SA Fashion Week shows will go on despite Covid-19 - online that is

Models walk the ramp in an empty auditorium as AFI Fashion Week moved its last day of runway shows online in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. SA Fashion Week has also announced that it will take its Spring/Summer 2020 runway shows online.
Models walk the ramp in an empty auditorium as AFI Fashion Week moved its last day of runway shows online in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. SA Fashion Week has also announced that it will take its Spring/Summer 2020 runway shows online. 
Image: Africa Fashion International

Following hot on the heels of Africa Fashion International (AFI), South African Fashion Week (SAFW) has announced that it'll be taking its Spring/Summer 2020 runway shows online in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. 

On March 14, AFI cancelled the third and final day of live presentations at Fashion Week Cape Town. Ticket holders were refunded and the scheduled runway shows went ahead without an audience. Instead they were streamed via social media. 

SAFW will be taking a similar approach and, for the first time in its 23-year history, the fashion marketing company will be hosting a digital-only event.

SAFW CEO Lucilla Booyzen said the company had been rethinking the future of Fashion Week — and considering doing a digital migration — before the government issued strict coronavirus regulations banning mass events.

That's partially because Booyzen was concerned that fashion weeks were becoming less about the designers' collections and more about who was in attendance at the shows.

“Rather than spending lots of money and having big venues, we were looking at new ways of showing collections.”

She'd also been keeping a close eye on developments around the Covid-19 pandemic. 

“Since January we've been developing a plan B. With the backing of our sponsors, Sandton City, Cruz and Carlton Hair, we are going to shoot the collections in isolation because the designers have already started designing their sample collections.”

Along with having no audiences, Booyzen confirmed that SAFW's Spring/Summer 2020 runway shows would involve less models, make-up artists and production people than past years in light of the current pandemic. Health specialists will also be consulted to ensure that a safe working environment is created. 

The wasteful nature of fashion weeks has been called into question around the globe by environmental groups such as Extinction Rebellion. Beyond being “Covid-19 respectful”, a recent SAFW statement boasts that the upcoming runway shows will be “climate-friendly”.

“It is important for designers to reinvent themselves and think about how they do not have to spend so much money, how to use more natural fabrics and how to be sustainable,” said Booyzen.​

Presenting this season's collections digitally has also made some designers rethink the relevance of Fashion Week entirely.

Neo Serati Mofammere, the young mastermind behind Joburg-based label Nao Serati, explained that while past generations of designers relied heavily on such events to promote their brands, newcomers to the industry have found “a whole lot of different ways” to do so. 

“Right now Instagram is the strongest way to market [yourself] and some people are using influencers. It doesn’t work for everybody but some designers would rather have an influencer wear their garments and some use good old word of mouth.” 

SAFW is set to take place in late April.


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