Teasers As The New Grand Rituals of Fashion Shows

By Long Nguyen

Taking a Lesson from Hollywood, Luxury Fashion Perfected the Pre-Show Teasers

In the pandemic year, luxury fashion shifted from physical to digital shows, deploying various creative solutions from cinema to gaming to straightforward pre-taped shows for the online-only audience globally.

Before the era of physical shows, the usual grand rituals have been absent in the past year without real physical fashion shows. For Dior Haute Couture, guests traversed the Musée Rodin passing by among the most glorious statues of the artist to get to the sumptuous Jardin d’Orphée to discover in a near-distant a newly constructed tent decorated according to the theme of the new season. Or passing through the crowd of dressed-up maniacs in front of the Palais de Tokyo to get to the stairway to the courtyard transformed depending on the moment with colored smokes or art sculptures for the Rick Owens outdoor show.

Yet for seasonal attendees of the Paris men’s, women’s, and haute couture shows, these rituals have become so familiar that the year without experiencing them was akin to living in exile. Did anyone crossing the IM Pei glass pyramid at the Louvre on the way to the tent or going underground inside the museum at dusk for the Louis Vuitton women show – always the last of the season – ever forget the sound of the gong beating intermittently in the distant?

Replacing these rituals during the year off is by no means an easy task.

Still, luxury fashion brands have refined the pre-show apparatus called ‘teasers’ as a central part of the dynamic, replacing the physical experiences with digital initiatives to fathom a more immersive online presence for the ever-expanding audience base fashion.

While these teasers are not new tools from luxury fashion brands – brands used them in the pre-pandemic era. Today, though, the pre-show snippets have gained a prominent center stage in the past year as the main events moved online, forming a unique role for these ‘rolls’ in the days and even the hours before the big ‘reveal.’

Today’s fashion shows are entertainment as they are about showing the new season’s collection. But, the level content of these pre-show teasers differed from brand to brand. Depending on each brand’s objectives, pre-show teasers come in a variety of formats with specific content.

Fashion shows are big business. Brands revert to the traditional Hollywood movie system with hype pre-release activities without the usual palimpsest surrounding the live shows. Now collectively known as teasers, they serve to instigate the promotion and critically rallying the tribes to cheer for the upcoming digital release event in whatever the final produced format.

Pre fashion shows teasers are now standard operations for fashion houses, big or small, across all business scales, hoping for greater market penetration. However, the contents differed from brand to brand. Fashion shows in the pre-pandemic era never received such hype and attention in the same way a pre-publication excerpt and book tour or a TV appearance before a movie release as part of the press junket for the actual movie.

After a year of trials and tribulations, fashion brands are upstaging Hollywood in this pre-release cycle of momentum building, agitating for buzz across all online social platforms.

Since the seasonal live fashion shows with all of the built-in accouterments have temporarily ceased and replaced with a situation in the late Spring 2020 unfamiliar territory for fashion brands, especially the luxury companies with more business at stake without the traditional A-list live show events.

These teasers, coming in the forms of super short motion pictures, photographs, drawings, or briefs with brand ambassadors, are the vehicles to promulgate the aesthetic thinking of the new season more so than just providing glimpses of previews. They are like educational materials made in high glossed images, words, and videos, featuring a glimpse of the idea before seeing any real clothes.

At times, though, the vitality of these marketing efforts fostered an environment that can provide an impetus for heightened creativity in the formats of these actual digital shows. Now, teasers have become too intertwined with any fashion show that even as shows return to the physical structure, it would be hard to abandon such a successful adaptation from the cinema world.

One of the innovations of the pandemic year is the rise of creative teasers. Both luxury and non-luxury brands, big and small, posted on their social media platforms with pre-show teasers in the form of concise videos or other visuals depicting a brief snapshot of what the new season revealed within a few days will be.

The Italian filmmaker Matteo Garrone will surely remember the two Dior Haute Couture films as masterpieces of fashion films with grand narratives. The storytelling of the movie surely enhanced the superbly designed and crafted couture clothes.

‘Le Mythe Dior’ – the first short film for Dior Haute Couture by Garrone – is an authentic cinematic oeuvre with a powerful narrative bestowing the power of fashion for transformations. Couriers brought the shrunken doll-size couture clothes into the woods and encountered nymphs who brought them to life and themselves into a new life. It is hard to imagine how Dior will replace the beauty and the global digital audience for this film and the following one for Spring 2021 couture, also directed by Garrone with a live show even with elaborate set designs past.

Dior premiered on Instagram a black and white documentary film of the 1945-1946 Théatre de la mode as the first promotion for this debut couture movie. In the immediate after-war environment, designers created minuscule versions of their clothes in doll sizes for a touring exhibition – a base inspiration for Chiuri’s fall 2020 couture collection. Then, a short film followed where Chiuri discussed her thinking about this couture collection during the lockdown. In addition, there were snapshots from the movie, with film fragments shown alongside the making of the doll-size clothes.

Dior Haute Couture Fall 2020

This Dior Fall 2020 haute couture film was the first fashion film of the pandemic year, offering a powerful example of how creating a surrealist film was more forceful and a more memorable way to narrate a story of new fall couture garments.

