Giorgio Armani lent his powerful voice to the slower-fashion movement earlier this year, penning an open letter to WWD calling for action on “the overproduction of garments and a criminal nonalignment between the weather and the commercial season.
“The decline of the fashion system as we know it began when the luxury segment adopted the operating methods of fast fashion, mimicking the latter’s endless delivery cycle in the hope of selling more, yet forgetting that luxury takes time, to be achieved and to be appreciated,” he wrote.
Here, Armani gives an update on his efforts — which stretch to celebrities on the red carpet — and urges further vigilance to bring fashion to a higher social and environmental awareness:
WWD: You vowed to keep summer collections in stores until the beginning of September. How did your customers respond?
Giorgio Armani: The reaction has been very positive, in Europe as in America and, unexpectedly, also in Asia. It must be said that the situation is still developing: Recently we have witnessed a second wave of closures that makes it very difficult to evaluate the result of our actions. But the results at the end of the summer, and then in September and October, were encouraging. I have received a great deal of letters and messages with positive feedback, and the store managers have confirmed this to me.
WWD: What other steps are you taking for the fall season and beyond to help slow down fashion, reduce waste and restore value to designer fashions? And why?
G.A.: This is a theme that I am passionate about and committed to for a long time, and not only in the current, very problematic climate. It is mainly a matter of respect: for customers who should not be misled, for the planet that should not be destroyed, and for my own work, which should not be performed in a foolish way, taking away value from everything because of excess production and communication.
The main steps are the reduction of the range in all the lines, with the merging of pre-collection and fashion shows, for example, and the linking of the men’s and women’s collections in the show. Then there is a decisive movement toward sustainability, which is already very evident in Emporio with the R-EA concept collection, and in AX, which is 40 percent sustainable. The search for sustainable materials naturally also concerns the Armani Casa collections, because it must be a circular effort, a continuous giving and receiving across the entire spectrum of the Armani world.
It is the same circularity that led me to reconvert our production facilities at the time of our country’s greatest need, or to offer support through donations to local charities: a precise choice, which this year replaces, for example, the sending of substantial gifts. I preferred, instead, to offer hot meals to the needy, because what we are experiencing has created major and widespread poverty, which does not leave me unmoved.
And in the circularity of thought, with a view to doing less and better, I also involve celebrities and red-carpet events: no more creations worn only once, with an enormous waste of skills and resources. I welcome the clothes that are worn many times, and a new conscience. Just as it happened a few evenings ago for the opening night of La Scala in Milan, when numerous artists performed in clothes that were previously worn, but no less impressive. By means of all these coordinated actions, I think it is possible to reestablish value in the work of us designers, making it tangible and ethical, instead of merely frivolous, without ever relinquishing beauty.
WWD: How would you grade the overall industry in terms of slowing down and correcting product cycles and fixing the markdown problem?
G.A.: Unfortunately, I have to say that, after an initial period of widespread good intentions, part of the system seems to be tempted to quickly return to its starting point, not least for the desire to maintain media visibility through an intense rhythm of activities and new proposals. So the long-awaited slowdown doesn’t seem to be coming true for everyone: several collections keep coming out, at a rapid pace.
There has been a generalized lengthening of the life cycle of the collections in stores, also to make up for the losses during the hardest times, and generally this will lead to a less foolish markdown policy. In my opinion, more should be done, starting with design and production. We must abandon our pattern of irresponsible thinking, and adopt a higher social and environmental awareness, because luxury is not fast fashion, not to mention that even fast fashion seems to have reached the end of its useful life.