The Red Carpet’s New Phygital Reality
A point of view by Lauren Stillman, Senior Vice President at ITB Worldwide
The marketing buzzword “phygital” has been around for a few years, but didn’t really cross my lexicon until the Coronavirus induced mandate to stay at home. Describing a blending of digital experiences with physical ones, it jumped to the forefront of conversation in light of a complete shutdown of bricks and mortar retail sites and physical event spaces. All of a sudden, we were experiencing a reality where physical experiences were no longer the norm or gold standard, and the digital world became where life could be lived freely and easily. As I watched Hollywood’s official return to the red carpet with the “virtual” Emmys ceremony, I couldn’t help but think of how this phygital reality is starting to play out in the red carpet space and what that means for the future of VIP Dressing.
While typically used to describe the emergence of spring after a long winter, “reawakening” is what September 2020 felt like for those of us in the fashion industry. It was the first major return of fashion collections with global fashion month and the first major return to the whirl of red carpet and VIP Dressing with the Venice Film Festival and Primetime Emmys. With no physical red carpet in sight and an edict from the Television Academy to dress up at home in whatever you feel like, Hollywood managed to effectively roll out the entertaining escapism of fashion in a blended physical and virtual celebration – effectively remixing a format that, to many, may have felt a little stale.
As a 20-year veteran of VIP Dressing activity, I can speak from experience about the definitive rhythm of VIP Dressing work. Step one: leverage relationships to secure a placement. Step two: talent arrives on the red carpet and makes their way down the “step & repeat” (one hand on hip, one foot in front, pose, step sideways and repeat). Step three: photos from the red carpet appear on the wires and PRs feverishly share the photos with media contacts so that the world will know who the designer is behind the high-impact looks.
Emmys 2020 disrupted this traditional rhythm, bringing a new “phygital” reality to the red carpet – with photos released both via professional wire services for the select few who appeared at the Staples Center, as well as on talent’s own social media platforms from their homes across the world. This unique blend of the physical and digital worlds allowed for more exposure than ever, as well as a refreshing glimpse into talent’s personalities and personal lives.
As we continue the progression of life in the covid era, data has shown that our values are starting to shift to a desire for more relatable and authentic content. The Emmys managed to capture this realism successfully. What we saw emerge from this awards show was not only an abundance of fashion, but more importantly, it was character, realism and originality. Without the formulaic set up of the literal red carpet and accompanying photo pen, talent were able to express themselves in a more natural setting, giving avid viewers a welcome diversity of content. From Rachel Brosnahan’s family photo complete with crowd-pleasing pups, to Zendaya’s heartfelt win surrounded by her endearing cast of friends and family, to Yvonne Orji’s glam BLM tribute (wearing ITB client Azzi & Osta), the personal format of an Instagram release brought each talent’s individuality to the forefront. While the entertainment industry evaluates how they want to continue to face the challenges of events in a global pandemic, I hope to see a continuation of the refreshing modernity of a phygital red carpet.