The Selfridges Eye: the future of fashion week

As the fashion industry gets to grips with the ever-changing digital landscape (and we explore the future of fashion in our creative campaign The New Order), we chart the standout tech-enhanced runway moments so far and discover what the future holds for the catwalk.

It’s officially fashion month and the press, editors and Insta-elite are flocking to the four key style capitals to see what we'll all be wearing next summer. But the once private, industry affair has been undergoing a fair bit of change of late.
Fashion, a business predicated on how we present ourselves to the world, is grappling with how we imagine ourselves in our new digital reality. As social media handed the public a front-row seat to the shows and the likes of Extinction Rebellion call for the end of the traditional fashion week model, the industry is having to embrace this new digital consciousness in order to survive.

Balenciaga's spring/summer 2019 show

A new generation of designers is already presenting exciting digital-led catwalk alternatives. For his Balenciaga SS19 show, designer Demna Gvasalia collaborated with digital artist Jon Rafman to create an immersive digital presentation. During the show, the audience, who were seated inside the cylindrical LED tunnel, were taken on a visually startling journey through alien landscapes, calamitous ecosystems and dystopian civilisations. Demna told Vogue magazine: “Fashion shows are for transporting people, otherwise there’s no point. It was like working on a movie, getting people into another reality, so it stays as a memory.”


Fashion shows are for transporting people, otherwise there’s no point.

Demna Gvasalia, Artistic Director at Balenciaga and Vetements

Drones on the catwalk of Dolce & Gabbana's autumn/winter 2018 show

The idea of robots and machines replacing humans is nothing new, but now designers are exploring how to use them on the catwalk. At Dolce & Gabbana’s AW18 show, eight quadcopter drones carrying leather and jewelled purses paraded down the runway. Meanwhile, an actual robot (created in partnership with Silicon Valley-based OhmniLabs) debuted on designer Honee’s catwalk at London Fashion Week in September 2018. More gimmicky than a viable long-term option perhaps, but could IRL catwalk models be under threat from new tech developments?

CGI influencer Lil Miquela

Perhaps of more concern to the “real“ supermodel is the URL (aka “un-real life”) or computer-generated models, with their “perfect” angular cheekbones and flawless skin. In April 2017, London-based photographer Cameron-James Wilson created Shudu, a 3D-rendered, life-like digital model that took the social media world by storm. And with the likes of CGI influencer Lil Miquela (with her 1.6m Instagram followers) “attending” Prada’s AW18 show, the tension between appearance and reality is something the industry will increasingly have to wrestle with.

Extinction Rebellion protesters

As the digital revolution continues to transform every aspect of the fashion industry and pressure mounts from Extinction Rebellion (Stockholm Fashion Council recently cancelled their shows to focus on a more sustainable alternative), could a purely digital fashion showcase replace the traditional fashion-week model?

Senior Creative Researcher Rachael Stott, from trend-forecasting agency The Future Laboratory, explains: “Given all the financial and environmental backlash, the industry is having to prove the catwalk’s physical value. The runway still offers designers a platform to communicate beyond the garments and tell powerful stories, such as sustainability [as seen recently with Collina Strada’s recycled fashion collection at New York Fashion Week SS20].” 


Given all the financial and environmental backlash, the industry is having to prove the catwalk’s physical value.

Rachael Stott, Senior Creative Researcher at The Future Laboratory (

So how will fashion week adapt in the future? “The catwalk will naturally become more digitised and the focus will shift to our engagement with the collections,” explains Rachael. “Developments in 5G-enhanced AR [augmented reality] technology mean we’ll be able to interact with shows/collections remotely, viewing and touching individual garments without having to physically be in the same room as them. Haptic gloves, for instance, will give you sensory feedback on the handle and weight of a dress or beaded jacket, from virtually anywhere in the world.

What’s more, paths to purchase could change – after touching the jacket, you could buy and download it to your digital avatar, or create a wearable hologram as an augmented overlay. Designers are no longer restricted to seasons or industry demands and it becomes an ongoing creative process between them and the customer,” says Rachael.

As the fashion industry races to align itself with these technological advancements and respond to ever-growing demands to reduce its environmental impact, the opportunities to revamp the conventional fashion week model are only going to get bigger. As Sarah Arnold from Extinction Rebellion told Dazed Digital: “We don’t think this is the end of fashion – more an opportunity to creatively transform it into something regenerative for society and nature.” Hear, hear.