Ever since the Covid-19 pandemic started spreading, the fashion industry was on high-alert Way before the rest of the western world, a few fashion brands were already planning for a time when events were going to be disrupted by the need for social distancing. They were the first to solve the dilemma that is currently facing event organisers all over the world: how do you combine social distancing with large-scale events, on whose success a large number of jobs depends? Technology, of course, was the answer. And we saw its full potential displayed during the Milan Fashion Week, from February 18th to 24th. Shortly before the lockdown, many brands decided to live-stream their events, to allow Chinese buyers to attend – and to make sure everyone who was already practicing social distancing would not have to miss out.
Armani led the way
It was Giorgio Armani who led the way, and not for the first time. Having seen how the contagion had spread in Lombardy, he decided to organise the official launch of his winter/fall collection with no audience and to stream the event on the Maison’s website and on its Facebook page. This was the first, admirable example of how a major brand should act in a crisis, placing the health and safety of its guests and the public above profit and above the comfort of doing things the same way they have always been done. This is what innovation looks like: taking risks because it’s the right thing to do.
Solidarity and innovation at work
The point was not simply to allow the Chinese buyers, who were not allowed to attend the event in Italy, experience the new Italian collections, but also to allow the shows of eight Chinese designers to be performed for their potential European buyers. This event, which opened the fashion week, was called “China We Are With You” and it was a precursor of all the expressions of solidarity that are now coming towards Italy from China, as the latter emerges from the first wave of the Covid-19 crisis.
What the future of events looks like in the age of social distancing
What Armani did – followed shortly afterwards by Laura Biagiotti and Michael Kors – is the future of the events industry, at least for the near future. Social distancing will eventually go away, but we can’t expect that to happen next week or even next month. Nor can we stop aggregating, socialising, interacting, learning, teaching and sharing: it’s in our human nature to do so. This means a lot of work for network technicians and engineers. Broadband is the new venue. We are all going to meet in the virtual space where our daily sharing happens. We are seeing it happen daily on tv: except for the news and few other programs, virtually all the live content we get is not recorded in a studio and does not feature guests in smart outfits, impeccably coiffured and made up, framed with perfect lighting and reaching us in spotless audio quality. We are seeing journalists and pundits in their homes, sitting at desks and tables, some with a respectable bookshelf behind them, some with a blank wall (usually meaning that no other corner of their living spaces was both presentable and close enough to the router), in their everyday clothes and in need of a good haircut. And it’s working. We are realising that what makes an event worth experiencing is content, substance. We care about what happens and we can do without the decor if need be. This is the way forward for all event planners: we will keep on caring about what happens. And we will keep on helping it happen.