PARIS — Seasons are so last season. Just ask cult Russian streetwear designer Gosha Rubchinskiy who, in an Instagram post on Wednesday, revealed plans to halt seasonal collections, with a new yet-to-be-disclosed concept in the works.
He’s the latest high-profile defector from the traditional spring-fall collection cadence as fashion weeks splinter, wholesale sputters and brands and retailers alike experiment with drops, pop-ups, online selling and other formats.
“We will stop Gosha Rubchinskiy brand as you’ve known it. We will have no more seasonal collections. Instead, something new is coming,” teased Rubchinskiy, a protégé of Comme des Garçons, which produces and distributes his line.
At his fall show last January — held at the Boris Yeltsin Presidential Center in Yekaterinburg, Russia — Rubchinskiy hinted at changes ahead and a special collaboration with Adidas to be shown in Moscow prior to Europe’s biggest soccer tournament, the FIFA World Cup, taking place in Russia from June 14 to July 15. His last three shows have been held in his homeland, with memories of his youth growing up in post-Soviet Russia in the Nineties feeding collections, including tie-ups with Adidas and Burberry, the latter being one of the first iconic Western brands to reach Russia after the Iron Curtain fell.
“We won’t have a show before the World Cup, and the show in terms of presenting the collection will be happening after the World Cup, but [I have] no idea where. About other collections, I cannot say anything as it is early and we need to decide,” he said at the time.
In switching tactics in an industry morphing at the speed of technology and increasingly centered on the consumer, he’s not alone.
Two of the most dynamic brands in fashion — Balenciaga and Gucci — have already let go of seasonal themes and narratives, an idea recently popularized by Demna Gvasalia at Vetements. It’s only gaining momentum, with Vetements recently taking a stand against the speed and disposable nature of fashion and filling the windows of Harrods with old, unwanted or discarded merch destined to be upcycled.
Burberry was the first major 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.
Among more recent converts, Jonathan Anderson presented his men’s, women’s and pre-collection in a combined season-less show at London Fashion Week last February. From now on, the designer will present two runway shows, with six product drops throughout the year.
“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,” Anderson told WWD earlier this year.
Peter Dundas and Alexander Wang also figure among designers opting for targeted product drops throughout the year, with the latter leading the charge to create a new summer-winter schedule in New York.
As reported, beginning with the spring 2019 collection, Wang will move his New York show to this June from September, adopting a new biannual schedule with collections presented in June and December. In tandem with Wang’s move, the CFDA has put into motion plans for an official summer-winter fashion season taking place as soon as June and December 2018.
Steven Kolb, chief executive officer of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, said, “We will be releasing the June calendar in the next few weeks. You will see a mix of traditional resort shows and designers combining resort and spring like Alex [Wang] and Bonnie [Young] are doing.
“It seems like a heightened level of conversation of show format is happening with much of it still coming from CFDA’s Future of Fashion Week study. As we reported when we released the study, designers should do what is best for them. Whether it be season-less, see-now-buy-now, nontraditional formats or migration of spring and fall collections to earlier dates, change is happening. All are valid,” Kolb added.
Retailers largely applaud the experimentation.
“Without question, the effect on fashion is no different than other aspects of lifestyle today where many designers are breaking the conventional cycles of how, when and where they present their new ideas,” observed Tom Kalenderian, executive vice president and general merchandise manager of men’s for Barneys New York.
“The lifestyle of our consumers is affected by many factors, not to mention the evolving mind-set of youth culture. We live in a world of pop-ups, drops and capsules that help infuse energy and momentum in the business. Combine that with the climate changes that make it necessary to focus more on wear-now, more than ever before — [this] all leads to a new approach to merchandising; give them what they want, when they want it,” he continued. “All of this is a response to the new breed of customers and the importance of looking at the business from their perspective; because one day they will comprise the core of tomorrow’s luxury consumers.”
Roopal Patel, senior vice president and fashion director at Saks Fifth Avenue, echoed the sentiment. “We are seeing a trend with designers thinking outside of the box, and reacting to the needs of their business by exploring different ways to showcase their collections. At times, it can mean showing outside of the normal calendar. We’ve seen in-season pop-up activations as well as digital and social campaigns,” she said. “There is so much noise during fashion week. There is so much visual stimulation with digital and social, and designers are constantly looking for unique ways to get more eyes on their messaging and creative vision for their brand.”
Brigitte Chartrand, women’s wear buying director at Ssense, which carries the Gosha Rubchinskiy label, thinks the shift could be good for the brand. She cited 032c as a successful brand Ssense carries that operates on a nonseasonal schedule with product drops every two months.
“Things are moving so quickly in the industry and going at such a fast pace that it could be quite smart for Gosha to push the model and innovate in new ways,” said Chartrand. “Moving away from seasonal collections is less common in the luxury world, but it’s an interesting time to explore how to release collections in a less traditional way.”
According to Laura Baker — owner of the Pblc Trde showroom, which handles sales for brands including Remi Relief, Know Wave, Siki Im, Second Layer and Rochambeau — bigger stores are requesting more exclusive capsule collections to support in-store agendas, which has been ideal for younger brands because they can work with factories during off-season production times, which makes the process easier to control.
“Pre- and mid deliveries have become so important,” said Baker. “It eases up the stress of committing to a January 15 and July 15 in-store. It’s hard for younger brands to make these dates. Sales are becoming better for mid deliveries, which happen on April 15 and October 15. Buyers are prioritizing much more of their budget on these delivery windows. Most younger brands ship late anyhow, which makes it hard for the retailer, so mid deliveries are easier. The big brands take priority in the factory for the hard season ship dates.”
The antiseason surge, meanwhile, fits with a wider democratic movement being embraced by designers as a reaction against traditional boundaries. Take Brussels-based Alexa Fairchild, the granddaughter of legendary WWD chairman and editorial director John B. Fairchild; her fledgling namesake label is billed as being for all ages, gender-neutral and season-fluid.
For others, there’s the feeling of being stuck between two worlds.
Rhuigi Villasenor, the creative director of Rhude, a Los Angeles-based brand that’s sold at retailers including Barneys, Mr Porter and Matchesfashion.com, said he’s had to learn how to work within the traditional buying schedule in order to do well. He initially delivered one collection a season but now he’s shipping four to six deliveries a year.
“We try to ship as early as possible before the season actually hits. The spring-summer delivery is supposed to be for March and we deliver it in January and February while the fall-winter stuff is going on sale,” said Villasenor. “You are on the floor longer and able to have a higher sell through. We are competing with houses and we have no design background. We worked in streetwear and that’s based on drops. Streetwear is taking over high fashion, but I don’t think it’s the schedule, it’s just the design, the demeanor. At the end of the day, if we tried to deliver the way streetwear delivers, it wouldn’t work out,” he said. “These retailers need to report numbers and numbers need to be met. There is no hype that can save something that doesn’t have structure.”
Chris Gibbs, owner of Union, which also sells Gosha Rubchinskiy, feels the old models of retail are dying. “And then add to that oversaturated markets and just the hyper-fast pace of things, and it’s causing designers, retailers and creatives to find and test new business models. This may be what Gosha is attempting but we will all have to wait and see.”