In keeping with the new health regulations, the castings, travel, and lead up to those collections also received a reboot. For the models who bring designer’s visions to life, that means adjusting their schedules, changing the way they’re booked, and for some, pivoting to a whole new business model.
Vogue caught up with four Fashion Week regulars to see how they handled the shift and what they hope 2020’s new standards mean for the industry.
Djibouti newcomer Malika Louback kicked off fashion month with a Vogue Paris cover and plenty of buzz. The engineering major turned model turned that into an all-star season where she made a splash at big shows like Versace, Isabel Marant, and Chloé, and starred in Givenchy’s digital look book. While her preseason routine remained unchanged, Louback had to adjust to the changes to interaction brought about by COVID-19.
“My process of preparing for the shows always starts by relaxing with family and stocking up on as much positive energy as I can from them. In the lead up to the shows, I’ll make sure I’m at my utmost best both physically and emotionally. I find yoga, meditation, and visualizing what I seek to achieve incredibly helpful. My routine is quite simple, which I find works well. I make sure I have a good sleep cycle going, work out daily, and keep hydrated by drinking lots of water and staying moisturized.
This year has been a bit more complicated logistically. Every country has its own policies, so it’s important that I’m responsible and follow those to ensure my safety and that of other people around me. It is definitely easier to cast for a show without having to travel—and a lot more time effective too, but I’ve actually attended all of my castings in person so far. I do think castings are all about the vibe, getting to meet new people, and getting a good feeling, which can be challenging with the limited interactions allowed at the moment.
It’s been quite hard to adapt for me, especially when you want to mingle with the people around you as they’re going through the same experience. However, what’s most important right now is making sure we are safe and following restrictions. Even though that might mean that the audience is smaller or, in some cases, no audience, coming together for fashion week is always special, and I think going through it at the moment strengthens the bonds you have with each team. We are all trying to bring the best out of each other, giving fashion lovers something to look forward to, and enjoying the moment ourselves! The adrenalin rush you get before you walk out is surreal; it’s like the atmosphere becomes electric. Seeing the look on people’s faces, looking at their reactions as they admire the clothes-I love that part of it.”
28-year-old New Zealander Georgia Fowler has been doing fashion week since the age of 16, and during her time in the modeling industry, she’s racked up an impressive set of accomplishments. After walking everything from Chanel and Miu Miu to the Victoria’s Secret fashion show, Fowler has built a name for herself and gained more than a million followers on social media. The year 2020 has seen her double down on Instagram, utilizing the internet’s power for business and pleasure.
“Over the past few months, Instagram has increasingly become somewhat of a casting platform; my profile is my portfolio. I partook in a few virtual photo shoots while we were in lockdown. We’ve all done a selfie before, but shooting virtually requires a whole new range of skills and involves a lot of coordinating. Thankfully, where I am in New South Wales, Australia, is back open with fewer restrictions, so we’re able to create safely with others again. The beauty of technology is that the world becomes so much smaller, and I’m so excited to attend a Fashion Week show from the comfort of my couch, dressed up from the shoulder up.
Personally, I think it’s been essential for the industry to sit still and reassess, and I have been loving it! With lockdown restrictions now eased in Australia, it has been incredible to see the fashion industry’s eagerness to collaborate and come together to create something that may have been outside of their usual realm. On a larger scale, I think the pandemic has led many fashion designers to take a step back and consider how they want to produce their collections going forward, hopefully with less seasonality and a more sustainable approach.
Casting will definitely have to adapt to the new normals of social distancing guidelines to ensure everyone is safe. Relying on technology more by holding virtual castings, requesting video footage of models walking or introducing themselves can undoubtedly help. In-person castings going forward will likely include models having scheduled time slots, and everyone at the venue will have to social distance, wear masks, and refrain from any fashion kisses!
I definitely miss being with peers from around the world in person, but am thankful for technology and social media, which has been able to bring people together over the past few months. With social media, FaceTime, and Zoom, the distance has never felt smaller.”
As a model and personality, Salem Mitchell often spends her fashion month in the front row at shows like Tom Ford and Coach 1941, where she serves as a brand ambassador. The 22-year-old has already acclimated to casting via video chat and attending events virtually, but she wants to see the industry tap into the internet’s democratizing power.
“I live in Los Angeles, so normally when show season is approaching, I’m arranging flights, hotels, confirming travel dates, and preparing myself to be away from home for the bulk of the month. This year I’m not traveling, so if I’m attending shows or participating in any events, it’ll be virtually or locally under strict safety guidelines.
I’ve done some Zoom castings and appointments, and virtually attended the CFDA Awards in September. While nothing beats an in-person experience, I enjoy virtual appointments because they’re quick and convenient. All the minor inconveniences that can occur when commuting to a casting or show are eliminated, and that’s a bit nice. Another plus is not having to see who else is casting and deal with subconsciously comparing myself to who else is there.
Hopefully, the digital-centric approach will allow more people worldwide to [engage with] fashion. In the past few years prior to COVID, we’ve seen so many digital elements included in fashion month anyway. Things like livestreams of shows, Instagram story takeovers, Fashion Week diaries—even last year the Savage x Fenty show streaming on a major platform. I’m hoping that brands and designers will be able to create even more in-depth, high-quality virtual experiences for their audiences to enjoy.
I don’t know if [we’re] making the same connections or feeling others’ energy in the same capacity without physically being there. However, I do think the virtual elements of this season will allow more people to experience fashion month, so maybe my friends, family, and those who have never been to any of the various cities for fashion month can add in their thoughts and create a broader dialogue which can still lead to some great connections.”
After debuting last season with an exclusive at JW Anderson’s London show, 18-year-old Briton Grace Clover was ready for round two. A ballet dancer and student in addition to being a model-she plans to study German at Oxford next year-Clover had to hit pause when the coronavirus lockdowns began. Still enamored with the thrill of walking big shows, she is finding joy despite the changes.
“This is only my second season, so I wouldn’t say I have a solid process just yet, but in February before shows, I was able to pamper myself a bit more—I had an extensive makeover, including cut, dye, and treatment! I miss seeing people face-to-face [to share], but it’s surprising how normal FaceTime feels now after being in lockdown for six months. I haven’t had virtual castings, but I’ve done Zoom interviews, and all of my meetings with my agency, IMG, are happening via FaceTime instead of going into the office.
[The year 2020] has meant less travel when it comes to castings. I don’t have to go up to London until a designer is closer to confirming who they are interested in walking for them. There have to be extra levels of precaution, particularly involving shared sample clothing and waiting areas. This is especially the case as models come into contact with lots of people every day and have come from different places around the world if they’ve been able to.
I love walking in shows! I’ve been told that it will eventually wear off because of the fatigue that comes with fashion month and the nonstop nature of the experience overall. Regardless, I absolutely enjoy the bustle of running around different cities, meeting new people, and going to castings. There is nothing better than exploring a new place during fashion month-seeking out good little coffee shops or museums.”
The most terrifying words in the English language are: I'm from the government and I'm here to help.