There were no Hadids or Jenners, but there were dozens of models strutting their stuff in well-appointed kitchens, living rooms, bedrooms and gardens during Carine Roitfeld’s half-hour “CR Runway Fashion Unites” show streamed on YouTube Friday. (“Who’s looking at the houses rather than the models?” joked one commenter, touching on a new aesthetics reality of the quarantine era.)
“This is supermodels supporting superheroes,” said Derek Blasberg, head of fashion and beauty partnerships at YouTube, who hosted the half-hour-long, self-filmed fund-raiser for amfAR’s Fund to Fight COVID-19. The show kicked off with well wishes from Kim Kardashian (“Did Kim have her lips done?” one commenter wondered), Valentino designer Pierpaolo Piccioli (in front of a spectacular seaside vista) and Hailey Bieber (sans Justin).
“Stay safe, stay healthy and I hope to see you all real soon,” said Bieber, as live comments lit up. (She put on lipgloss but didn’t walk the show, disappointing fans.)
Once Blasberg and Roitfeld greeted each other, and expressed their gratitude to frontline responders who are working to fight the pandemic, it was time for the home-runway, backstage prep to begin.
Sam McKnight and Tom Pecheux offered hair and makeup direction for each model (“smoky eye!” “keep it natural!”), which they embraced loosely (Candice Huffine was quarantining remotely, she explained, taking a canister of table salt to a bottle of water to make her own sea-salt hair spray.)
Models were asked to wear pieces from their own closets (note: models have really good clothes; Natasha Poly pulled out a chainmail Paco Rabanne minidress she no doubt had lying around for just such an occasion). Halima Aden chose a Gucci dress — and ironed it herself. Irina Shayk shimmied into a Marine Serre bodysuit.
“Thank you to Carine for giving me an excuse to dress up,” added Karen Elson, bemoaning her sweatpants life. Others celebrated it. Joan Smalls chose a tube top and denim cutoffs. Many went barefoot. It all struck a real note that felt timely.
There were more designer cameos, too. Brandon Maxwell said “hello,” with his pup in his lap (“the other Stella Maxwell,” he offered, of his supe-named pet), as did Peter Dundas. (“Is that Peter’s boyfriend?” a commenter wondered of his pal.)
Diane von Furstenberg, Maria Grazia Chiuri, Riccardo Tisci, Fernando Garcia, Alexander Wang and Silvia Venturini Fendi were also on-screen, albeit briefly, as was Heron Preston, who offered he’d been using quarantine as an opportunity to get creative and teach his dog new tricks. Again, it was relatable, which has to be fashion’s way forward.
Kevin Robert Frost, chief executive officer of amfAR, came on-screen pointing out that those on the forefront of AIDS research (the cause amfAR was created to address) are on the forefront of fighting COVID-19. But it would have been nice to have had some actual first responders at work in hospitals participate, too.
Virgil Abloh’s moment in the spotlight was a bit puzzling; he didn’t speak, except through subtitles, and he appeared to be working in front of mood boards on his collection, and with team members much closer than allowable by social distancing guidelines. Maybe it was an old clip. It would have been better to see him DJing, which he has been doing on IG Live.
Olivier Rousteing was his usual upbeat self, sitting at just the kind of grand staircase you’d expect the Balmain designer to have in his maison. He kicked off the runway show with an air kiss to the screen, quarantine-style, as models readied their looks around the world, then said, “I cannot wait to hug again!”
Karlie Kloss took her signature walk in a boss-lady suit. (“Trump supporter!” taunted a commenter.) Carolyn Maxwell wore a T-shirt and jeans. Alton Mason shook it poolside, and Garrett Neff was lakeside (but stopped short of diving in). Stella Maxwell wore Versace leggings and carried her dog. Jill Kortleve walked in her messy kitchen.
Comments rolled in. “Hi from India,” “Hi from Venezuala!” But the number of viewers didn’t appear to top 6,000 at any point. “The future of fashion is bleak,” one quip suggested bleakly, as The Chromatics “Kill for Love” played.
Maybe it doesn’t have to be. The show was as slickly produced as anything else that’s been on-screen since the pandemic hit (Fabien Constant directed and Michel Gaubert did the music). It was light and fun, and one could see the clothes well enough to imagine a similar DIY way forward for other runway shows in the immediate future.
So the public didn’t tune in resoundingly, but if it was the Balmain or Valentino spring 2021 collection on YouTube, with backstage cameos from top models, beauty tutorials and commentary from designers for the press, and virtual showrooming for buyers, the industry just might. A tour inside Piccioli’s house wouldn’t hurt either.