How Designers Got Creative With Digital Presentations for Spring 2021

How Designers Got Creative With Digital Presentations for Spring 2021

The Spring 2021 calendar may have proceeded as usual with several runway shows, but numerous brands took the digital route to present their ready-to-wear collections. The season was filled with innovative alternatives to in-person shows, from an interactive computer game to narrative short films — and even a punk poetry recital. While some designers still held live shows, many in the industry proved that sometimes a special video format can be just as compelling. See all the highlights, below.

AMIRI's West Coast Roots

Amiri chose to present its Spring 2021 collection in Los Angeles for the first time, paying tribute to the West Coast's cultural influences woven into the brand with a proud homecoming. Overlooking the city at John Lautner's Sheats-Goldstein residence in Beverly Hills, the presentation painted a portrait of LA's expressive spirit: bold stories riff across carefree constructions, echoing a demeanor of comfort and leisure atop the label's rock 'n' roll spirit. Wool overcoats draped over '70s-inspired sportswear across neutral shades and strikes of light blue and saturated brown alike, while structured blazers and lightweight button-up shirts provided a stark contrast on the runway.

Michael Kors Collection

Michael Kors was among the many big designers to sit out New York Fashion Week this season, opting instead to present his Spring 2021 collection at his own time via a digital format. The ensuing runway show, which was shown without any guests, was filmed in a New York Restoration Project community garden in the Bronx featuring a performance of Carole King's "Up On The Rooftop" by American Idol winner Samantha Diaz. For the collection, Kors emphasized a sense of laid-back luxury, with relaxed shapes finished in artisanal textures and earthy shades.

Additionally, the brand released a mini documentary film (seen above) directed by Haley Elizabeth Anderson to accompany the showcase. The 7-minute clip goes behind-the-scenes to capture the designer's love for New York and his inspirations this season such as the serenity of nature and gardens, and features a cameo by his friend Bette Midler, who founded the NYRP in 1995.

Matthew Williams’s Givenchy Debut

Givenchy's new creative director, ALYX Designer Matthew M. Williams, unveiled his debut collection through a lookbook rather than a runway. Williams' Givenchy uprooted its couture origins for an aesthetic that is subversive and utilitarian. Making use of oversized suiting and reptile-embossed leather, the collection was accented with streetwear-ready accessories like rubberized sandals, devil-horned baseball caps and unisex logo jewelry.

References to the brand's previous designers were also made throughout, with horn-heeled shoes paying homage to Lee McQueen and draping reminiscent of Hubert de Givenchy himself. As part of his first collection for the French fashion house, Williams hopes that the collection's pieces — "pieces of the puzzle," as he referred to them in a statement — will bring power to their wearers.

"You find the pieces of the puzzle for a collection, building it from symbols and signs, but never forgetting the reality of the person who will wear it and bring it to life," Williams said. "It's about finding the humanity in luxury."

Thom Browne's latest collection was out of this world — literally. Moderated by impression icon Jordan Firstman, Browne's Spring 2021 line was shown in a charming video set in the 2132 Lunar Games (think a very, very chic Olympics on the moon). The film documents the arrivals of athletes as they uniformly arrive at the Lunar Games stadium, clad in all-white Thom Browne looks — including wide-brimmed hats and gold aviators.

The collection featured Browne's staple exaggerated proportions and dramatic suiting, vests and sweaters done in wool, tweed and cashmere, many emblazoned with his geometric sketches. Fitting with the theme and the designer's affinity for sportswear, there were plenty of athletic references through cleat-like brogues, tennis pleats and hand-embroidered swimmers. The finale culminated in a pair of identically dressed models, serving as the twin torch-bearers, descending from a cream spaceship shaped like Hector (Browne's dachshund and brand mascot) to light the stadium's torches. Let the games begin!

Roger Vivier’s Interactive Hotel Game

Roger Vivier presentations have earned reputations for their interactive camp since Gherardo Felloni began creative directing the brand in 2018 — and this season was no different, despite COVID-19. In lieu of a splashy showroom, Felloni invited guests to check into the "Hotel Vivier Cinémathèque," an interactive fashion film starring none other than French cinema star Isabelle Huppert. Across genre-themed rooms like comedy, horror and thriller, viewers can play a "would you rather?" game to direct Huppert's behaviors — whether she's drinking magical potions or throwing ceramic cats onto the floor.

"It's the metaphor to explain my vision of womanhood, using character. Not just a body, not just a face, but character," Felloni said of the collection. For spring, those offerings take the form of velvet crossbodies, suede satchels, silk pumps and rubberized sandals in jewel-toned hues of pink, blue, green and purple — all festooned with Vivier's signature square and crystal buckles, of course. Despite the pandemic, it's obvious that Felloni's signature style is as bold and enchanting as ever.

Dries van Noten’s Escapist Rave

For Spring 2021, Dries Van Noten played with the notions of pop art and the outdoors. The designer enlisted Viviane Sassen to shoot his latest collection — and first season without a runway show — which captured the energy of a long-lost holiday through shots taken at the beach, under leafy trees at night and in an empty room lit by multicolored, rave-like lights.

"We wanted to work around beauty [that] evokes energy — not one that makes you dream or linger on things that are past, which makes you nostalgic," the designer told Vogue. "It had to push you to the future, to give energy."

Indeed, energy pulsed through van Noten's penchant for vibrant colors, from oceanic blues and greens to neon yellows and deep purples. Through gauzy dresses, sharp suiting or tailored Bermuda shorts — some monochrome, others splashed with Noten's new striped and multicolor circle prints — it's clear that WFH culture hasn't lowered the spirits of one of the industry's most artistic designers.

