The COVID-19 pandemic has hit the fashion industry from every angle and the full impact is yet to be seen. Saint Laurent and Gucci have already announced they’d be dropping out of the traditional calendar, leading to an opportunity to rethink and reset the way the industry works and shows collections.
The Council of Fashion Designers of America and British Fashion Council have been in close communication. They now share the common perspectives of their members and the organisations. Following are the points published as an address to the industry:
We are united in our steadfast belief that the fashion system must change, and it must happen at every level. We are listening to many conversations taking place.
We encourage our brands, designers and retailers, who are used to fashion’s fast, unforgiving pace, to slow down. For a long time, there have been too many deliveries and too much merchandise generated. With existing inventory stacking up, designers and retailers must also look at the collections cycle and be very strategic about their products and how and when they intend to sell them.
There is a clear disconnect from when things arrive in-store to when the customer actually needs them. The delivery cadence should shift closer to the season for which it is intended.
Together, we strongly recommend designers focus on no more than two main collections a year. We firmly believe this can provide our talents with the time they need to reconnect to the creativity and craft that makes our field so unique in the first place. A slower pace also offers an opportunity to reduce the stress levels of designers and their teams, which in turn will have a positive effect on the overall wellbeing of the industry.
We understand the commercial need for pre-collections and the need to fulfil the delivery windows of the current pre-collections. However, we recommend that these return to their original intended purpose, which was to offer the consumer beautiful clothes that carry the ethos of the individual brands but are not necessarily sufficiently fashion forward to warrant a show. When we are able to hold in-person events and showings, we would recommend that these presentations return to the showrooms.
Once this crisis is over and non-virtual events can resume, we also recommend that brands attempt to show during the regular fashion calendar and in one of the global fashion capitals in order to avoid the strain on buyers and journalists travelling constantly. This too has placed tremendous stress on the fashion industry and significantly increased each individual’s carbon footprint.
Sustainability is an important conversation in every industry. Through the creation of less product, with higher levels of creativity and quality, products will be valued and their shelf life will increase. The focus on creativity and quality of products, reduction in travel and focus on sustainability (something we encourage of the entire industry) will increase the consumer’s respect and ultimately their greater enjoyment in the products that we create.
While physical in-person presentations are likely impossible, the fashion councils will nevertheless focus on creating fashion calendars and other formats that will highlight and help to organise the virtual presentations for the Spring Summer collections.
The message further stresses that the need to align as a global fashion industry during these times has become more apparent. Fashion is a business of creativity and new ideas and difficult times are also ones for innovation.
In the end, perhaps the world needed a major crisis for the fashion industry to re-assess its activity and impact. Perhaps, consumerism needed a reset. Maybe this will see better products and less of fast fashion – something many do not support nor align with. After all, it’s high time to reduce unnecessary buying.