Coronavirus: India holds digital fashion week amid COVID-19 pandemic

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Unlike a fashion show, the models aren’t swaying on a ramp in real life. They are depending on digital technology to rescue their annual extravaganza from the coronavirus pandemic.

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“Phygital Edition” is India’s first digital fashion week, held from Wednesday through Sunday. It livestreams the spring-summer collections by more than 40 designers under the banner of Lotus Make-up India Fashion Week. Ten designers showcase their work each day.

For months, designers, models, make-up artists and film crews worked to create the fusion of the physical and virtual fashion, adapting to the virus restrictions.

The designers have pre-shot films that are showcased online on key digital platforms — Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

A model poses for a film pre-shot to be showcased online during Lotus make-up India Fashion week in New Delhi, India, Friday, Oct. 2, 2020. (AP)
A model poses for a film pre-shot to be showcased online during Lotus make-up India Fashion week in New Delhi, India, Friday, Oct. 2, 2020. (AP)

Nikhita Tandon, a designer, is hopeful of a big response, considering everyone is connected in today’s digital world.

“Earlier we could accommodate a maximum of 500 people in the hall while now it is massive in comparison, we all know that digital world is the new thing in marketing,” she said.

But she sees a huge difference between a live show and watching the images online. “When we see a garment in front of our eyes, there is a different feel in the embellishments,” she said.

“Another challenge is the timeline within which a garment had to be made, because for the digital show there is a whole process that goes down after the garments are ready. So, for hosting the show digitally the decreased timeline is challenging as well,” Tandon said.

Not to miss the October deadline, the Fashion Design Council of India converted parts of its office building into a studio in a bustling industrial area of New Delhi. It created a stage, screens and bespoke lighting to facilitate shooting of fashion films and videos by the designers.

It wasn’t easy to meet the strict COVID-19 restrictions. The entire building was sanitized, as were the designers’ clothes.

Models, film crews, photographers, designers and the design council staff could step in after they tested negative for the coronavirus. Face masks were mandatory, except briefly, for the models onstage.

Some designers even chose to film in private farm houses, their own or leased for the purpose.

Designers participating in the fashion show include Varun Bahl, Tarun Tahiliani, Suneet Varma, Shivan and Narresh, Shantanu and Nikhil, Rohit Gandhi, Rahul Khanna, Rina Dhaka, Rajesh Pratap Singh, Payal Jain, Nitin Bal Chauhan, Namrata Joshipura, Geisha Designs, Dhi, Ashish Soni and Abhishek Gupta.

The design council has created an online “designer showroom,” a dedicated space where designers can upload their look-books and hold virtual meetings with domestic and international buyers.

Tandon says online shows are here to stay. Still, people would prefer looking at an outfit physically, especially heavier and costly pieces, rather than gazing at the screen before deciding to buy it.

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