Vivienne Westwood’s Poetry Recital

Vivienne Westwood is no stranger to the punk scene — she practically invented it, after all. For Spring 2021, her husband Andreas Kronthaler designed the latest collection for the Andreas Kronthaler for Vivienne Westwood label as an ode to essential pieces before COVID-19 began. Even so, it still feels especially timely given the current state of the fashion industry. All fabrics used in the collection are recycled, organic and FSC-certified, and the line was shown in a short online video.

In the collection's film, Westwood and Kronthaler — alongside two models — recite poetry by William Shakespeare, Li Ho, and even a poem by the Dame herself in a white room. This served as a simplistic backdrop where viewers could focus on the clothes: A skull-print T-shirt, night robe, and silk and floral dresses (with the same corsetry reminiscent of Westwood's iconic Sex and the City gown).

Accented with floral boots, shawls and oversized jewelry, the line was a peaceful ode to, as Kronthaler said in a statement, "our model for the future." However, the exaggerated hairstyles, graphic makeup and subversive styling — after all, Kronthaler rocks a mini dress and heeled boots as well as the models — still showed Westwood's signature tongue-in-cheek attitude.

Balenciaga’s Eighties Music Video

Balenciaga has become known for its clever takes on fashion content under Demna Gvasalia. That narrative continued in a music video showcasing the brand's pre-collection for Summer 2021. Set to a BFRND cover of Corey Hart's "Sunglasses at Night," the film follows a series of lip-synching models as they strut down Paris' lamp-lit streets, walk by the Seine and journey through dark underground tunnels until a group of them convene together, heading off into the night.

Most notably, one model is dressed in an oversized gray sweatsuit, their sweatshirt reading "Paris Fashion Week" in pixelated letters. That look particularly seemed to be commentary about Fashion Weeks being online during the pandemic. As the epitome of high fashion, what's more anti-PFW than a sweatsuit? However, nothing was more timely or relatable than the model's attachments to their phones, as most are scrolling through them or have them hanging around their necks on lanyards throughout the video.

Rick Owens’ Futuristic Phlegethon

Rick Owens looked towards the future with his Spring 2021 collection, "Phlegethon." Never one to shy away from drama, the designer made a series of armor-like looks that seemed straight from The Hunger Games or AEon Flux. "In the face of adversity, we have to pull ourselves up," the designer told Vogue.

"Phlegethon" is composed of pieces utilizing Owens' boldest brand signatures. Single shoulders, asymmetric hems and long, hand-covering sleeves were present in nearly every look. However, this season also focused on outerwear, with many models wearing vests or jackets with exaggerated capped sleeves that looked both comforting and defensive. Paired with Owens' cult-favorite platform boots and long face masks, and a new palette of bubblegum pink and red juxtaposing his go-to neutrals, "Phlegethon" appeared both optimistic and futuristic.

Thebe Magugu’s Fashionable Spy Thriller

In his Spring 2021 collection, titled "Counter Intelligence," Thebe Magugu shared the history of the espionage community in his native South Africa. Set to a series of interviews Magugu made with past female spies, the accompanying CCTV and Secret Surveillance-shot film explores models-as-secret agents knocking men out in elevators, developing photos in an apartment and strolling through the streets on top-secret missions.

"Our immediate picture of spies is largely informed by their portrayal in popular culture — slim, ostentatiously demure, fashionable and aloof. Truth is, spies are all around us, they are our beloved teachers, friends and family members," the designer said in a statement. "It got me thinking — what drives one to commit high-treason?"

Magugu's womenswear in this collection merged free-flowing silhouettes with structured styles, largely in a palette of blues and yellows with pops of fuchsia and white. Pleated asymmetric skirts are paired with sweaters, knit tanks and arm sleeves, and a printed shirtdress and sharply tailored jacket make notable appearances. However, his menswear also stole the show with olive and indigo blue shorts suits, paired with wide-brimmed hats perfect for espionage.

Maison Margiela’s 'Co-Ed' Film

This season, John Galliano used Maison Margiela's SS21 collection as the second part of his S.W.A.L.K. (Sealed With A Kiss) concept, first introduced during the AW20 couture season. The "Co-Ed" video's footage of Galliano's Zoom calls breaking down the collection's design processes and inspirations, and the atelier's procedures of crafting everything from torn-apart trench coats to the latest Tabi shoes (clear pumps and chunky oxfords), make up its majority. To add creative imagery, they are interspersed with clips shot by Nick Knight of models writhing in moonlit puddles and dancing the tango—a primary influence on the line.

Suiting with exaggerated lapels, knits made from repurposed garments, and tulle evening dresses appear simultaneously deconstructed and perfectly stitched together in a palette of red, black, gray and white — both unfinished and fully complete. The collection is a distinctly collaborative effort, unveiled in full transparency for all to watch.

For Schiaparelli's third ready-to-wear collection, "Elements of Desire," Daniel Roseberry focused on wardrobe essentials. Though the haute couture house is known for its dramatic flair, the designer wanted to highlight pieces like suits, trousers and trench coats in a palette of black, caramel and white.

However, these essentials are far from basic. Elevated by Schiaparelli's signature surrealism, the collection was peppered with details like its iconic lobster and measuring tape motif, as well as lock, nose and nipple embellishments. Further accented by Roseberry's viral gold jewelry — this season focused on finger coverings, chunky earrings, chain necklaces and metal face masks — and the brand's new line of sharp leather handbags, "Elements" is an ode to Schiaparelli's past, Roseberry's present and fashion's long-lasting future.

Photos courtesy of Michael Kors Collection