Basic Event Information
Date: September 14th, 2020
Location: Metropol Palace 5* yard, Belgrade, Serbia
Organiser: Vekol DHC
Client: Verica Rakočević Couture
EVENT CATEGORY: B2B
EVENT SUBCATEGORY: Best Corporate Convention / B2B
EVENT FORMAT: HYBRID
Event description and key objectives
To simply say Verica Rakočević is one of the most iconic self-made fashion designers in the Balkans that managed to keep her fashion empire grow for almost four decades, would still probably be considered an understatement. A wonder woman with a strong vision and a need to give back to the community, Verica Rakočević pushed the boundaries of high fashion industry in Serbia and beyond, powered by the experience design that was created by DHC Vekol.
Hybrid project “O2xygen” – never before seen in fashion industry – aimed to present the Fall-winter collection 2020/21 by paying tribute to the worldwide medical workers fighting pandemics and giving them all the attention and spotlight. The show was inspired by and dedicated to medical staff throughout the world who are fighting Covid-19 and for the occasion, doctors and nurses were invited to walk the runway as guests of honor – modern heroines and true role models of the notorious year 2020.
It was a moment in time that we did not choose, a struggle humanity could have never prepared for. For the very first time in our lifetimes, crave for O2XYGEN felt so genuine and raw. COVID-19 posed an unprecedented global public health threat, having escalated in the midst of the fall-winter 2020 fashion season, causing brands and design houses throughout the world to shutter their doors and postpone the upcoming runway shows. Major events, including the Met Gala and the CFDA Awards, have been postponed indefinitely.
In the very moment when the entire fashion industry was experiencing a breakdown, we decided to create a unique HYBRID experience for all fashion lovers in Serbia and beyond.
Epidemiological measures were so severe that at first they seemed impossible to follow. However, we managed to specially design the protocol for the occasion, so only thirty guests could experience the catwalk live, while the broader public followed the show through their screens. After days of heavy negotiations, all necessary permits were obtained by the city officials and the execution of the event was supervised by the law enforcement units.
Inspired by daily courage of healthcare workers around the world, Verica Rakočević was the first fashion designer in the region to step to the side and say THANK YOU, WE WILL ENDURE, WE WILL WIN. The little things that wove in our everyday lives – canceled jobs, changed plans, uncertainty as a constant, life full of anxiety in the present… We all needed something to get through. We all needed our O2XYGEN.
“We are paying tribute to all these front-line health workers that are spending 16 hours in a row in their protective suits without rest, without air conditioning, without being able to hug their families for weeks”, as put in the designer’s words that brought the audience journey to the climax, when dozens of modern-day heroes gathered on the catwalk for the final defile.
Playing on a loop, the viewers gained a first-class ticket to the front row, first through a mini-documentary that we played moments before the show began. Verica Rakočević Couture presentation was a groundbreaking display of what is possible in fashion’s new normal.
By creating the digital-forward fashion show, we re-invented the runway. We designed the interface that looked futuristic, with features rooted in gaming, in order to reimagine the fashion show and make the user experience unique. The immersive technologies and the power of social media helped us democratize the format and make the show more accessible for all respected clients that were unable to attend due to the lock-down.
Hiring professional catwalk models is a tried-and-tested method for fashion of all sizes, but we decided to take it one step further: instead of staying on a safe side, we hired real-life doctors and nurses and entrusted them with conveying the emotion of admiration and compassion to the audience. The result: ultimate catharsis and an intense emotional release of all present.
The event set-up concept was also brand new: to reconcile the practice of social distancing with intimacy at what is traditionally a very social event, was achieved with a little help of a professional exterior designer and some greenery which fit perfectly into the existing background and made the atmosphere feel more natural and attendees more comfortable.
You couldn’t help but think: this is the future of fashion shows!
Preparation of the event started few weeks before the event in order to make the space suitable for the event. Setup of the scenography, technical and program rehearsal were done day before the event. Another program rehearsal was done morning before the event. Central part of the scenography was a big stage with LED screen behind. Client had many interesting presentation
The very first hybrid runway show in the Balkans took place out on the open, in the beautiful gardens of the Metropol Palace 5* Hotel – Belgrade’s central setting surrounded by lavish greenery.
Four cargo trucks full of AV equipment were unloaded in the backyard for the impeccable live streaming of the event, three parallel TV direction utilities were set next to each other while 12 cameras transmitted the signal on 14 m2 of LED screens. The livestream immediately gained viewers by the thousands.
Vekol DHC envisioned, designed and executed the event from scratch. Our creative team worked for weeks to design a special user experience for the attendees witnessing the event via their smart devices, while on-site attendees were greeted by a range of innovative features introduced to maximize visitor safety. All necessary permissions were beforehand acquired from the highest city authorities and promotional campaign lasted for three weeks in domestic and foreign media.
The invite-only event triggered a lot of demand from the first moment, so over 3 000 invitees watched the live broadcast of the new Fall-winter ready-to-wear 2020/21 collection launch in real time. Social media organic reach was estimated to over 100 000 unique views in the first 24 hours. In-person, the event gathered crème de la crème of Serbian high society and media, including a few guests of honor such as the President of the National Assembly of Serbia and the Mayor of Belgrade.
While some hybrid experiments have proven impressive globally, they usually did not quite match the commercial impact of a physical show. Statistically, digital presentations on average generate less than one-third of effect as in-person shows. However, due to the media buzz that our event created, the entire “O2xygen” collection was sold out from stores in less than a week – twice faster than ever before.
The media coverage and output after the show was amazing: over 300 publications, including print press releases, recordings, interviews, TV shows and other, revealing a clearly positive sentiment. On Social Media, posts related to the show went viral under the hashtag #KISEONIK.
There is no doubt we created one of the most anticipated events of 2020, that would later be rated “touching”, “moving” and “history-making” by viewers and the press. The show was called “spectacular” and “admirable” By Hello! Magazine.
The use of sustainable practices
Although fashion shows started out a much more intimate affair back in the days, over the course of time they’ve grown to become one of the most excessive and unsustainable productions. The project “O2xygen” was executed in full accordance with our Green Commitment Policy and sustainability credentials and all precautions were taken during the show in order to minimize any negative impact on the environment. COVID19 naturally led us to accentuate a more experiential digital viewing of the collections by press and customers unable to travel and attend the event, automatically decreasing CO2 emission, weather coming from road or air traffic. We designed branded multi-use face masks that were presented to the attendees as part of the designer gift box.
“O2xygen” also went full digital from scratch to execution – we digitally optimized every step of the planning process and give priority to paperless communication that is beneficial for both business and our planet. Verica Rakočević joined the growing number of ethical and sustainable luxury brands, as her design philosophy strongly promotes environmental and social responsibility and supports animal rights. She is constantly experimenting with new sustainable materials and technologies, by using organic cotton, ethically sourced wool, regenerated cashmere, recycled textiles, while excluding fur and leather from her collections.