The future of digital fashion shows
In my bachelor's thesis for the fashion & design management program (B.A.) at Akademie Mode & Design, Berlin, I investigated the digitalization of fashion shows, primarily from the point of view of the atmospheric spectator experience. With my thesis, I was awarded a Top Graduate STAGE being one of the three best graduates of my graduating class of 2021.
Fashion shows are significant events with high symbolism and charisma that go beyond the fashion industry. They are not only used to create trends but also to publicly present and visualize new attitudes to clothing, design and presentation. In this context, fashion shows are influenced by social, ecological and technological developments. The current changes make this particularly clear: traditional Fashion Weeks are splitting up, prestigious fashion houses are dropping out of the official calendars. With the F/W 2021/22 collections, the third season of digital fashion weeks took place in January 2021. The digital fashion show is already the presentation format of the present.
My analytical and theoretical bachelor thesis "The digitalization of fashion shows in the context of their atmospheric impact" sets its starting point in front of these current developments: the increased discourse on sustainable and social responsibility of fashion. Thus, the question is formulated within the industry itself whether the formats of the hitherto conventional fashion show are still contemporary or where they have to evolve to meet the current demands of COVID-19 restrictions and - more broadly - of the digital transformation and changing consumer and viewer behavior.
My bachelor thesis is roughly divided into three steps of investigation: a historical view of fashion shows as a basis, the investigation of traditional physical fashion shows, and the examination of current digital formats of the S/S 21 and Pre Fall 21 collections. Finally, a future outlook was formulated oriented towards the presentation strategies of digital art experiences.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​
To start, the historical observation of fashion show formats since the beginning integration of technology and digital mediums in the 1980s has identified essential staging and marketing features. The fashion show could be characterized as a primary event with media impact, which, with increasing immediacy, information density and speed, addresses itself directly to the consumer community. Technological innovations as well as digital and social media have a direct influence on the conception of the show and thus also change its atmospheric effectiveness. In the future, structural changes in the digital media landscape, technological developments and immersive techniques will continue to implement constant change.
Subsequently, considering the hitherto physical fashion show from the point of view of the philosophy of perception, several interacting dimensions of experience can be characterized, in which the atmospheric effect of the fashion show is constituted. In summary, these are as follows: the holistic synaesthetic perceptual experience of atmosphere takes place based on intermodal intersensory perception, emotional cognitive perception, immersive spatial experience, the experience of distance to the object as well as a socially interactive experience.
Based on this classification, the physical levels of experience were abstractly transferred to the digital medium as a theoretical approach of digital atmospheric. In doing so, the atmospheric dimensions of experience – elaborated on the recipient – were attributed to new central digital levels of effect. The digital atmosphere is thus constituted as a multi-layered system by addressing multidimensional sensory perception, scenographic narration, and immersion due to strategic distance dissolution and staging of spatial effects. Thus, it is shown that a manifestation of the digital atmosphere is indeed possible if it is structured based on new staging features and is not oriented towards its physical predecessor.
A comparison to the digital art scene not only supports this point of view but, at the same time, inspires a conceptually novel approach to the digital medium. The integration of interactive design formats, the active inclusion of the audience as well as the immediate experience through immersive technologies represent future chances for the enhancement of the digital atmosphere.
The digital fashion show is thus attributed to an atmospheric power of impact, which can be further potentiated with a stronger user engagement and conceptual expansion in the future. In this context, digital formats take a future-oriented position, especially given the increasing influence of social media, the constant technological development and the urgent need for sustainable restructuring.
With this investigation and the presentation of digital atmospheric effects, the relevance of the digital fashion show from a perceptual-philosophical point of view is shown and its further development possibilities are presented. This thesis is therefore understood as a theoretical starting point to establish atmospherically based presentation formats in the digital context and to demand them as well.
The digital fashion show must not be subordinated to its physical counterpart. With the possibilities of an equally atmospherically dense impact presented here, the digital fashion show is manifested in the event conception of the fashion industry to integrate global and economically relevant developments - digitalization, sustainability - and thus lend fashion shows their relevance in the future as well.