PARIS - Paris is usually abuzz during its prestigious Haute Couture presentations in July, its hotels heaving with fashionistas and monuments turned into catwalk venues.
But in a makeover caused by the coronavirus crisis, top designers will instead be experimenting next week with online showcases to try to keep clients hooked.
Brands from Christian Dior to Valentino are pressing ahead with collections and shows through an organised schedule of videos running from July 6-8.
That has helped keep some textile suppliers and artisans going, though other businesses are feeling the absence of a larger event keenly.
“The impact of a virtual fashion week on our business is serious, because there are no more clients to drive around,” said Guillaume Connan, whose limousine company usually ferries A-listers around between shows.
Paris’s multiple fashion weeks generate some 1.2 billion euros ($1.35 billion) for the local economy every year, the federation grouping couture houses estimates.
At the Haute Couture week, a select club of designers display one-of-a-kind, handmade outfits.
“I will miss the audience, I will miss my friends,” said couturier Stephane Rolland.
But Christophe Josse, another French couturier who has also produced a film, said he had enjoyed being able to highlight the intricacies of his designs differently and would consider doing it again.
“I was a little hesitant at first, wondering what we’d be able to say in a digital fashion week,” Josse said.
It is still unclear whether the format will be a hit with his clients, who include wealthy Americans who would normally travel to a show, Josse added.
Physical catwalk displays are likely to be back on the agenda in Paris by September and brands are already booking venues, said Frederic Hocquard, who oversees tourism and some cultural affairs at Paris’s city council.
He added that the hiatus this time could have some positive side effects, despite the economic hit - including as an inspiration for greener formats in future, which would not generate as much congestion or waste.
(Reporting by Sarah White and Michaela Cabrera; Editing by Helen Popper)