Chennai’s designers create the city’s first virtual runway, complete with models walking the ramp from their homes

Last week Chennaiites caught a glimpse of what the future of an all-digital show could look like. 
Virtual Fashion Show
Virtual Fashion Show

This month, one of fashion’s Big Four, the London Fashion Week, will be replaced by a digital-only show.  And, the following month of July will see The Paris Fashion Week and Milan Fashion Week explore the online format as well. In step with these global directions, early last week, the Fashion Design Council of India announced a ‘phygital’ showcase, while Lakmé Fashion Week suggested the creation of virtual showrooms for its designers.

Even as the industry awaits the outcome of what will perhaps be the most influential overhaul across runways since the end of World War II, last week Chennaiites caught a glimpse of what the future of an all-digital show could look like. 

Virtual takeover
Conceptualised by Chennai-based designer Stephin Lalan, the idea behind his Instagram-streamed show was simple — ‘showcase a high-fashion runway show entirely from home.’ “Coronavirus has hit the fashion industry hard. From photographers to models, from stylists to designers themselves, it is not business as usual for us,” offers Stephin, who was groomed by the city’s fashion royalty, Rehane Yavar Dhala, before he launched his eponymous brand in 2018. To kickstart this plan the 27-year-old reached out to friends within the fraternity, jewellery designer Raji Anand and stylist Sunil Karthik, who further helped streamline the concept into something that had never been done before. “We had all seen the YouTube show where supermodels like Karlie Kloss, Winnie Harlow and Stella Maxwell walked the runway in the comfort of their own homes. But, they were wearing clothes from their own wardrobe. We wanted to take things up a notch and create a showcase for individual designer collections.” 

Stephin Lalan, Raji Anand & Sunil Karthik
Stephin Lalan, Raji Anand & Sunil Karthik

All systems go
A packed schedule of two weeks saw the trio plan and co-ordinate clothes from Stephin’s S/S ’20 line, jewellery from Raji’s collection and hair and styling directives from Sunil Karthik for 12 of the city’s top models. “All of which was done via WhatsApp groups,” explains Stephin. This included videos of the experts offering “tutorials” remotely: Sunil suggesting the make-up be “focused on a smoky black eye and hair kept swept back;” and Stephin urging his models to: “Work it, ladies. Feel the fabric!” “We even have a couple of behind-the-scenes glimpses of Sunil choreographing the walk,” says the designer, with a laugh.

Runway ready
But, what about the model fittings? “I had been lucky with my choice of silhouettes for the season. I love anti-fit ensembles since they offer the individual freedom in terms of styling, and are great for Indian summers,” he reveals. Steamed, sanitised and sealed, name-tagged bags with 12 different styles from Stephin’s Bohemian Cascade capsule line (along with the accessories) were home delivered to the models. Each of the dresses played up the designer’s love for draped and cascading silhouettes in the form of exaggerated sleeves, asymmetrical hemlines and ruffles.

Vision of the future
The final ramp walks were then individually shot on phone cameras. Car lots, passageways and gardens doubled up as DIY runways, while spouses, partners and children substituted as show directors and creative filmmakers. And, in under a week, the final footage was edited and released on social media. “There is so much talk about how the industry is evolving and the direction it will take in the future. As essential as it is to support the larger initiatives that design councils across the world are experimenting with, we believe it is equally important to offer innovative solutions. We are indebted to the industry for creating content, for engaging our viewers, and, perhaps, offering some escapism at a time when people need it the most.”

Catch Stephin Lalan in conversation with Paloma Rao on Indulge Saturday Night Insta Live. Tomorrow at 8 pm. 

Related Stories

No stories found.