MILAN — Giorgio Armani has said it for years.
Meeting the press after his fashion shows, he would firmly chastise those designers he believed were turning fashion into a circus, lamenting how unwearable designs would catch the attention of the press. Last June, Armani once again said the clothes should be the focus of a show, not the location, and nixed the idea of channeling money into costly traveling shows at exotic locations around the world. His own shows outside of Italy were generally linked to the opening of a new flagship, for example. “I don’t agree with this trend. I want to see the clothes, not where they are being shown — that is a spectacle. Now it’s not about what to design but where to show those designs. I find it ridiculous — not to speak of the travel costs,” he said back then.
Fast-forward to spring 2020, and the world is being wrecked by the coronavirus pandemic, which is not only a health emergency but a financial crisis that is raising questions about the future, how and when the industry will rebound and what customers will want from brands and stores.
On Friday, Armani sent an open letter to WWD reacting to an article published here a day earlier and musing on the possibility of the crisis yielding to slower fashion and long-lasting designs, which he has long embraced, and to collections aligned with the seasons, which he will endorse by stretching the summer season into September, for a start.
Here, Armani takes the time to respond to questions about a possible post-COVID-19 landscape.
WWD: Do you think that you will also endorse smaller collections and tighter shows?
Giorgio Armani: Yes, I do. There is definitely too much offer versus real need.
WWD: You have experimented with coed shows. Do you think you could embrace them going forward? Could they also contribute to a slower-paced fashion? And would the timing work, September and February?
G.A.: Possibly, but we are still evaluating this formula.
WWD: Who would actually drive a change in the show schedule? The designers, the fashion bodies or the retailers?
G.A.: Our clients’ needs and expectations should really drive the schedule, whilst securing the structures the brands have put in place.
WWD: The fact that you will keep summer on the racks until September is obviously an important change. How will you work with wholesalers to be aligned? Do you think they will listen given the change in the global scenario?
G.A.: I don’t expect everyone to be aligned but I expect to be listened to by those that understand the problems fashion has been facing lately.
WWD: What is your stance on markdowns?
G.A.: We have to find a formula for which sales aren’t just a big writing on the storefronts but are rather a more personal, quieter, direct formula with clients. E-commerce also needs to make some choices.
The ideal situation would be if we could limit the offer and match the timing of our collections with the “seasonal needs” of our clients; in this way we could avoid or dramatically limit discounts.
WWD: How do you think you will deal with inventory this year? Are you thinking of skipping a season? Will having carryover products help you? Do you think of even expanding their number?
G.A.: We are currently evaluating skipping or reducing to the minimum the pre-fall collections. I think it is sufficient to show one collection only, which includes also the pre-collections. The difference between the pre-collections and the show is given mostly by delivery dates.<
WWD: After staying at home for so long, and given the economy, do you expect people to want to go out and buy fancier clothes because they are tired of lounging in their sweatpants, or do you think that they will want more casual, less ostentatious designs?
G.A.: I think people will want clothes that last.
WWD: You have been incredibly generous supporting the fight against the coronavirus and we know that you have converted the production at your manufacturing plants in Italy. What is the status with your supply chain?
G.A.: We have transformed all our factories in the north of Italy to produce medical overalls which we are gifting to the closest hospitals taking all necessary precautions. The first shipments are going out these days.
WWD: Would you perhaps consider buying some of your suppliers after all this has passed?
G.A.: Maybe, why not? We will have to certainly re-evaluate the overall value chain of our business model.
WWD: The conclusion of your letter sends a clear message to American department stores. Are they listening?
G.A.: I can’t answer this exactly but I hope that, seeing the very difficult situation we are facing, also the big department stores, key players in the fashion system, think carefully about this possibility as we will all need to work together to find better solutions.
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