South African Menswear Week announced that for their July 2020 schedule, showcasing Spring/Summer 21 collections, that the platform is going fully digital. Three days of live streamed virtual shows will be presenting over 24 designers in the best of menswear, and for the first time on the platform, selected womenswear designers. Partnering with Cape Town Fashion Council, the platform aims to provide solutions to challenges designers are facing during the Covid-19 pandemic.
SAMW is known for pushing boundaries and presenting the latest in designer collections from across the African continent, usually taking the guests to surprise locations buried deep in stadiums, at abandoned warehouses and disused shipping terminals to name a few. So a fully virtual fashion week is not only a first on the African continent, but almost expected from the platform that is always slightly underground, fanatically supported and most importantly, always looked toward for the next in trends.
Speaking to Jen Deiner, the head of production for SAMW, and director of Africa’s go-to fashion show production agency, Group of Creatives, she concurs that a virtual week is not simply about filming shows and live streaming them. “There’s got to be a visual texture, and a glue holding the hour long stream together”, and goes on to add “we’ve worked hard to ensure that the designer’s shows are optimised for this new format, working on choreography, set design and even the timing of the camera cuts and perspective to keep it interesting”.
But it’s not all about a cool live stream (with chat and interaction), this is fashion week, and often forgotten is that the platform is there to build, develop and support designer’s businesses. Deiner also touches on another important point, “SAMW has consistently provided an unmatched style of fashion week to connect the designers with the audience and media. We’re different to other platforms in that build shows around the community, because whilst it appears to be local, those networks span the globe and the opportunities are leveraged exponentially, resulting in a better quality and depth of support and coverage”.
And that’s not all, the fully virtual platform for July will also be directly linking garments and designers to the new Cape Town Fashion Council Marketplace, a dedicated designer store for the designers to directly retail to consumers. “The digital link of seeing a show and immediately being able to click and pre-order that garment for shipping a week or so later has never been done before” says Kerry Bell, CEO of Cape Town Fashion Council. “We work hard to support, and grow designer businesses, and now finally we have a last-step in assisting with a retail channel, closing the show to sales loop that has been missing at fashion weeks”. She also explains that partnering with SA Menswear Week will add to the designer’s bottom line by allowing pre-orders, sales and promotion of their ranges.
With SA Menswear Week leading the charge into digital fashion, Deiner also touches on the point that whilst some designers took convincing of the idea, there really was no other way to showcase during a pandemic with social distancing, and events closed to the public. She also explains the comprehensive backstage and showcasing Covid-19 protocols and segmented approach, from makeup to catwalk rehearsals, and we can see that the challenges of holding a fashion week under these conditions requires planning beyond the usual steps. And if that wasn’t enough, Deiner also tells us that the streaming, technology and specific crews that they’ve developed and built are also being rolled out across Africa and Europe shortly thereafter, “SAMW is always our production test bed, and whilst live streaming is not new to our company, the way in which we’ve had to re-think audience free shows, and built for camera has taken us over 3 months to perfect. Especially a cost-effective technology”.
It’s only the start of the fashion week schedule under Covid-19, and it looks like the SAMW platform will lead the way to this brave new world. SA Menswear Week SS21 Collections will live stream from 29 to 31 July 2020 via multiple platforms, so please check www.menswearweek.co.za for the full schedule and designer line up.