Fashion weeks have been a hallmark of the fashion industry for decades, but this year their validity has been seriously called into question. The excessive amount of waste generated at seasonal shows is one thing. Extravagant sets are often torn down and disposed of after every short 10 minute spectacle. Not to mention the plastic waste created through disposable hangers, clothing bags and catering.
Even more alarming? The eye-watering amount of carbon emissions generated by flying guests to and from the world’s biggest fashion capitals. The Zero to Market report by tech company ORDRE uncovered that the industry emits 241,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year just from travel costs around fashion months — that’s equivalent to the annual emissions of a small country.
Beyond the environmental impact of fashion weeks is just their sheer inaccessibility. For as long as I can remember, seasonal shows have been an exclusive affair for editor’s from the most elite international magazines or influencers with the highest follower count. With brand’s now focusing more on building up their D2C communities rather than wholesale, this kind of exclusivity now seems old fashioned.
It’s time for change
The truth is that the world that fashion weeks were created for — glossy magazines and the buyers from the biggest department stores — doesn’t really exist any more. Fast-fashion brands rip off designs as soon as they’re off the catwalk, and consumers have already watched the shows through the phone lenses of the media. With big luxury brands like Gucci announcing it is slashing it’s annual shows in half, we anticipate this will set a trend (no pun intended) for more designers to follow.
So, all of the above begs the question; what could the future of fashion weeks actually look like? Suggestions swirling around so far have included anything from intimate, local presentations to online and digital runway events. Even using AI technology to animate garments is becoming reality. Whatever the case, the stage is set for new players to innovate.
Enter The Front Row
One event redefining what fashion weeks could look like is The Front Row, a new Singapore-based virtual festival happening from 20 to 29 August. Streamed in a free-to-view format, the 10 day affair will showcase 31 homegrown brands and 10 other regional labels. What’s more, guests will be able to tune into interviews, panel talks and workshops, lending the shows style and substance.
This isn’t Singapore’s first foray into digital fashion weeks; company DFW creative launched Digital Fashion Week in 2012 to 2015 (although it eventually dissipated and didn’t take off). The Front Row, conceptualised by fashion personality, director and consultant Daniel Boey and AP Media, seeks to push the boundaries of what a fashion festival could look like.
A spark of creativity
The idea was born during Singapore’s ‘Circuit Breaker’ lockdown. With all physical events cancelled, Boey spotted the opportunity to create a digital event that still brought everyone together and created a buzz, like the music, theatre and other industries were doing. “When the threat of global lockdown became too serious to ignore, we decided to go full steam ahead to plan a fully virtual festival,” Boey shares.
Beyond facilitating the ‘see now buy now’ concept, Boey wants The Front Row to truly spotlight Asia’s design talent. “It’s a return to an emphasis on the designers and the clothes as opposed to the circus that fashion weeks of late have become. They tend to focus more on the parties, selfies, red carpet dressing and instagram moments,” he says. “The Front Row is also a gateway to experience Singapore designers’ work all year round, and not only in August during National Day month, when journalists fall over themselves to interview local designers and ignore them the rest of the 11 months.”
“The Front Row is also a gateway to experience Singapore designers’ work all year round, and not only in August during National Day month, when journalists fall over themselves to interview local designers and ignore them the rest of the 11 months.”
Through its designer curation, which includes ethically-minded labels like Oliveankara and Maisha Concept, The Front Row has also made sustainability a core tenant of this year’s event. Taking inspiration from Copenhagen Fashion Week, their team set out to source labels that championed environmental responsibility and inclusivity.
These qualities, Boey believes, represent the future of what the industry will stand for. “Fashion is one of the biggest polluters on the planet, and we will all need to do our part to help save the environment; and it starts with designers and practitioners of the craft of fashion – stylists, show producers et al,” he shares. “It will take time for consumers to catch onto this concept but, like everything, we have to start pushing the message now before it’s too late.”
“Fashion is one of the biggest polluters on the planet, and we will all need to do our part to help save the environment; and it starts with designers and practitioners of the craft of fashion – stylists, show producers et al.”
I can’t help but feel that The Front Row is just what Singapore’s fashion scene needs right now; Especially with the backdrop of uncertainty that the Covid-19 pandemic has created. Celebrating Asian craft and empowering like minded retailers feels like a more inclusive way forward in today’s turbulent times. One thing is for sure; Boey’s Front Row is one everyone can sit on, and we can’t wait to tune into the fun.
Susannah believes better design can help create a brighter future. A former magazine editor, she now runs ZERRIN and works at the intersection of consumers, brands and sustainability advocacy.