KC Fashion Week: Virtually All Virtual

Kansas City Fashion Week, the semi-annual showcase of Midwest fashion, stunned and surprised last month in a digital landscape.

What's Fashion Week without the crowds? 

It's still 24 different runway shows over a series of days in Kansas City's iconic Union Station -- where the fall fashion shows have traditionally been held the last few years.

It's still an economic boost for the local fashion community, offering designers a chance to showcase their latest creations and local boutiques and restaurants to stuff VIP Swag Bags (worth more than $250!) with incentives and products  -- the sale of which goes toward scholarships for local fashion & design students and charity sponsor KC Fashion Council.

It's still a dedicated team of models, designers, and the KCFW team "responsibly [producing] fashion shows for 24 designers over two 15-hour days in the middle of Covid," wrote Phil Willoughby, CEO of Kansas City Fashion Week, in a private Facebook group for the KCFW models.

And despite the lack of in-person cocktail hours, runway shows, and after-parties, KCFW still had a major media presence with news segments on KCTV5 News Kansas City and live influencer media coverage before, during, and after the shows across social media platforms (just search #kcfw on Twitter and Instagram).

GK Designs / Gracie Key

Virtual runway was safer this year. Maybe it's also...better?

When the lead designer for jewelry and accessories brand Zuri Perle was asked "Do you think having access to watch the shows virtually from ANYWHERE will open up opportunities for designers and models that wouldn't have been there with only the local show?" she replied, "I think it can for sure, we just have to be open to trying new things and experimenting with the best ways to reach people." (read my full interview with Atinuke Adeleke here.)

But as a veteran KCFW model, I missed the buzz of a live runway show. This season, I joined the audience via computer screen and it wasn't the same. Professional, modern, accessible, yes. But the backstage comnunity, the buzz when the lights go down, the excited "ooos" and camera clicks of a delighted crowd can't be replaced.

Olive Martini Designs

The future of runway

When asked "how do you feel about doing a runway show with a live in-person audience vs. a runway show with a virtual audience?" designers and fashion insiders have had various responses. 

“I don’t think we’ll completely get rid of fashion weeks, but at the same time I think there will be new ways of showing clothes that we haven’t really seen yet,” Imran Amed, founder of the influential trade news website Business of Fashion, says. “I just don’t think we need as many shows, in as many cities, for as much of the time of the year.”

Here's to more innovation in the fashion industry in 2021!

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