The world of fashion and entertainment has drastically changed in the last few months due to the novel coronavirus pandemic that has left most of the businesses in dire state. While movie-watching experience is now limited to OTT platforms, fashion is in the middle of an entirely new debate i.e. many international designers and fashion houses have termed fashion shows ‘outmoded’, ‘overly consumerist and wasteful’. So far we have seen all the global fashion events turning to online formats; from the announcement by British Fashion Council to Paris and London Fashion Week, fashion is now showcasing on digital mediums however, it is really the future?
Preeminent fashion journalists like Bridget Foley of the fashion industry bible Women’s Wear Daily (WWD) deemed digital shows as “lacking the buzz and razzmatazz of live show.” But with the dangers of the COVID-19 virus and an uncertain future, showcasing fashion shows digitally is the only viable option right now.
First-ever virtual fashion show in Pakistan
Keeping in mind these developments, CEO of Catwalk Event Management, Frieha Altaf joined the bandwagon earlier in June when she successfully held the first virtual fashion show in Pakistan under the banner of Catwalk Cares. The first edition was a tribute to frontline workers and first responders who are serving the nation in these testing times. Frieha is of the view that “Pakistani fashion industry should not become lackadaisical but forge ahead, adapt and find creative alternative solutions to sustain itself.”
“There is nothing that compares to the electricity and buzz of live fashion shows and fashion weeks, but digital is the new reality of showcasing fashion” Frieha said in a press statement. “With the ongoing presence of the COVID-19 virus, we cannot go back to the premise of live fashion shows just yet but we can find creative alternatives,” she emphasized.
Time for Season 2
Channeling the success of the first digital show and keeping in mind the sustainability of the industry, the fashion powerhouse is returning to the runway with Catwalk Cares Virtual Fashion Show Season 2. And this time the core objective goes beyond fashion; it is more about sustaining the Pakistani fashion as well as entertainment industries — that includes not only fashion designers, make-up artists, photographers and models — but also all the behind-the-scenes personnel including set designers, trussing and lighting vendors. The platform will once again employ the latter to create two runway ramps in a studio space to showcase the designs of the participating designers at Catwalk Cares Season 2.
“As the lockdown is easing, it’s all about putting back to work the vendors who haven’t been working for the past five months,” Frieha shared adding, “In the last virtual fashion show, models were recording from home but this time, with strict SOPs in place, we will be able to shoot on a ramp giving a feel of a live fashion show which will be aired both digitally and on a premium local TV channel.”
Aftermath of a pandemic
Zaffar Ali Khan of Al Ghashba Sets & Lights is one of the vendors that provides trussing, flooring, stage-lights and paneling for events including fashion weeks and shows. Just before the lockdown, Al Ghashba worked with Nestlé, Velo and Engro in Lahore and Karachi with the last event on 1st March, 2020. Due to the lockdown, the company lost several job opportunities including both a public event with Toyota and some private weddings amounting to a loss of income of approx PKR 16 lacs over the five month period. The company sustained itself with income earned from events that took place in February 2020, but sadly Zaffar Ali Khan had to resort to selling one of his plots so he could pay his four employees and sustain his company.
Obaid Haq, owner of Audio Links that specializes in event management, sound engineering, stage lighting production and rentals has also felt the brunt of the pandemic. Audio Links’ high profile events and clients included the Lux Style Awards 2013 & 2016, the Hum Awards, Fashion Pakistan Week, Pantene Bridal Week, Bridal Couture Week, Veet Supermodel, Pakistan Idol and Ponds Miracle Journey; all of which are not going to happen this year.
Arshad Mehmood aka Nasir of SkyLight Events which deals in general lighting last worked with Catwalk Event Management & Productions for the VELO curtain-raiser launch as well as with Shehzad Roy’s Zindagi Trust for Ibn-Khatoon Pakistan College. He said that his last completed assignment was on 7th March, 2020 after which he has not received any work adding that this has accrued to a loss of income of about PKR 3 lacs per month over this time period.
“It’s been a real struggle,” Arshad said adding, “I will be happy to be working again with Catwalk Cares.”
These are just a few cases, however numerous other industry members have endured economic losses and emotional distress during the pandemic. The future of the fashion calendar is still uncertain and each day offers new challenges for everyone connected to the entertainment business. With the projected long-term economic impact of COVID-19 on the fashion industry, the decisions made now are likely to reshape the fashion week model for many years to come. Those who are willing to take the time to ponder about these new opportunities and harness them to their full potential will emerge at the other end stronger than ever. Catwalk Cares seems to be on the right track; creatively transposing the drama of live fashion shows digitally while actively encouraging the Pakistani fashion industry to rise from the ashes and sustain itself.