While couture received the cinema treatment, it returned to ‘runway’ format pre-taped shows for the ready-to-wear and resort seasons. For example, for the Fall 2021 women show, Dior promoted women’s creativity with animated shorts made by a new female illustrator.

The Argentinian Barbara Cerro and the Japanese-British Noriko Okaky worked in conjunction with Chiuri’s mission to surround her fashion work with feminist art, aesthetics, and philosophy to shift how the audience can view Dior fashion today with woman’s perspective.

Dior Spring 2021 

Only two actual clips from the Beauté dérangeante, the fall 2021 taped film show inside the Galerie des Glaces at the Château de Versailles, were part of the pre-show release at the brand’s Instagram to explain the entire project.

These new teasers are certainly not an assortment of random postings. Instead, they have organized releases strategically placed in a way seeking to draw audience interest in the brand’s upcoming collection, like a commercial touting all the great features.

For every recent haute couture show, Chanel consistently broadcasted short instructional videos showing how specific garments are hand-made by visually explaining the intricacies of the crafts and the artisans whose handiwork is parcel of the value of haute couture.

More so than any luxury brand, Chanel is at the forefront of offering a more expansive view of the pre-show manifest of visual cues to fathom an understanding of the coming collection.

For the Chanel Cruise 2022 collection shown in the hills of Les Baux-de-Provence a few weeks ago, the brand posted a series of inspirations from handwritten letters by the French artist-writer Jean Cocteau. Audiences got a close-up view of the process in a way previously reserved for media, and guests had a live show to take place.
The online fans got to see how the 1960 Cocteau movie Le testament d’Orphée became the imaginative base for the creation mood running through the clothes.

Chanel filmed short videos of the brand’s global ambassadors getting ready in the days before the scheduled show in place of a front row. For the Fall 2021 show in early March, ambassadors like Jennie Kim, the French singer Angèle, the singer Andra Day, Victoria Song, the Korean pop star G-Dragon, and Margaret Qualley were seen in black and white videos ‘waiting for the show to start.’

Chanel Spring 2022 Show teaser film

These Chanel pre-show teasers are self-contained units of content themselves with their narratives, whether about craft or with a series of global ambassadors at work rallying their communities to gather for the upcoming show. In addition, brands like Saint Laurent, Balenciaga, Celine, or Dior also provided important post-show information to help further the audience understand the new clothes.

Chanel released two episodes of black and white films titled “In the Haute Couture Atelier,” showing the close working relationship between Virginie Viard and the in-house ateliers in crafting each hand-made garment. The journalist and filmmaker Loïc Prigent made the videos detailing the complex work of these artisans behind the specific looks – how the atelier put a bias of another fabric underneath so the hems stay in place without folding a smooth hemline without the jagged edges.

Chanel – Chanel Haute Couture Spring 2020

In operation for its weeklong GucciFest that surely outdid any Hollywood blockbuster releases, the seven days film festival organized by Gucci as part of the presentation format for the brand’s fall 2021 collection as a film festival centered on the seven episodes of the film co-created with the director Gus Van Sant alongside a selected short hyper-creative film from a selected group of fifteen young emerging brands. This Guccifest film festival was unique in providing a deeper look into how film can be a crucial part of the future of fashion presentations, especially with the highly innovative offerings from emerging designers.

What was truly noteworthy in this Gucci experiment is how far the brand creative director Alessandro Michele took the luxury fashion brand from the traditional fashion show format towards a more radical way of narrating the new season’s story.

Instead of the usual boring circus of shows, even great and high budget shows, the film festival cued a unique moment of creativity within the ritual framework of the fashion season.

Of course, the week before the first opening day of Guccifest, the house filled its Instagram postings with the red and white printed invitation to the week worth of fashion films. The Alessandro Michele-Gus Van Sant mini series “Ouverture …” anchored the seven days film festival.

Gucci – GucciFest Spring 2021

In addition, at the end of each day during the festival itself, there were additional postings on the content of the day and highlighting the spring 2021 fashion in the Van Sant mini-series film. The designers from the emerging brands invited to participate – Bianca Saunders, Collina Strada, Gui Rosa, Ahluwalia, Boramy Viguier, and Yeuqi Qi – all to rally their communities to watch their special episodes on designated evenings.

Images of Lou Doillon, Jared Leto, Chris Lee, and Serena Williams doing the crossword puzzle GucciQuiz booklet that served as the show invitation filled Gucci social media days before the Aria fall 2021 show celebrating Gucci’s 100 Years. Even Miley Cyrus chipped in with a self-directed video frolicking around a faux mushroom garden, and yes, solving her white and green crossword puzzle booklet.

Gucci GucciQuiz Fall 2021

To promote the rebuilding of the performing arts in Milano, Pierpaolo Piccioli staged his fall show at the city’s Teatro Piccolo closed for nearly a year. An orchestra played to an empty historical theater as models exited onto the stage in a streamlined collection distilled to the essence of the house’s design codes.

