Backstage at Acne Studios RTW Spring 2020

LONDON — The endless fashion week cycle and the physical waste it generates — between samples produced, runway show costs, plane tickets purchased, and time spent to-ing and fro-ing to showrooms — is old news. Everyone realizes it has to stop, but few are brave enough to make big changes in an inherently wasteful industry.

Designers, particularly smaller, independent brands with budgets to manage, are slowly starting to address the issue by showing two large collections a year, that can then be divided into multiple drops. This is particularly relevant for accessories, as the brands don’t have to stage fashion shows or participate as actively as their rtw-focused counterparts.

They are finding that producing two comprehensive pre-collections — and hosting showrooms during the January and June pre-collection markets — makes a lot more sense.

“Most retailers allocate 70 percent of their budget to pre-collections, which makes designing a whole new collection for ‘main’ wasteful in sample production costs,” said Estelle Orilland, who recently founded the handbag label Stee Atelier and who previously worked for the likes of Chloé, Stella McCartney and Marni as an accessories designer.

“Encouraging retailers to make two bigger orders a year instead of four smaller orders cuts delivery costs, and therefore emissions, by half and saves on waste in production. This is in line with the brands’ sustainability goals for the future and slow fashion approach, encouraging the consumer to buy less, but higher quality,” she added.

It’s a win-win for retailers, too, according to Orilland, as there is opportunity for some breathing space in their buying schedules. She said they have “the best chance of selling through their orders” by doing it early in the season and having a bigger time frame to sell before the sale period begins.

“[This approach] is very relevant to the accessories market because there’s less of an evolution between collections than ready-to-wear, with consumers buying fewer bags per season and using them for longer. But we are finding some ready-to-wear brands are also moving to two collections a year,” she added.

Acne Studios and Roksanda are among the rtw brands that have opted out of pre-collections in favor of showing two bigger collections a year as part of their catwalk shows, and selling everything to buyers postshow.

Showroom owners are also standing behind the shift.

Maria Kastani, who represents up-and-comers such as the Turkish handbag label Mehry Mu and the Greek jeweler Katerina Makriyanni, has been opting to connect with buyers in Paris during the January and June pre-collections as a way of offering the brands she works with, as well as the buyers, more breathing space.

“It’s more fair for designers, and it relieves a lot of stress. You don’t have the pressure of designing pre and starting main right after,” she said. “This way, you can have more clarity on your vision and what you have to say.”

Kastani was among the first to shift her business’ schedule more than two years ago.

“The system has to change and things need to simplify. Buyers are happier, too, as they can place their orders for both pre and main simultaneously and have more time to analyze what they’ve bought into. You catch them at a time when they have more time — and bigger budgets — to spend on you.”

She added that this new way of operating is often critical to the success of younger labels and has played a big role in the rapid success of Mehry Mu, which had a successful launch on Net-a-porter last year.

The same applies to the Athens-based label Evi Grintela, whose chic shirtdresses lured more than 40 international luxury stockists from Net, to to Bergdorf Goodman.

“Young brands cannot incur the cost of going to Paris four times a year. They need more room to breathe, and to have their voices heard,” added Kastani.