The Expat Woman

The world’s first Online, Live Fashion Show on Zoom at our EMPOWERED Women’s Leadership Conference, May 2020



Necessity is the mother of invention.

This axiom has never seemed more apparent than with the global shutdown due to the coronavirus.

The pandemic has caused many pivots, and numerous innovations by companies, organizations, and individuals to either support their clients or community affected by the crisis and to keep their businesses or services from going “belly up.”

The shelter-in-place has also led to a plethora of online events across the globe.

Brands that rely on events for valuable marketing and sales have either postponed major in-person events or are leveraging video software and social media to run virtual events.

The Expat Woman was no different.

This year, to celebrate International Women’s Day, we were all set to host The 3rd Annual Expat Woman’s EMPOWERED — Women’s Leadership Conference on March 11th, 2020 in San Francisco.

Then COVID-19 hit the Bay Area, and the shelter-in-place order that was enacted a week before the conference led us to postpone the in-person event to May 27th.

But a couple of weeks ago, with no end in sight to social distancing, we decided to make our event a virtual one.

Since 2013, The Expat Woman has been hosted over 350 in-person events and webinars. However, 2020, when Coronavirus disrupted our lives and our work, marked the first year we expanded our online events to include panel discussions, a virtual global summit, a virtual hackathon, and now this virtual EMPOWERED Conference.

One of the big draws for the conference, besides, of course, the stellar lineup of speakers is the fashion show in partnership with AGAATI, a women-owned, San Francisco-based apparel company.


Image courtesy of AGAATI

On their website, AGAATI states that they are “more than beautiful clothes.”

“We are passionate about making fashion a beautifully creative channel to Educate, Inspire and Transform societies into becoming a solution to Mindless Endless Consumption. Our journey is committed to bringing positive impact for the artisans, makers and planet by empowering customers to doing good, feeling good and looking good.”

Image courtesy of AGAATI

As entrepreneurs or in our case also event hosts, we often have to be ready to step outside our comfort zone and venture into the unknown. When we decided to transition our in-person conference to a digital event, we wanted to keep as much of the agenda the same which included the fashion show.

To our surprise, we learned that coordinating, managing, and running a live virtual fashion show on Zoom had not been done before. No other fashion show organizer has used the platform to run a show. To put this together in such a limited amount of time would require a Herculean effort.

But we were up to the challenge and so was our style partner AGAATI.

“With the current pandemic and pause on physical events we cannot wait and need to move ahead with the resources we have and pivot to new ideas. A virtual show is a great way to stay safe and still remain engaged with what we love doing.” says Saloni Shrestha, the Founder and Designer at AGAATI.

Models at our Women in Clean Health, Beauty and Fashion event in 2019.

Women leaders and rising stars inspire change! The Expat women is a great community to partner with in leading the change towards conscious consumption” she adds.

This virtual fashion show at our EMPOWERED Women’s Leadership Conference featured women leaders, entrepreneurs, women in tech, influencers from the SF Bay Area who in lieu of a ramp walked in their kitchens, corridors, living rooms, bedrooms in AGAATI’s eco, artisanal designs.

Models and our backend team at our EMPOWERED Conference on May 27th.

What was also so special about this show was that not only were the models from diverse professional fields but most were expats from countries including Kazakhstan, Guinea, China, India, and Russia. Or first-generation immigrants. We also have a had a mom and daughter duo walk the ‘virtual ramp’

Mother-daughter duo Emma and Elaine Shen pose for a virtual photo at our fashion show dress rehearsal.

“I think professional women should be “models” for others on and off the runway!” says Ginny Cheng, a Recruiting Leader at Zillow Group and also a Happiness Coach at Career Contessa.

“I have participated in other fashions shows but excited to be in my first Zoom one! I am participating in the fashion show because I believe we all have talents beyond our careers that help shape us on many levels. AGAATI’s designs are beautiful, and can be worn by diverse groups of women. I think more professional women should model because we are the ones wearing the clothes in real life. We add life to the clothes! “says Anisha Rassai, Technical Recruiter at The Sourcery

We scoured the net to see if anyone else has hosted a virtual fashion show during this pandemic and did come across some creative shows.

Anifa Mvuemba, collection, debuted her collection with this groundbreaking online 3D fashion show on Instagram

BAZAAR’s global fashion director, Carine Roitfeld also hosted a YouTube-streamed edition of CR Runway. The models were filmed in their homes prior to the live streaming on youtube and the final show was edited and then aired on Youtube.

“Online-live shows, like the one we’re doing for The Expat Woman, do bring a unique energy, as we’re collaborating together, in a shared moment of time. It is exciting to participate in a cross-industry event, with women leaders with a variety of backgrounds and also showcase AGAATI’s designs. Saloni’s commitment to sustainability goals and fair wages for artisans make her a leader in the fashion industry.

In the long-term, I believe there will always be a place for live-in-person runway shows. In-person events are truly immersive experiences, which allow guests to participate in the storyline of an event. We’ll still want occasions to dress-up, leave our homes, and socialize.” says Rachel Fischbein, Executive Director at Fashion Incubator San Francisco

Zoom is not the ideal platform as it’s not been set up for fashion shows. But as it was part of our EMPOWERED Conference agenda, where over 200 paid guests will be joining us, we had to make it work for us. We did use some of their features like “spotlight” to showcase each model and the gallery view at the end of the show so we had all the models on screen. After hours of figuring out how to best use the platform for this virtual show, online training and practices with the models, the fashion show went off smoothly without a hitch. And the models really rocked AGAATi’s designs.

The models walked to the music of Sweet Water, Neo Soul-Hip Hop Vocalist and Songwriter, Oakland based artist Osunfemi Wanbi Njeri who will also kicked off the conference with a live performance of her song ‘
Warrior Woman

It was truly fantastic to be the first to host a live, “modeling from home” fashion show on Zoom. Our guests from across the globe not only had the opportunity to watch the show from the comfort of their homes but also could comment on the designs in real-time .

Fantastic show! I love the phasing in/out with the flowers. Beautiful clothes!” – Andrea

Margarita, one of the models at the show looking stunning in an AGAATI creation.

We believe virtual fashion shows will be the new normal, as they will be more accessible, and global. And hopefully, we will also see designers using “real women’ who are not traditionally models showcase their designs.

And we were excited to play our small role in contributing to digital fashion during COVID-19 with this live fashion show on Zoom.



Nyna is the Founder and CEO of The Expat Woman, a global platform focused on connecting, supporting and empowering women who have moved abroad or plan to relocate. She is also a LinkedIn coach, consultant, trainer and speaker. LinkedIn played a huge role in my professional journey abroad, helping me build a network of powerful expat women and allies.

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