The world’s most labor-intensive and exclusive fashions seem to be going into an extended blackout period.
The development seemed a fait accompli after the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode, French fashion’s governing body, canceled the upcoming couture week, originally scheduled for July 5 to 9. It’s only one of several fashion weeks — including men’s weeks in four fashion capitals — to be scuttled in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.
Balenciaga, which was slated to return to the couture calendar in July after a 52-year absence, has already indicated it would push its high-fashion launch to January.
Contacted by WWD on Monday, many brands that show in Paris said it was too soon to define their plans in a very fluid situation.
At Valentino, creative director Pierpaolo Piccioli, his teams and the rest of the company “are conceiving different and concrete ideas for the presentation of the men’s and women’s prêt-à-porter, and haute couture collections. Considering the continuous change of scenario, due to COVID-19 pandemic, we believe it to be premature to officiate any action plan today,” a spokesman for the Rome-based house said. “We are developing different action plans to face the current situation, especially following the government’s regulations that have led to the closure of the Italian productive sites. Under this consideration, we are elaborating a new sales campaign calendar for the pre-collections and we are working on innovative and remote selling operations, continuing to pursue a seasonless disposition that has been cultivated over the last few years.”
While lauding couture week as “a highly valuable platform to enable us to interact with the fashion and art community,” designer Iris Van Herpen said she plans to ramp up her use of technology.
“We are in the midst of creating an immersive virtual reality experience as an extension of our upcoming collection for press, clients and fans to experience the designs synesthetically and in full detail and motion to bring our vision of the future of fashion to life,” she told WWD. “Within this period of rapid change, we aim to embrace change even more profoundly and take this moment of silence to create space to invest in our ongoing course of innovation, sustainability and personalization.”
She added that “the physical, mental and emotional health of our team and partners are of paramount importance so our team is working safely from home and we are digitally connecting with our partners, clients and suppliers.”
Lanvin, whose chief executive officer Jean-Philippe Hecquet recently stepped down after 18 months in the role, had announced plans to focus its resources on women’s fashion week and stage “original” events rather than runway shows during men’s fashion week to showcase creative director Bruno Sialelli’s universe in a different light.
“For June, at this stage, everything is on standby. We are waiting to see how the situation evolves before making decisions — about whether it’s pertinent to organize an event so soon after such a period, and also whether our budgets permit it,” said a spokesman for the house.
“For the commercial part, we are thinking about alternatives that would allow us to present the collection remotely in the event that buyers are unable to make the trip, which will almost certainly be the case,” the spokesman added.
Gabriel de Linage, ceo of Azzaro, said the house would communicate about collection reveals “in due time.”
“We are monitoring this unprecedented situation very closely, which is leading us more than ever to demonstrate tenfold creativity and flexibility. It is an opportunity to think differently and to reinvent ourselves in our missions,” he said.
“In this context, our priority is first and foremost the people affected and all those in the front line in this fight,” de Linage added. “We have taken all measures internally to protect our staff at risk and maintain physical distance in our daily work.”
Ralph & Russo, the British red-carpet brand founded by Tamara Ralph and Michael Russo, said it was also weighing its options.
“Whilst the cancellation of the next couture week is of course sad news, we agree that we have a responsibility as brands not only for the safety of our employees, but also our followers, and do, wholeheartedly, support the decision taken by the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode,” the brand said.
“With the announcement only having been officially made on Friday, we are very much still in the ideation stage in terms of what we will do instead of a runway show. We are, however, very excited to use this time to adapt and look towards more innovative ways of connecting with our followers and consumers moving forward,” it added.
Abe is already working on her next men’s Sacai collection, but the format of how it will be presented has yet to be decided, according to a company spokeswoman.
Her take on Gaultier’s couture was highly anticipated given her appeal among fashion and streetwear mavens, and the novelty of donning the couture cap for a one-off collection.
“Even though our new haute couture concept will see the light of day only in January 2021, our teams, Chitose Abe and Jean Paul Gaultier are as committed to it as ever,” the house said in a statement. “The COVID-19 pandemic has affected us like all the other couture houses, but we are confident that the success of Jean Paul Gaultier’s last couture collection in January will help us traverse this difficult year.”
Gaultier surprised the industry by revealing that his spring 2020 couture show would be his last, and decided to invite a designer each season to “interpret the codes of the house and give the vision of the haute couture.”