The elephant in the room: are fashion shows (as we used to know them) dead now?

Despite all the thought pieces suggesting so, it looks like the medium is still here to stay. At least, in one form or another, if the Chambre Syndicale has anything to say about it. The organisation that oversees French fashion has just unveiled its line-up for Paris Fashion Week (PFW), which will run from 28 September to 6 October.

The event will mark the return of the fashion circus in Paris since the COVID-19 pandemic shut everything down. Earlier this year, the Chambre Syndicale called off both Couture Week and Men’s Fashion Week in the French capital; instead, in July, both haute couture and menswear shows went digital with varying results. (Some brands, like Jacquemus, went ahead with a physical runway show.)

The upcoming PFW is now split into presentations and fashion shows (both digital and physical) for Spring/Summer 2021. On the matter of social distancing, Chambre Syndicale has stated that it “will comply for its implementation to the recommendations of public authorities.”

There will be 88 brands showing in all, down from the tally of 96 brands that participated in the event last season. Below, we break down everything you need to know.

[Header photo credit: Getty Images]

Dior is hoping to stage a physical show — like this one for FW20 — at Paris Fashion Week. (Photo credit: Getty Images)

Who’s showing?

Unlike New York Fashion Week, for which so many significant designers will be absent (Marc Jacobs, Ralph Lauren, Pyer Moss, The Row, Telfar… to name a few), Paris Fashion Week will still include the brands that have always made it matter.

Dior and Chanel are on the schedule. (Both are eager to return to the old normal, so they’ll likely hold actual fashion shows with an audience.) So are Hermes, Balenciaga, Loewe, Balmain and Maison Margiela. Cult favourite designers like Rick Owens, Marine Serre and Yohji Yamamoto are also set for PFW, which will be wrapped up, as usual, with the Louis Vuitton show by Nicolas Ghesquière.

There are also a host of newcomers to look out for. PFW will welcome NYFW transplant Gabriela Hearst, the luxury label that has been dressing the world’s most powerful women. American artist and Raf Simons collaborator Sterling Ruby will also be heading to Paris to showcase the second collection for his line, S.R Studio LA.CA. Others, like Cecilie Bahnsen and Wales Bonner, who are both staples of London Fashion Week, have also switched cities this season.

Givenchy isn’t exactly new, but its creative director is. Following Clare Waight Keller’s departure, Matthew M. Williams will be making his debut for the French fashion brand, on top of unveiling his latest collection for his streetwear label, Alyx.

Saint Laurent led the charge for breaking out of the Fashion Week calendar. The French brand will follow its own schedule for the rest of the year. (Photo credit: Getty Images)

Who’s missing?

Quite a few notable brands are sitting out this season. Saint Laurent was one of the first to pull out of the PFW calendar to “lead its own rhythm,” as creative director Anthony Vaccarello explained. Later today, the French label will share a fashion film for its S/S 2021 menswear collection instead.

Valentino, too, has decamped to Milan. There, Pierpaolo Piccioli will follow up his exceptional haute couture show with a physical co-ed one on 27 September. (Fendi will be opening Milan Fashion Week in that format for the first time as well, days before the highly anticipated Prada show by Miuccia and Raf.)

The Comme des Garçons family — that is, Rei Kawakubo and her protégés Junya Watanabe and Kei Ninomiya — will also be skipping Paris. The Japanese labels will showcase their SS21 collections through mini shows in Tokyo towards the end of October.

Also absent from PFW are Off-White, Celine, Alexander McQueen, Sacai, Lacoste, Lemaire and Dries Van Noten.

What is the future of Paris Fashion Week?

“Even if the current situation has led to a great deal of innovation in online projects, nothing can replace the physical event,” said Pascal Morand, the executive president of the French fashion federation, in a Business of Fashion interview.

Most members of the fashion industry would agree, but French health organisations may want to give Fashion Week attendees a wake-up call. France recently declared Paris as a high-risk COVID-19 zone again; it also noted that the coronavirus spreads four times more among those who are aged under 40, compared to the city’s elderly population.

With no vaccine in sight (yet), the future of PFW remains uncertain. What’s clear is that fashion wants to stick stubbornly to its old ways, following a system that’s both outdated and oppressive to designers. Dries Van Noten, a darling of PFW, is one of the few who are urging for a reform. Our guess is that others may soon follow suit, whether by their own choice or the one made for them by coronavirus.

This article first appeared on Lifestyle Asia Singapore.

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