Fashion as we know it, a manic treadmill of multiple season endless drops, and frenzied travel, is over. If some in the industry have their way, fashion as we knew it back when — a two-season focus with creativity at the fore – may be making a comeback, a back-to-the-future transition triggered by the coronavirus crisis.
Today, the Council of Fashion of Designers of America and the British Fashion Council will deliver to their memberships a joint message of purpose in response to the havoc wrought on the global fashion industry by the COVID-19 crisis. The missive’s recommendations are based on member input.
“The COVID-19 pandemic is hitting the fashion industry from every angle,” the statement reads. It offers that, “while there is no immediate end in sight, there is an opportunity to rethink and reset the way in which we all work and show our collections.”
The reset was a long time in coming, and only hastened by COVID-19. The statement maintains that, “The fashion system must change, and it must happen at every level….…These changes have been overdue for a while, and the fallout from [the] coronavirus has forced us all to prioritize the process of rethinking how our industry should function.”
The two fashion organizations cite “the relentlessness of fashion’s unforgiving pace…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.”
The joint missive stems from the close, long-term relationships of CFDA chairman Tom Ford and chief executive officer Steven Kolb with BCF ceo Caroline Rush and chair Stephanie Phair. The overarching message reflects a theme now coursing through fashion in general — the need to slow down and reset, inclusive of what is becoming an industrywide battle cry to shrink production, focus on quality over quantity and erase “the clear disconnect between when clothes are delivered to stores and when the customer needs them.”
Specific attention is also given to a reemphasis on creativity, the heart of which is a return to a schedule with a major focus on two collections each year. “We understand the commercial need for pre-collections and the need to fulfill the delivery windows of the current pre-collections,” the statement reads. “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.”
While acknowledging that the spring 2021 showing season will be a virtual one, the statement looks ahead to a time, post-crisis, when in-person events can resume. There, it seems to take aim at the itinerant behemoth that defines the European cruise season. “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 of traveling constantly. This, too, has placed tremendous stress on the industry and significantly increased each individual’s carbon footprint.”
Yet scaling back the preseasons applies broadly. Homing in on two primary seasons “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 will also have a mental health benefit, providing an “opportunity to reduce the stress levels of designers and their teams, which in turn will have a positive effect on the overall well-being of the industry.”
Another key issue: sustainability. The statement encourages not only less product but better, more creative product, that extends its desirability and life span. “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.”