Zegna, Gucci rethink physical shows from digital platforms

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Pedestrians pass by a screen showing a Versace model, during the Milan Digital Fashion Week, in Milan, Italy, Thursday, July 16, 2020. Forty fashion houses are presenting previews of menswear looks for next spring and summer and pre-collections for women in digital formats, due to concerns generated by the COVID-19. (Claudio Furlan/LaPresse via AP)

MILAN – The coronavirus-provoked fashion runway rethink was in full swing on the last day of Milan’s first Digital Fashion Week.

Ermengildo Zegna’s so-called Phygital presentation was a hybrid of physical and digital experiences that could be the harbinger for runway shows to come for the brand celebrating 110 years.

The luxury menswear fashion house prepared seven minutes of footage of models traversing a natural runway in a 100-square-kilometer (38-square-mile) nature park in northern Italy established in the 1930s by the label’s founder, Ermenegildo Zegna. From there, they segued into company’s historic wool mill, past machinery and archives.

The juxtaposition was meant to celebrate Zegna’s natural textiles as well as the fashion house’s 110th anniversary. A larger celebration planned for June had to be scrapped due to the coronavirus, which shut down Italy just after February womenswear previews.

Instead, ‘’we celebrated in silence, among ourselves,’’ said CEO Gildo Zegna, the third generation to run the luxury fashion house that at one time had an astounding 30% share of the luxury menswear market.

The prepared footage of some 30 spring/summer 2021 looks for Zegna's XXX tailored sportswear line was augmented Friday with three minutes of a live streamed runway show from the roof of Zegna’s wool mill.

‘’This can be the show of the future,’’ Sartori said at a live presentation for fashion journalists. He imagines a part that is video, offering a glimpse into Zegna’s artisanal processes, followed by a live runway show, with a future guest list restricted to a couple of hundred instead of the usual 800.

Gucci, meanwhile, has already announced that it will eschew destination runway shows and whittle down its calendar to two events a year, in a bid for prudence.

To mark the end of a cycle, the fashion house rolled out a 20-minute video titled “Epilogue,’’ with the design team acting as the models. The gimmick provided a rare look at the faces who power the brand from behind the scenes — something that has become of public interest as consumers push for diversity and inclusivity.

While there was no live event, Gucci organized small watch parties in key fashion cities where the health situation permitted, including Milan and Paris, as well as Barcelona, Shanghai and Moscow.

‘’The collection, in short, is the end of an experiment,’’ creative director Alessandro Michele told viewers. ‘’It’s an attempt to use fashion as a space, in particular, as an experimental lab. And this is my experiment.’’

The digital experiment this fashion week -- conceived out of epidemiological necessity -- had the effect of emphasizing the absence of energy normally generated by the live shows. There were some exceptions.

Donatella Vesace, who decided to join the fray at the last minute, showed off her old school celebrity knowhow by inviting British rapper AJ Tracey to debut a new track for the preview of the upcoming Flash Collection. Tracey performed in snake print outfit matching the one worn by model Anok Yai, who does a mesmerizing contortionist dance.

Few fashion houses captured the moment as well as Sunnei, the six-year-old brand founded by Loris Messina and Simone Rizzo.

The designers presented their new collection -- looks in all white -- on a multi-racial cast of computer-generated models dancing the Macarena. Different colors and patterns flashed on the garments as the figures gyrated.

Dubbed Sunnei Canvas, the collection is meant to be customized in selected store -- a concept that truly grasps the digital potential.