If there's any positive to the COVID-19 pandemic, it's that slowing down and staying home have enabled us to take stock of what matters most as well as how we've been operating. For fashion businesses, it has truly been an awakening. With store closures in most parts of the world, and factories ceasing operations, there's both a lack in demand and a surplus in stocks that are not moving at their usual pace. Add to the fact that we're already inching towards a new fashion season and most brands are unable to produce autumn/winter 2020 collections yet.
This begs the questions: Is the fashion calendar system flawed? And are we producing too much?
The answer to both is yes. At least, according to a number of luxury fashion brands that have since expressed their intentions to change the way their collections are produced and launched.
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Conscient de la conjoncture actuelle et des changements radicaux qu’elle induit, Saint Laurent prend la décision de repenser son approche au temps et d’instaurer son propre calendrier. Aujourd’hui plus que jamais, la marque contrôlera sa périodicité et légitimera la valeur du temps, à son rythme, tout en privilégiant le rapport aux personnes et à leur quotidien. De ce fait, Saint Laurent ne présentera pas ses collections dans le cadre des calendriers officiels de l’année 2020. Saint Laurent décidera de son agenda et ses lancements suivront un plan optimisé et guidé par les besoins de la créativité.
Taking the lead was Saint Laurent. A Saint Laurent fashion show has become one of the hot tickets of late during Paris Fashion Week—a seasonal spectacle that showcases Paris' Eiffel Tower in its full glory and attended by a bevy of celebrities and supermodels. But on 27 April 2020, the fashion house announced that it will not be participating in any of the pre-set show schedules for the year. Saint Laurent is choosing instead to launch collections "following a plan conceived with an up-to-date perspective, driven by creativity". What that entails remains to be seen, and it's unclear if this strategy will be implemented beyond the rest of 2020; judging by how the statement released was worded however, it does seem likely that this change is poised to be a permanent one.
Dries Van Noten, quite similarly, is proposing that seasonal collection drops align with actual seasons. As it stands, spring/summer collections would typically launch during winter around January and February, while autumn/winter collections would start arriving in stores in the middle of summer. Not only has that meant that clothes in stores are just not appropriate for the climate, it shortens the time that a collection is available at full price as retailers start rolling out end-of-season sales and discounts before 'seasons' actually end.
In an open letter to the fashion industry at large, Van Noten details how the fashion calendar system should be tweaked. This mainly includes shifting the fashion season to be in line with that of the real world's, starting with the autumn/winter 2020 season. Based on this proposal, autumn/winter collections should ideally be available from August to January, and spring/summer collections from February to July, with end-of-season sales starting only in January and July.
Additionally, there's also a proposal to be more sustainable. By sticking to a more real-world schedule, there's less of a need for pre-collections, equating to less manufacturing and end-product wastage. Van Noten is also championing for fashion shows and presentations to be reviewed, as well as the inclusion of digital showrooms as a way to reduce unnecessary travel within the industry.
The open letter spearheaded by Van Noten has seen more than 600 signatures to date. Signatories include a wide gamut of individuals and businesses across the industry, including brands such as Acne Studios, Missoni, Craig Green, Thom Browne, as well as big-name retailers such as Nordstrom, Bergdorf Goodman and Mytheresa.
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1/6 • “We could never have imagined to feel so connected to life through a bond of trembling and heartbreaking tenderness. We could never have thought to reconnect, so deeply, with the fragility of our creatural destiny. Our need for reciprocity. We turned out to be so small. A miracle of nothing,” We Turned Out to be So Small, March 29, 2020. @alessandro_michele wrote a diary in these months, ‘Notes from the Silence’. #AlessandroMichele. Read the diary entries through link in bio.
In an unexpected move, and quite possibly the most influential to date, Italian fashion house Gucci announced in May that it will no longer hold five fashion shows a year. The number will be stripped down to just two fashion show collections and both will be designed seasonless. As a fashion powerhouse that has been championing an excessive more-is-more aesthetic under the creative direction of Alessandro Michele, the move is both surprising and logical. It's logical in the sense that with such a consistent aesthetic, Gucci's collections are interchangeable and would benefit from a 'seasonless' tag.
Michele shares in a series of diary entries of how the speed in which fashion has been working at, is destroying the planet: "We usurped nature, we dominated and wounded it." And that the changes that will be made are more in line with his creativity and "expressive call".