MILAN — Can digital fashion shows be more fun than physical ones? GCDS’ Giuliano Calza believes they can.
Like many designers on the official Milan Fashion Week schedule, the Italian streetwear brand’s cofounder and creative director is planning a digital showcase for the spring 2021 men’s and women’s collection.
Capitalizing on the digital clothing experiment developed last May when GCDS debuted a full range of apparel for the characters of Nintendo Switch’s Animal Crossing: New Horizons, Calza has forged a partnership with Los Angeles-based engineering firm Emblematic Group to create a full-on digital experience.
Leveraging the firm’s VR-enhanced technology called REACH.Love, the platform — replete with different rooms, avatar models and a gaming section that will feature a pinball splashed with graphics from the collection — will make its debut on the brand’s website on Sept. 24 at 8 p.m. CEST when GCDS is scheduled to unveil its coed collection.
In an exclusive interview with WWD, Calza said the project came about before lockdown and then took shape as he was confined at home due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
“It turned out to be a much more complicated process compared to physical shows because every decision had to be taken quickly with less to no room for afterthoughts,” he said.
“This show is quite a ‘self-centered’ production because I had to absorb all the functions that I usually share with other members of the team,” Calza noted, explaining that he was asked to handle a huge number of details, including everything from the models’ body shapes, to the fit of clothing and down to the color and shape of nails.
“We staged our last physical show just before the country was sent into lockdown and we were scared, so this time we didn’t want to invest a lot of money into a physical show with all the uncertainties and the impossibility to have people and models travel to Milan,” he said.
The digital project is more than just a cost containment strategy, the designer explained.
“As the conversation around digital showcases was mounting, I immediately felt a fascination and a creative urgency to translate that into the GCDS language,” Calza said. “What you will experience with this show is definitely what you would expect from us.”
The involved audience — members of the press, buyers and fans of the label — will be able to enjoy the show through the “director’s cut,” lensed from the front row, or by virtually exploring the show space, the backstage area and getting to know the makeup artists and hairstylists or seeing the accessories up close — all with a little help from VR and in the name of offering an insider’s experience.
Instead of actual models filmed as they strut down the catwalk, the collection will be paraded on avatar versions. Calza said among them there’s a whole slew of body shapes and skin tones, including a digital version of the designer’s makeup artist friend Raisa Flowers, while the packed front row will feature Hello Kitty, among others.
He sees it as a way to further stress the brand’s inclusive message.
“Although the GCDS approach has always been disruptive I wanted to get rid of the idea that there’s only one muse or kind of person we’re inspired by,” he offered.
After July’s round of digital shows, many observers pointed out that they lacked not only the emotional component of IRL shows but also prevented viewers from experiencing the touch and feel quality of clothes.
Not this time, Calza said. He approached the collection through a reverse creative process, sketching and making paper patterns that were then digitized carefully for him to check the digital samples and for the audience to be able to enjoy the silhouettes, draping constructions, folds and movements of the clothes.
Known for his playful and laid-back take on fashion, Calza said the whole concept, clothes included, is “a call for freedom…and a way of enlivening our audience after months of confinement.”
To this end, after the show ends the platform developed with Emblematic Group will serve as “neutral space for further marketing initiatives,” including the release of advertising campaigns.
Fans of the streetwear brand will be able to prove their gaming skills through a range of arcade-style video games nodding to the Nineties, such as a GCDS-branded rendition of Nokia’s famous Snake.
“When I’m asked who’s GCDS for, I always think about the geeks, the outcasts and the fashion icons. This digital platform will serve as a space of exchange for them all, like a bar but in an otherworldly world,” he concluded.