It’s safe to say that everything everywhere is facing a cruel world of uncertainty. Stores are closing, offices are unoccupied, the roads are empty and leaving the house is frowned upon. Every industry is facing an existential crisis, including fashion.
The Fashion Industry has always relied on the popularity of others, capitalising on media attention and making itself exclusive to those of high status. We’ve watched Victoria’s Secret meet its demise after refusing to make itself more accessible and watched Fashion Shows be slammed for their use of underage, garishly thin models as well as the industry’s lack of sustainability and use of sweatshops.
This has resulted in many, including Anna Wintour declaring that they needed to “rethink what this industry stands for.” In the midst of a pandemic that has cancelled international travel, Fashion Week, factory production and retail stores; the Fashion Industry is truly falling apart.
With orders being stuck in factories, studios and stores closing down, many major luxury houses have lost sales and other designers are either claiming bankruptcy or going into administration. These include J.C Penney, Neiman Marcus, J. Crew, Oasis, Debenhams and Cath Kidston. Rachel Green’s favourite Barney’s has also shut and Topshop and Primark have cancelled millions of pounds of orders, leaving the factories that produce them without work or revenue.
Fast fashion has characterised the industry for years. We have lived in an era of purchasing the latest and greatest so that we may snap a photo, post it, and leave it behind for the next great Instagram purchase. The industry adopted a ‘See Now, Buy Now’ model which increased the rate that clothes were designed, made and sold. Often, it meant that profits were diluted by how quickly seasons changed, leaving many clothes on the sales racks. However, in a time when things have slowed down, pockets are tightening and going out for fancy dinners or shows have ceased, this approach just isn’t sustainable.
In response, the British Fashion Council and Council of Fashion Designers America have asked all designers to “focus on creativity and quality of products” to minimise over-production and requested a “reduction in travel and focus on sustainability.” They explained that “the fashion system must change, and it must happen at every level.” Encouraging brands to “slow down” they suggested that brands only focused on two main collections a year to compensate for the significantly reduced buyers’ market. Saks Fifth Avenue, Dries Van Noten, Craig Green, Marine Serre and Grace Wales Bonner have agreed by proposing an Autumn/Winter season from August to January and a Spring/Summer one from February to July.
With travel cancelled, stores shutting up and studios laying off staff and designers, Fashion Week has screeched to a holt. The British Fashion Council has considered making everything online by creating a digital platform to host podcasts, webinars, designer diaries, interviews and digital showrooms of the brands. The Rewiring Fashion report proposed that future shows become “events primarily designed to engage customers, creating awareness and desire for collections just before deliveries arrive in stores.” This would give designers increased freedom over how their shows look and their format.
Saint Laurent is one brand that has decided to completely disregard the traditional Paris Fashion Week calendar and do things its own way. It is likely that we will see many more brands do the same.
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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.
It’s not all doom and gloom for the Fashion Industry though, especially if you’re soon-to-be-trillionaire Jeff Bezos whose company Amazon has combined with Vogue to launch an online store selling luxury independent designers: A Common Thread: Vogue x Amazon. This retail outlet could bring brands back from the brink of bankruptcy and provide a space to boost and hold sales of stock.
The Fashion Industry, like every other, is drowning in a sea of uncertainty and it seems that the only solution is to undergo serious change and re-modelling.
We’ll be keeping a keen eye out for more updates and will let you know as soon as they happen. Subscribe to FIB’s Weekly Alchemy Report for your weekly dose of music, fashion and pop culture news!