A few days before the actual live stream show, the house showed a series of film shorts. Among those featured were the participation of bakeries and floral stands in Milano to foster the idea of reviving live cultural experiences and showing the daily gestures that are often overlooked, like getting an expresso at the local baker down the street.

Similarly, the day before Piccioli’s first-ever live stream show in Milano for ready to wear in late February, the house posted film shorts of video projections on Milano houses showing several slow-motion versions of blooming roses. The short films for the Valentino Haute Couture fall 2020 digital live performance in Rome with Nick Knight showed old footage of audiences at past fashion shows, anticipating the start of a show.

Valentino Haute Couture Fall 2020

Rather than creating elaborate sets of teasers, Hedi Slimane went for a simpler and more straightforward approach with brief videos to amp the mood and black and white still photographs denoting the information on the upcoming show.

For his men’s ‘The Dancing Kid’ Spring 2021 taped show at the racetracks of the Circuit Paul Ricard near Marseille, Slimane divulged slow-motion short videos and still photographs of a tattooed youth with long hair wearing a pair of slightly torn jeans. The kid sat on a floral couch painting his fingernails. For the Spring 2022 women’s collection staged in Monaco, the teasers were close-up pictures of the epaulets and hats on the uniforms of the Carabiniers du Prince, the royal guards, and features from statues in the Monaco principality.

Similarly, Anthony Vaccarello, the creative director of Saint Laurent, opted for providing the brand’s audience with an approach to delivering the new season show information rather than creating elaborate sets of teasers. At Saint Laurent, a few images of pastel color flags informed the men’s spring 2021 film show last September; a picture of beige dunes in a desert announced the women’s spring 2022 show last December. A crisp image of layers of rocks by Juergen Teller provided the date and time of the fall 2021 women’s show in late April.

One exception to the teaser game is Balenciaga. On the day of Balenciaga’s fall 2021 show in the format of a gaming app called Afterworld: The Age of Tomorrow, the brand posted nothing on its Instagram that would indicate the presence of a new season. Instead, the few days before and after the show on December 6, 2020, it was business as usual without any interruption by any frenzy acts to let the brand’s fans know about the fall show online.

Balenciaga Fall 2021

Big brands aren’t the only ones who have perfected the teasers game. The French designer Marine Serre posted a series on her Instagram a week before the release of her CORE fall 2021 collection with a print book about the philosophy and the substance of her brand founded on the idea of upcycling and repurposing. The American designer Joseph Altuzarra posted photos of a bouquet of tulips and a close-up of a long mustard dress with furry sandals to inform his online audience of his fall showing.

Marine Serre Fall 2021
Altuzarra Fall 2021

And before her live show in a park in northern Paris, Christelle Kocher posted several black and white snapshots of model casting, using exclusively models living in Paris, as a way to announce her spring 2021 Koché show. Rick Owens showed moving stills of the ocean view where is fall 2021 show took place in Venice the day before the live stream event.

Koché Spring 2021

The pre-fashion show teasers serve to solidify the shaky foundation of fashion already under duress and strain even before the onslaught of the global pandemic when dormant problems floated to the surface. More crucial are the facts that brands deploy these teasers to galvanize interests in their new season. It is also the notion of preserving the grand rituals of the physical shows to halt the strong potential of the coming apart of this fashion show experience in the coming new era.

The frenzy on-brand social media with all these teasers is perhaps more intensive in this window of the pre-show time frame at this juncture in time. Post-show postings are somewhat anticlimactic, like an afterthought providing more detailed information but with no intensity.

These teasers make the actual presentations more permanent in the digital space instead of a temporary thing. Would all these fashion films fade over time as brief interludes, or will some stand out as creative enterprises with their proper supporting system?

That the industry prizes the live experience of the very few guests points to a more significant issue to evolving how to share this experience at scale. The question to ask going forward is about how to convey the legitimacy, the status, and the meaning of fashion within a structured seasonal setup. The fashion shows have stalled long before the epidemic come along, exposing further rifts. The road forward isn’t as straightforward as the rush to return steadfastly to physical showings as soon as gathering restrictions receded.

How to define the new fashion season to young audiences as a kind of pop hagiography – what remained in the memory of audiences in six months are perhaps these short teasers, and less so, the actual fashion show itself.

The abundant series of extra short videos and strings of images are like headlines providing the pomp and circumstances. During the no-show year, many shows ‘staged’ have lost their cachet.

Surely, one of the great legacies of the pandemic fashion year is the birth of the ‘teasers,’ the actions a few days before any fashion shows in the pandemic era are marked by the hyperactivity each brand divulged to rally the global troops before the main event.

These teasers create a sense of belonging even before the new collections are unveiled, masking their pre-eminence necessary in the phalanx of activities in the attempts to canvas and galvanize the global fans with certain expectations enlarging this critical base. They enmesh conditions favorable to incubating the new season’s talking points and are the first to incite the upcoming narratives.

Just as Zoom will never really disappear despite complaints of fatigue, for once Zoom is too convenient. In this same way, fashion teasers are becoming like the Zoom for these fashion events – they are too good now to abandon at any time forward with live physical shows in the fall. Besides, teasers are now part of the rituals of fashion shows, real and digital.