COVID-19 has left an indelible mark on fashion, causing the industry to rethink its role in the world. As digital fashion weeks recently launched in London, Milan, and Paris, the world witnessed how designers presented alternatives to the traditional runway show. While the switch to digital was hardly seamless for the fashion capitals, one corner of the fashion universe saw the change coming: the organizers behind Helsinki Fashion Week were planning to go virtual all along.
Fashion at the Finnish capitol has always been about more than just great clothes. Since its debut in 2016, the five-day HFW has led the way when it comes to sustainability and accountability in the industry. According to Evelyn Mora, HFW’s founder, the platform serves as an opportunity for young people in fashion to evolve amidst the global climate crisis. This year, virtual events will run from July 27 to August 1, preceded this week by a first-of-its-kind “designers in residence” online training program for designers looking to expand their vocabulary in brand transparency, collaboration, and reusing materials.
Digital sustainability is just one of the many eco-friendly initiatives HFW was founded upon. Each designer and brand that shows in Helsinki is carefully selected based on a holistic evaluation process that includes inspecting brands’ supply chains and their end-of-life management plans and business models. The organizers choose promising participants that are wholeheartedly devoted to sustainable design. In past seasons, favorites included 24-year-old British designer Patrick McDowell, who uses discarded material from LVMH and Kering, and the gender fluid label Ka Wa Key.
In addition to runway shows, HFW has featured keynote addresses, interactive speakers, panel discussions, and a documentary screening not only on sustainability, but also sexuality, cultural diversity, and body positivity within the fashion industry. Many of these elements will transfer to its digital space this season. Mora’s mantra is that “sustainability is a lifestyle, not an #ootd,” and must encompass the entire spectrum of issues plaguing the 21st century fashion industry.
In 2018, HFW made headlines with its “eco-village,” a utopian play space featuring electric cars, solar power, catering provided with food waste, and drinkable purified sea water. 2019 saw an expansion of these efforts with fashion week’s first “urban curtain,” which covered Helsinki’s Palace of Nobility in a surface designed to entrap CO2 particles and air pollutants to be stored by algae and grown into biomass. As a result, new oxygen is pumped into the enclosed atmosphere, making HFW a true breath of fresh air.
This summer, the transition to all-digital promises to be smoother for HFW than most because of its pre-existing sustainability initiatives. In the past, these have included a strict rule that guests use public transportation to cart between shows, a reliance on energy-efficient lighting during shows, and a no-tolerance policy for animal-derived leather products on the catwalk. Already operating under an eco-conscious system that forces everyone from designers to guests to question their commitment to sustainability, HFW is not going blindly into the digital-environmental world next week.
Of course, adjustments in light of COVID-19 do call for some new developments, but according to Mora, these were already underway in Finland. Since everything else is done online–shopping, dating, working–she reasoned, why not fashion shows? For the upcoming presentations, HFW partnered with NDA Paris, a CGI 3D company, as well as Soldats Films production company to create lifelike digital content. These include avatar models made by CGI developers such as Harriett Davey, and unique digital universes crafted specifically for each designer based on the messages they want to send.
Though the concept of holographic fashion collections worn by avatars might sound dystopian, the futuristic concept was already explored earlier this year by Congolese designer Anifa Mvuemba, who debuted a collection for her brand Hanifa using 3D models. Helsinki is taking the idea a step further by presenting 3D runway shows as well as interactive livestreams, for a “mixed-reality environment.” These technological efforts go hand-in-hand with HFW’s eco-consciousness. By creating an immersive digital fashion week, the environmental impact of traditional shows is avoided. All the efforts that go into a typical fashion week–air and road travel, accommodations for guests, waste from putting on elaborate shows–are avoided, providing a more eco-friendly route to showcasing new collections. Moreover, CGI runway shows, like other digital presentations, offer accessibility for wider audiences.
Although the future of fashion is unknown, all hands are on deck to build a more sustainable, efficient, and inclusive industry. Digital exploration that was predicted to occur five to 10 years down the road has been jump-started by the pandemic, and Helsinki Fashion Week is at the forefront of this mission. By setting high standards and combining education with presentation, HFW has paved the way for digital fashion shows. “Fashion has an influence on the most remote corners of humanity and our planetary home,” Mora said. “We don’t exist in a detached bubble, but, instead, we are all the very architects who together help weave the vast and colorful web that connects us all.”END
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createdAt:Thu, 16 Jul 2020 19:01:19 +0000