From 'new normal' styles to digital runways: Fashion goes on amid the COVID-19 pandemic

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 24)— The COVID-19 pandemic has halted numerous industries— including entertainment, sports, food, retail, and tourism, among others.

As a vaccine for the mysterious virus has yet to be developed, countries around the world have begun preparing for the so-called "new normal"— or the daily life we would have to face amid the outbreak.

Several sectors have started their transitions — with most industries banking on digital platforms. Theater and entertainment shows have leaned on online streaming services, food and beverage industries have amped-up deliveries, while sporting events have decided to resume play in empty arenas.

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But how is the fashion industry— one of the hardest hit by the lockdowns— coping? CNN Philippines spoke to renowned designer Rajo Laurel to gain more insights about the sector's "new normal."

Online shopping, digital runways

With leisure stores closed for the duration of the lockdown, the fashion and retail industry has been limited to digital services— with quarantined citizens resorting to online shopping.

Laurel and his team have also recently launched an initiative that lets colleagues and clients thrive amid the pandemic: holding a virtual fashion show.

"You know, life has to go on and we still need to work and we still need to reach out to the people," Laurel said in an interview with Newsroom Weekend on Sunday, pertaining to the online fashion show project.

"This is the language we know, the language of fashion. So, this is how we express ourselves. We wanted to sort of share how perhaps to begin again - strong," he added.

Organized by Saga Events, the "Rajo Runway Online" featured models strutting down their own makeshift catwalks at home.

'Practical' designs as 'new normal' fashion trends

With the world in a stand-still, the new anticipated fashion trends would have to take a backseat for now.

Laurel said designers would also have to cope with the "new normal"— that is, crafting clothes for communities under lockdown.

"Lahat tayo nakaharap sa computer natin (We're all in front of our computers). So when you're designing you have to think from the waist up. That's one trend," Laurel said.

"So, the trend really right now is to be able to protect ourselves and at the same time, remain comfortable and beautiful in our own home," the designer added, noting the importance of clients' needs, as well as the practicality and sensitivity of future designs.

Baby steps moving forward

While the digital platforms have proven to be a huge help, Laurel admitted that fashion would have to take small steps moving forward, given that the industry is physical and tangible in nature— something discouraged amid lockdowns.

"Fashion, by its very nature, is something that's very tangible. Kailangan mahawakan (it needs to be touched). So, you can just imagine that it's like doing one of your tasks but removing one of your senses," Laurel shared.

"Pero sa palagay ko, ngayon, it's difficult but we need to sort of again move forward. Baby steps kumabaga para tumuloy 'yung mundo namin in the fashion industry."

[Translation: For now, I think it's difficult, but we need to sort of move forward. We have to take baby steps so we can continue with our world in the fashion industry.]

For now, Laurel said physical distancing remains the priority — to protect the health of colleagues and clients in the industry.