LONDON — To every thing there is a season, says the Bible, but that no longer rings true for the runway, where brands and designers are tossing out their traditional calendars and dismissing trends as they aim to cater to a wide pool of customers and create clothes that can weather multiple seasons.
Two of the most dynamic brands in fashion — Balenciaga and Gucci — have already let go of seasonal themes and narratives, an idea pioneered by Demna Gvasalia at Vetements. That idea is only gaining momentum, with Vetements taking a stand against the speed and disposable nature of fashion and filling the windows of Harrods with old, unwanted or discarded merch that will eventually be upcycled.
During London Fashion Week, which runs from today to Feb. 20, J.W. Anderson will show its first combined men’s and women’s show and founder Jonathan Anderson is adamant that it not be pegged to a particular moment of the year.
“We’re getting rid of seasons. It’s about [delivery] drops, and the idea is to create clothing that’s trans-seasonal. I think a lot of the market is starting to move that way,” Anderson said in an interview during his Loewe men’s show in Paris.
He believes designers can no longer afford to prioritize the delivery needs of the American department stores or even the Asian customer. Different climates, the fast-fading idea of trends and the desire for building a sustainable wardrobe has spurred him into action.
“In America you have sub-zero temperatures and in Japan you have amazing weather. There’s this odd bipolarization, and there are so many emerging markets in between America and Asia. We all wanted globalization and we’ve got it. So, deal with it,” he said.
Anderson added that while there will always be “another fashion week and another collection,” he said it’s crucial that he create clothing that’s meant to last. He wants his customers to pair last year’s shirt with this year’s coat, and not look strange. It’s important not to “devalue the asset” his customer has just bought by changing direction each season, Anderson said.
Trends, he believes, are no longer relevant. “I don’t think the industry is trend-led anymore because there are so many things happening. You have to do something that is your own, and not worry about what everyone else is doing.”
Anderson isn’t the only British designer holding those views. As he marks a decade in the business, Henry Holland has made a similar decision: This season he’s whittled down his range to 23 styles from the usual 80 to 100, and said his focus is on catering to consumers’ needs, creating a buildable wardrobe, rather than singular splashy looks for the runway.
“What the consumer wants from us are the same things, again and again,” with updates or a refresh, Holland said. “No one wants designers to be reinventing the wheel every three months.”
Like Anderson, Holland is no longer thinking in terms of seasons because that’s not how women dress, he said. “A person’s wardrobe is not seasonal. It stays the same in the summer and the winter: In the summer it’s the printed dress, in the winter it’s the same dress with tights, or maybe a shearling. Today, it’s everyday pieces — like a hoodie — that are fashionable and coveted.”
Burberry was the first big brand to refer to its collections simply as February and September as part of its see-now-buy-now model and fellow British brand Mulberry took a similar trans-seasonal tack.
“We’re designing for the world now, and it’s a much more democratic approach,” said Mulberry’s chief executive officer Thierry Andretta.
“It may be fall on the East Coast of the U.S., but that doesn’t really exist on the West Coast. In some parts of China, the weather is like Hawaii, while in other parts it’s freezing, snowing and cold. If you do heavy coats, wool and winter color, it is more difficult to sell that to a local consumer living in Hong Kong.”
Andretta believes that creating trans-seasonal fashion is far more interesting from a creative point of view. “It means you can really choose what you say, you can pick any fabrics, and even in the winter you can use color. It is a more interesting, open-minded approach.”
Antonio Berardi would agree. In January, he revealed he was quitting London Fashion Week and leaving the runway format behind in favor of intimate presentations he could stage throughout the year.
“Social media allows me to take an ‘always-on’ approach to my collection wherever I am in the world — broadcasting my clothes throughout the year, rather than in two, 10-minute bursts,” he said.
He plans kick off his new program with a salon show at his newly opened studio in Milan in February, while events in the U.S., Middle East and across Europe will follow.
The no-season movement is even sweeping the trade shows, which have traditionally stuck to the seasonal calendar.
“Everything has just shifted, and you can almost buy now for whatever season you want,” said Julie Driscoll, managing director of Pure London, the fashion and accessories show that just wrapped up here.
“It might be that we cease to call this February showcase ‘autumn/winter 2018.’ All things are open to discussion. We just have to be agile and innovative and look at the needs of the end consumer,” she said.
The anti-seasons trend is part of a larger “less-is-more” movement that designers from all cities have taken to heart — especially those designing for younger generations who want to see their brands embrace transparency and sustainability. Vivienne Westwood’s mantra is “Buy less. Choose well. Make it last,” and for fall 2018 she’s opted to show her unisex collection with a film called “Don’t Get Killed” rather than stage a runway show.
Vetements’ ceo Guram Gvasalia said he wants to use the brand as a vehicle to promote sustainability and encourage consumers to buy less. The Harrods windows are just the beginning, and there are plans to mount 50 related installations this year alone.
“We like the idea of slowing down,” Gvasalia said. “We like the idea of slow fashion, to buy less, buy quality and buy long-term,” he said. “The main purpose of making those installations is to raise awareness and to remind the general public about the issue of overproduction and overconsumption, to make brands feel guilty for hyper-saturating the market and damaging the planet, and hopefully to start proper and honest conversations regarding those issues.”