaga raised eyebrows by dropping their collection on Fortnite, Gucci partnered with multiple gaming platforms to offer digital clothing and accessories for avatars, and Nike launched Nikeland on Roblox. All were hugely successful in doing so. Meanwhile, Lil Nas X logged more viewers for his virtual-only concert than all his live concerts combined. Fashion houses must seamlessly combine virtual and physical spaces if they are to enjoy continued growth and success. “Metaverse” is the buzzword of the moment, and while at a nascent stage, we’re already seeing NFTs emerge as a new trend that could trigger digital fashion collecting frenzies. Brands should consider minting collections with NFT counterparts to extend their hype in the virtual world.


In the last year and a half, collections have been presented digitally to connect exhibitors and buyers who could then confirm production orders in the months to follow. Many buyers confirmed that digital showrooming is an informative tool, complementary to the physical part, but not decisive. In our “phygital” concept, digital is indispensable for the fair organization offer and for providing visitors with preliminary information. Still, for the actual business operations, collection orders, and new business possibilities, the physical aspect remains a key element.

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The digital side of fashion is more creative, more inclusive, more sustainable, and more fun. Digital is becoming a big part of any fashion event, and this trend will only evolve. We love to see how people and brands interact with digital fashion, and our main focus is on NFTs and blockchain. We can also see great opportunities in integrating AR/VR technologies into fashion – so you don’t just own an NFT fashion asset; you can also use it in a “phygital" world and the “Metaverse”.


Digital showrooms are the new experimental and streamlined experiences that will open a new era for fashion events. With the upcoming “Metaverse” and advancements in AR technology less than a decade away, average fashion enthusiasts will wear a VR headset at home and attend fashion events in the front row or shop clothes from a fashion house in a digital country they have never been to. We began to see full-featured VR fashion shows with VR gadgets and mixed reality fashion shows where the audience interacts through a custom-built application on their mobile device. VR technology will open a whole new dimension of fashion possibilities and innovations, allowing fashion companies to present their digital garments to their customers, such as virtual browsing, virtual try-on, and virtual payment through a virtual cashier.


The event ecosystem has been completely slowed down, and digital solutions are progressing at an unprecedented speed. But the desire for personal contact remains. Today, even more than ever, it's about the added value that a product, and thus also an event, offers. It's about building a 360° brand world around specific target groups. This cannot be done by flicking a switch but requires a smart combination of physical and digital components and the right mindset to create inspiring and seamless experiences.

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In September 2020, we launched our e-commerce B2B WHITE platform. Our digital platform supports and implements the physical trade show, which will remain essential and has been conceived as an additional service for labels that can benefit from continuous communication to buyers. It is a real 360° digital service in constant evolution, which integrates both physical and digital events. In the upcoming weeks, we will innovate our B2B format thanks to a selection of brands made by international buyers.


Adding digital components to physical fairs could be more meaningful to make technical coherences better understandable. However, can you create the same perception only via virtual technology, without having the final result in your hands unadulterated by photo or video technology, without feeling the haptics? We need to achieve trust, and trust is nothing but the sum of perceptions. Can we succeed without the most important part of perception? In our opinion – no. Fashion, with all its components up to the final product, is tangible, you must breathe the atmosphere to be inspired for something new to be developed.


Future events must always contain interactive components. Specifically, this means fashion shows will still take place live, but online channels must also be considered and thus commercialized for the distribution of the shows. The events of the future must be available online immediately and free of charge for the end consumer. Above all, preparations have to be made now so that labels can proactively connect to consumers/viewers after the pandemic and the associated restrictions.

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My answer to “phygital” would be another neologism, “glocal”: the future of fashion events is to get closer to their audience on one hand and to use a strategy that answers current sustainability issues on the other hand. Using digital tools upstream and downstream is, in my opinion, a good way to go further. Augmented reality, for example, may be used as an upstream tool to visualize and optimize events. Online events may be an excellent tool to simplify event production and to avoid duplication. The benefit is amplified as it forces brands to get closer to audience expectations with local productions.


I think, especially now, it’s more valuable than ever to create multi-sensory experiences for our crowds – physical where possible, obviously, with a digital or virtual extension to give access. Limitations, however, also come with opportunity – it’s a challenge to operate progressively. I hope we will be able to maintain physicality for the future, and of course, that technology advances and becomes more accessible so we don’t have to rely as much on exterior conditions.


A smart example of “phygital” fashion events is our Mobile Innovation Lab. At the last Pitti Uomo, visitors were able to add a digital component to their physical impressions. Thanks to our digital sales and studio assistant DSA-01, the Salzburg showroom could be visited directly from the event, allowing visitors to explore the entire collection. With these innovative solutions, AlphaTauri is driving the connection between offline and online retail.


The last year and a half, with its rapid rise in digital habits, has accelerated the merging of physical and digital spaces. We see this as a great benefit, provided it does not turn into an isolation economy. From my point of view, we must succeed in combining the best of both worlds in the future, i.e., the optimum mix of immediacy, interaction, and immersion. I believe that nothing can replace interpersonal interaction and dialog, and that personal interaction is the key to almost everything.


The fashion industry is a very tactile one, so having a physical platform is essential. Digital solutions provide a powerful, year-long, complementary tool to support the live event experience, and we see digital as a long-term engine for us. Still, networking is not replicable in a virtual format. Face-to-face connection is powerful and will always be important. We must support the global fashion community's growth and innovation in productive and meaningful ways through new, inventive ways of combining the best of live events with the best of complementary digital functionalities.


Traditional physical events, such as catwalks, exhibitions, and B2B meetings are still the most efficient, exclusive, magical, and most requested events of the global fashion business. On the other hand, hybrid events are getting more popular day by day because of the current situation. We believe that digital events are integral to physical events rather than rivals to them. Amazing developments and breathtaking innovations in recent years have improved all of our lives and will continue to do so. In this regard, we try to combine and balance our physical events with the digital events and would like to succeed.


Without a doubt, we live in a new age for fashion, and it is the right time to reshape future fashion events. After the conversation with the experts from the fashion industry, WeAr emphasizes that key fashion players need to adapt to the new paradigm shift with immersive technologies without losing the tactile experiences of the physical events. The trends mentioned in this Round Table shed light on the fact that a 360° approach and the amalgamation of physical and digital practices – “phygital” – is the future for fashion events.

This article originally appeared in WeAr magazine's January 2022 issue

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