After the British Fashion Council adopted an online format announcing that is Men’s Fashion Week would be adapted as a coed digital fashion week in June, and Paris Couture Week went digitally online in early July, a contentious debate arose with many international designers calling fashion shows ‘outmoded’ overly consumerist and wasteful; while preeminent fashion journalists like Bridget Foley of the industry bible Women’s Wear Daily (WWD) deemed digital shows as “lacking the buzz and razzamatazz of live shows” But with the ongoing presence of the Covid-19 virus and an uncertain future, showcasing fashion shows digitally is the only viable option right now.
Frieha Altaf, CEO of Catwalk PR & Productions who spearheaded ‘Catwalk Cares Virtual Fashion Show Season 1’ as a tribute to front-line first responders is adamant that the Pakistani Fashion Industry mired as it is in the pandemic should not become lackadaisical but forge ahead, adapt and find creative alternative solutions to sustain itself.
“There is nothing that compares to the electricity and buzz of live fashion shows and fashion weeks, but digital is the new reality of showcasing fashion,” Altaf says. “With the ongoing presence of the COVID 19 virus we cannot go back to the premise of live fashion shows just yet but we can find creative alternatives.”
With this impetus in mind, Catwalk Cares Virtual Fashion Show Season 2 whose core aim is about sustaining the Pakistani Fashion and Entertainment industries – that includes not only fashion designers, make-up artists, photographers, and models- but also the all-important behind-the-scenes personnel including set designers, trussing and lighting vendors will once again be employing the latter to create two runway ramps in a studio space to showcase the designs of the participating designers at Catwalk Cares Season 2.
“As the lockdown is easing It’s all about putting back to work the vendors who have been without work for the past five months, “Altaf reiterates. “In the last virtual fashion show, models were recording from home but this time, with strict SOPs in place, we will be able to shoot on the ramp with a feel of a live fashion show which will be aired both digitally and on a premium local TV channel” she adds.
One of the vendors’ Catwalk has worked with is Zaffar Ali Khan of Al Ghashba Sets & Lights who provides trussing, flooring, stage-lights, and paneling for events including fashion weeks and shows. Just before the lockdown Al Ghashba worked with Nestlé, Velo, and Engro in Lahore and Karachi with the last event transpiring on March 1st, 2020.
Due to the lockdown, many other job opportunities were curtailed and lost including both a public event with Toyota and some private weddings amounting to a loss of income amounting to PKR 16 Lacs over the five-month period. The company sustained itself with income earned from events that took place in February 2020 but sadly Zaffar Ali Khan had to resort to selling one of his plots so he could pay his four employees and sustain his company.
Obaid Haq owner of Audio links that specializes in Event Management; Sound Engineering; Stage Lighting Production and Rentals has also felt the brunt of the pandemic. Audio links’ high profile events and clients have included the Lux Style Awards 2013 & 2016; the Hum Awards; Fashion Pakistan Week; Pantene Bridal Week; Bridal Couture Week; Veet Supermodel; Pakistan Idol and Ponds Miracle Journey. Understandably with all of these public events at a standstill, the repercussions of the lockdown have been economically devastating with an ensuing gargantuan loss of income during the past five months.
Arshad Mehmood aka Nasir of SkyLight Events which deals in general lighting who last worked with Catwalk Event Management & Productions for the VELO curtain-raiser launch as well as with Shezad Roy’s Zindagi Trust for Ibn-Khatoon Pakistan College says that his last completed assignment was on March 7th, 2020 after which he has not received any work adding that this has accrued to a loss of income of about PKR 3 Lacs per month over this time period.
“It’s been a real struggle,” Arshad says adding that “he will be happy to be working again with Catwalk Cares.”These are just a few cases among a legion of industry members who have endured economic losses and emotional distress during the pandemic. The future of the fashion calendar is uncertain. Each day offers new challenges for designers and their teams to overcome amid a health pandemic and an economic depression.
With the projected long-term economic impact of Covid-19 on the fashion industry, the decisions made now are likely to reshape the fashion-week model for many years to come — and it will be those willing to take the time to think deeply about these new opportunities and harness them to their full potential that will emerge at the other end stronger than ever. Catwalk Cares seems to be on the right track; creatively transposing the drama of live fashion shows digitally while actively encouraging the Pakistani Fashion industry to rise from the ashes and sustain itself.