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The importance of storytelling in presenting digital collections

By Julia Garel

13 Jul 2020

“The era is coming when we will need storytelling. More than ever, ”wrote novelist and fashion editor Sophie Fontanel on the Nouvel Obs website on June 16. This opinion, many brands and creative directors share it, is in any case what their posts on social networks and their presentations within Virtual Fashion Weeks show where everything remains to be invented. Like the entire sector since the covid-19 crisis, fashion storytelling, already shaken for several seasons by a more informed consumer, is accelerating its evolution.

The garment, now the centre of attention, is told with a fresh, straight, unbuffed look, suddenly giving a new lease of life to the campaigns of the past years that focused more on attitude than on product. Today, in the mass of digital content published by brands, new stories are bringing fashion back from its pedestal. Clothing, however, retains its power of enchantment, it offers a seemingly more accessible dream, where humility becomes seductive. To make things clearer, here are four very contemporary ways of presenting clothing and offering fashion a tasty narrative from which it will draw its renewal.

1. The absence of models: Hanifa and Balenciaga

One of the most obvious ways when you think of putting the garment forward, is to stick to it alone, without a mannequin, without anything other than the material and the seams that articulate it. Radical in appearance, this process is not without emotion or humanity.

Hanifa, a feminine and inclusive brand launched in 2012 by Anifa Mvuemba, used 3D to reveal a collection where moving bodies seemed to have been "erased". The result is confusing. A white look advances, the stretch cotton skirt marries the sensual approach but the silhouette has no bust, no limbs, no head. The eye imagines the body more than it sees it. The project took place as part of a virtual parade revealing the Pink Label Congo collection and broadcast live on Instagram on Friday, May 22, 2020, "a huge success" according to Nylon magazine.

With a more comical touch, the Parisian fashion house Balenciaga, has appropriated the idea of silhouettes without a model. In the same subversive tone that sums up his identity today, Balenciaga posted on his Instagram account the photo of two looks, hand in hand, bodies as if passed out under clothing. However, more than the trench or the top, this is the creativity that is retained.

2. The act of dressing: Sunnei, Duckie Brown and Y / Project

There is this very simple but very clever way that certain brands have of presenting their collection: simply filming the act of putting on a garment. On its Instagram account, the Italian brand Sunnei thus posed its camera in front of mannequins in the process of donning one by one clothing and accessories from the collection. Against a background of white decor, young girls and young men put on a t-shirt, pants, a dress, button up a shirt and then put on their shoes. The video catches the eye, the eye is as fascinated by what seems to be a backstage preview.

The images of Sunnei are reminiscent of the PE20 lookbook of the American brand Duckie Brown, which adopted the same type of summary presentation by infusing it with a touch of humor and elegance. Steven Cox and Daniel Silver, its designers, have been interested in the gender issue for a long time, so it is only natural that one of them, Steven Cox, acted as a model for all the looks of the label, endorsing the same way female and male pieces.

More recently, to better serve the “transformable” pieces of its collection called “Evergreen”, Y / Project has adopted the minimalist approach, pushing the stylistic cursor a little further. The video presented as part of Parisian Spring-Summer 2021 Men's Fashion Week is intended as a tutorial: standing, in a triptych, three models appear dressed before being joined by dressers responsible for modifying the outfit to offer him a new wardrobe. Again, the eye catches.

3. The creative process: Marine Serre, Loewe, Dior

A fashionable way to present clothes: reveal the creation process. Via their YouTube channels or their social networks, the designers Marine Serre ( read our dedicated article ), Loewe and Dior took part in the exercise. Why ? Because showing and explaining the stages of manufacturing is also proving a skill while giving the viewer a good reason to invest in the piece. It is also an opportunity to create a more direct link between the consumer and the clothing manufacturer by breaking down the space between them. The approach obviously joins the idea of transparency which now reigns in fashion as in the food industry, we then speak of "storyproving" - a concept that has already been in existence for a few years.

We can also see in these short videos a way to restore value to the clothes and, at the same time, to empower the buyer. By filming what is upstream, the brands exhibit the work accomplished. The artifact obtained, each time exposed at the end of the sequence, deserves a certain respect on the part of those who buy it.

4. The floor: JW Anderson and Yuima Nakazato

We come back here to the specificity of the human being: "speaking". Storytelling is no longer hidden behind polished images or overly sophisticated staging. He becomes frontal, and without artifices through his primitive means of expression, that of the voice. Speech is used here for the force of its direct utterance and the garment is told more than shown.

On July 2, JW Anderson, the Irish designer of the eponymous brand, sitting behind his desk, presented his PE21 collection for men and Resort21 for women with his words, his point of view and his creative sensitivity. His monologue was based on a press kit containing drawings and samples of materials. The speech took place as a professional meeting, between professionals, a kind of videoconference without fuss and accessible to all.

Another example: the AH20-21 haute couture presentation by the Japanese brand Yuima Nakazato. As part of Online Fashion Week, the house has structured its story around a conversation between the designer and his client. The project called "Alternative Project Face to Face" aimed to offer 25 customers to rework a white shirt from their wardrobe. Through these filmed interviews, Yuima Nakazato reset the counters to zero, giving Haute Couture back its original role: designing tailor-made clothes, individually.

This article was originally published on FashionUnited.FR, translated and edited to English

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Credit: Y / Project, PE 2021, images transmitted by the press agency. Video source: Y / Project Youtube