The fashion show production process, which traditionally happens by way of email chains, Microsoft Office, in-person meetings and printouts of Powerpoint decks, is transitioning to the digital world — albeit slowly.
At LDJ Productions, a fashion production agency that worked with eight designers on their fall 2017 shows, the team has used tools like Trello and Slack to put together resources leading up to the show date for the past two fashion week seasons.
“Digital is 100 percent the standard for us now,” said Rachel Young, show director. “While analog is the primary driver in some cases, like choosing fabrics and doing hair and makeup tests, we’re able to take our planning on the road and share inputs remotely for just about everything else.”
Technology’s external effect on the fashion show has been transparent. Social media, and the instant access it gives customers to runway shows, has essentially birthed the see-now-buy-now movement as brands overhaul business models to put on in-season showings. Others have tested virtual reality shows, chatbots, and shoppable live streams to draw the biggest buzz to their events. Tommy Hilfiger has essentially turned into a fashion week show horse, hosting over-the-top “Tommy Pier”(carnival-themed) and “TommyLand” (festival-themed) events in an effort to crank up the global impressions.
But it’s been less clear how much the process has changed internally in the months of lead time before the event itself. For many, it’s still largely analog — fashion is an industry notoriously stuck in its ways, after all. Backstage at the Desigual show on the first day of New York Fashion Week, model casting photos were sorted in thick binders. An artist at Zoya Nails, the brand doing the manicures for Desigual, said that the brand collaborated with the designer solely through in-person meetings.
At LDJ Productions, Young runs casting, wardrobe management, backstage teams and show staff for designer clients, which this season included Christian Siriano, Billy Reid, Leanne Marshall and Lela Rose. That means she has to collaborate with modeling agencies, the designer’s team and venues externally, along with her internal staff. Plans for a show, from set design to collection sketches, change on a daily basis during the production process, so communicating with every team involved in real time, on a daily basis, is critical, she said. That’s where tools like Trello and Slack come in handy. According to Young, all teams involved participate in crowdsourced task lists and timelines on the platforms. To share the most recent photo and video files, they turn to the cloud: Dropbox and Hightail.
Designer Michael Costello’s team uses Dropbox’s new tool, Dropbox Paper, for show planning and execution. Assistant designer Charlotte Welch said that communication and visual planning between teams typically happened across separate email chains.
“The creative process happens as we go, so we would have 80-email long chains with different teams — hair, makeup, nail, music — as the show would approach,” Welch said.
While using email and Microsoft Office for past seasons, Welch had to update every team individually of each update to the show’s collection or production. On Dropbox, teams were able to catch up at the same time, right up until the day of the show, which used to see assistants running around making last-minute changes to printed out PowerPoint slides in red marker.
Michael Costello on Dropbox Paper.
Young said that LDJ Productions shares files — photos from castings, seating charts and technical set drawings — with clients through their preferred method of collaboration, but that recently, more designers are becoming digitally advanced. The production team uses tools like Pinterest for moodboards, VectorWorks for architectural design, and augmented reality to develop preliminary hair and makeup looks.
“We’re able to take our planning on the road,” Young said. “Instead of needing to sit in the room, we share ideas at any moment, remotely. For such a visually focused industry, it’s a real win.”