By now, us fashion folk have seen our fair share of the recent digital fashion shows, where models still parade down a runway with a reduced audience — as if the pandemic had miraculously disappeared for that brief 20 minutes because a runway show had to be staged — as cameras swerved back and forth showing wide-angle and micro-shots of the clothing and accessories.
In other words, the recent slew of digital fashion shows were a disappointment, largely due to the fact that most international fashion houses with decent pools of resources stuck to the most basic and unimaginative understanding of what it means to “go digital”: they all did a livestreamed version of the regular runway presentation.
So, imagine the surprise and thrill when we opened Lisa Von Tang’s SS21 presentation URL to discover that it was taking place in the 3D confines of a shophouse. Von Tang’s showcase forewent the usual livestreamed video concept and staged a VR fashion presentation instead.
The set-up was pretty uncomplicated: you open the site, and through a series of arrows laid before you on-screen, navigate through the shophouse that is laid before you, discovering the secrets behind some of the items.
“[My brand manager] Lenice and I were discussing how to do our next show with the social distancing restrictions. She suggested going fully digital, which I was less than thrilled about,” Von Tang said in an interview with A Magazine. “However, once I saw the power of an immersive 3D experience through a Jean-Michel Basquiat exhibition, I was inspired to give it a shot. This virtual method of immersing you into our story is a wonderful medium to reach fans from around the world.”
Named “Maison Chi Chi”, the presentation offered a voyeuristic viewing experience, given that you felt like you were walking through someone else’s house, the morning after a riotous party — remember those? — and picking up clues of the colourful guests who have since left. Woven into the narrative, Von Tang’s SS21 — titled “Colour Therapy” — is seen on a model lounging on the couch, or hanging on a rack.
Across the screen, little coloured dots are attached to items that include a piano, objects on a mantlepiece and a doorknob. Clicking on them would then pull up content that ranged from quotes by Madonna and Tupac, a photograph of the designer’s mother, and short film vignettes of performers accompanied by dramatic poetry and music.
“I wanted to give you a sense of the energetic, emotional and philosophical place that this collection arose from,” Von Tang explained, pointing out that central to the collection’s theme was an idea of healing – an apt message for the times.
“My experience with the pandemic has been to explore suppression in historical and personal ways. The collection, in contrast, is a healing salve and a celebration. It uses bright striking prints against black, gorgeous neon pinks and limes on silk tunics, multicoloured buttons, and almost holographic silk jacquards. It’s a statement to how far we’ve come, and where we must go,” Von Tang said.
The designer also pointed out how “there is a dance sequence where the performer, Yasmine Amour Levar, is scared to look in the mirror. She eventually receives a message through the mirror, which is a heart — and it imprints itself on her wrist. Earlier in the journey, a goddess, played by Ariel White, is in one of our kimonos and dancing in front of the bathroom mirror. Ariel writes a heart on the mirror, which will get transmitted to Yasmine. It is celebrating the healing aspects of the feminine.”
Von Tang and her team is no stranger when it comes to creating immersive fashion experiences. In a pre-Covid fashion presentation, she worked with local private club Straits Clan to put on a walking show, where guests meandered through the building’s many rooms to find a variety of performers and models showcasing her designs through performance art.
Despite her know-how in staging a great show, working with virtual reality brought about a new learning curve for her team and herself.
“Shooting an experience in 3D is unusual and novel, as we had not done it before. We therefore had to literally re-shoot everything due to technical glitches, and spend a lot of time in post-production editing to get the flow right. It matters how you film in 3D, and the lighting needs to be just right, and you must do it perfectly in one go — or the frames do not stitch together smoothly,” Von Tang admitted. “This was essentially a DIY project, with most filming and production done in-house. It was a learning experience for us — and as we all know, learning curves are the worst at the start. We were on a limited budget and doing something that a fashion house has never done before!”
On top of filming the bulk of the shophouse in Singapore, Von Tang’s team worked with artists in Cabo and Brooklyn, engaging a multitude of performers that include a concert pianist, a wine sommelier and a troupe of dancers. All of them wore looks from the collection, which saw bold splashes of colour breaking up the inky black silks, velvets and jacquards. “This year, we really needed colour,” Von Tang told us enthusiastically. “Colour isn’t just about pigments; they also symbolise vitality, joy and celebration!”
“Although these [fashion] shows are not profit makers, they force us to be true artists — which I define as finding an ‘edge’ that is scary for you, and that feels pregnant with a necessary idea, and turning that edge into something beautiful for others,” she told us. “Often in running a fashion brand, we are not always artists, but our VR show allowed us to find our edge again.”
View the virtual show at bit.ly/MAISONCHICHI, or visit lisavontang.com for more information.