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Virtual showrooms seek to fill the fashion week gap

Image of Third Form resort collection
Image of Third Form resort collection
Third Form is one of the brands presenting its collection in the AFC showroom on Ordre.

Fashion brands and buyers are being forced to find new ways to connect outside of major fashion weeks, which have been postponed or outright cancelled due to social distancing restrictions in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

And virtual showroom providers are positioning their platforms to benefit from the shakeup.

Ordre, an online wholesale platform started by the founder of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia (MBFWA), Simon Lock, launched a new section on its website this week for Australian designers to present their resort collections to buyers around the world.

The showroom will feature collections from some of the country’s most successful designers, including Aje, Camilla, Ginger & Smart, KitX, Starteas Carlucci and P.E Nation, with more to be added in the coming weeks.

Launched with the support of the Australian Fashion Council (AFC), the showroom will enable buyers from major retailers, including David Jones, to view the collections through a combination of high-resolution images and video and place wholesale orders.

AFC CEO Leila Naja Hibri described the showroom as an opportunity for brands to reclaim some of the wholesale orders that were cancelled during the worst days of the shutdown.

“David Jones have started to cautiously replace orders and have committed to using AFC Virtual on Ordre to place Resort orders from their existing designers, along with using the platform to discover new talent, as they would during MBFWA at this time of year,” Naja Hibri told Inside Retail in an email.

“Ordre’s own international network of buyers are also likely to boost new wholesale accounts for the brands involved, balancing out some of the orders/accounts they may have lost during the crisis.”

NuOrder is another online wholesale platform looking to boost its profile right now.

The Los Angeles-based company works with more than 2000 brands and 500,000 retailers around the world, including David Jones, The Iconic and General Pants in Australia.

Next month it plans to roll out a number of new features on its platform, including 360-degree product imagery, shoppable videos, designer interviews and more.

Co-CEO and co-founder Heath Wells said the improvements come at a crucial time for the fashion industry.

“We are in a period of great change in our industry. Our customers need a solution to present and sell their products in the absence of any travel,” he said in a statement.

Virtual showrooms have been around for several years, but while it is inarguably cheaper and more efficient to browse and buy collections online than travel to trade events around the world, many buyers previously have said that websites couldn’t replace seeing and feeling an item in person.

But with international travel and large gatherings verboten for the foreseeable future, they may not have any other choice.

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