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Shanghai’s All-Online Fashion Week in Response to Coronavirus is a “Worldwide First”

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Picture “fashion week,” and you probably think of industry heavyweights with dark sunglasses and blunt bobs crowding shoulder-to-shoulder in the front row. That paradigm might be changing, as China kicks off what is claimed to be “the world’s first” all-online fashion week, “Cloud Fashion Week,” today in Shanghai in response to fears surrounding novel coronavirus Covid-19.

Shanghai Fashion Week is just the latest fashion event forced to adapt to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. In February, as the number of coronavirus cases began to rise in the EU and US, Milan and Paris Fashion Weeks showed for a dwindling audience, and major events such as the Met Gala were indefinitely postponed in the weeks to follow. Travel bans also meant many Chinese designers were absent from their shows at the Big Four fashion weeks, or had to cancel them altogether.

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Organizers initially announced that Shanghai too would be postponed, but instead opted to pair up with Chinese ecommerce platform TMall and livestream the entire week — a worldwide first, according to Alibaba, TMall’s parent company.

This also marks one of the first times an entire fashion week has integrated Tmall’s see-it-buy-it technology that the online shopping platform is known for pioneering, and employed at pop-up events during New York Fashion Week. This allows viewers to click on ecommerce links to purchase items that catch their eye as they’re displayed on the catwalk.

SFW full schedule cloud online

The full schedule for Shanghai Fashion Week AW20 (image: Shanghai Fashion Week)

Viewers can access the livestream and past recorded shows via the Shanghai Fashion Week website. The opening night begins at 6pm Beijing time on Tuesday, March 24. Labels and designers showing as part of the AW20 event include Angel Chen (whose designs are pictured up top), ZucZug and Samuel Guì Yang.

Fashion is far from the first industry in China to embrace going entirely online in response to coronavirus, either. Well before music events such as Coachella and SXSW announced that they’d be postponing or cancelling their festivals, weekly club events and even music festivals in China had full musician line-ups on Chinese streaming site Billibilli to entertain music lovers cooped up indoors. And when unable to open in theaters during Lunar New Year — one of the biggest box office seasons in China — Chinese blockbusters began going straight to streaming months before Hollywood followed suit.

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And much like these industries, ordinary citizens are being forced to get creative as well to cope with self-quarantine situations. As uncertainty around the virus continues to spread, one thing seems for certain: we’ll be seeing the rippling effects of social distancing for many months to come.

Mayura Jain
    Mayura Jain is a Shanghai-based writer, editor, illustrator and designer originally from Los Angeles. Before joining RADII, she worked for lifestyle magazine City Weekend and Sixth Tone as editor and graphic designer. In her spare time she frequents art exhibitions, fosters cats, and chows on unhealthy vegetarian food.