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It’s hard to believe that just six months ago, Paris Fashion Week was in full swing. As we ran from show to show underneath umbrellas and finally got the hang of the metro system – hot tip: never try to taxi across the city in peak hour – the threat of COVID was only just starting to permeate, and apart from a few presentations and evening events being pulled, everything ran to schedule. Fast forward one season and designers have had to completely reinvent the wheel: showcasing their spring summer 2021 collections as socially-distanced events, made up of empty rooms and millions watching via live stream.

Opening Paris Fashion Week was Dior, with designer Maria Grazia Chiuri opting to erect a cathedral for the event, sending models down a runway surrounded by Gothic stained-glass windows.

Credit: Supplied.

Unlike Milan Fashion Week, Paris’ mood started off somber, with Dior enlisting 12 a cappella singers to sing 19th-century Corsican mourning hymns as models walked the dark runway in kimono-inspired jackets and anoraks. Speaking after the show, Grazia Chiuri said that the tone of the show was fit for “a depressing moment” in time.

Ensuring the collection was practical for the slow-paced life we’re all currently living, Grazia Chiuri added more relaxed silhouettes to this season, including khaki trousers, oversized shirts, tie-dye and maxi dresses. Everything that can be comfortably worn at home, but with the hopes of taking it outside into the real world sometime soon.

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Inside the venue were just 350 guests, most of whom were French due to COVID travel restrictions, making the show just one-fifth of its usual size. But online told a different story: watching via live-stream were over 95 million people.

The live-stream was broadcast on 12 platforms worldwide, with TikTok and Douyin garnering 27 million views. The video of the show has already been watched more than 115 million times – a huge jump from the brand’s previous live-streams – and the hashtag #DiorSS21 was used 360 million times on hugely popular Chinese micro-blogging site Weibo.

Of course, this spike will be in part due to the Extinction Rebellion gatecrasher, who stood on the runway at the end of the show with a yellow banner in her hand that read, “We are all fashion victims.” In the corner of the flag was the extinction symbol used by the environmental protest group. But as Grazia Chiuri often uses the Dior runway for political messages, from her debut show which included the iconic ‘We should all be feminists’ tee and onward, most guests and viewers didn’t even realize the gatecrasher wasn’t a regularly scheduled part of the show.

For the TikTok loving Gen Z population, this season is likely the first they’ve spent watching designer runways. But if the stats say anything, it looks like it definitely won’t be the last.