Let’s get rid of fashion seasons and make the shows more sustainable.
This is the purpose of many designers who are rethinking the whole fashion system, after the Pandemic has strongly affected the industry.
How do fashion seasons work?
At the beginning, fashion brands used to present two collections per year: Fall/Winter and Spring/ Summer. This schedule was aligned with traditional seasons and it was effective in order to create and produce Haute-Couture collections.
With the introduction of Prêt-à-Porter and the following rise of Fast Fashion, luxury brands have started to increase the number of collections, including pre-collections.
To the original schedule with two seasons, have been added secondary seasons: Pre-fall and Cruise/Resort. If the first one anticipates the Fall/Winter collection during the summer sales, the second one proposes Spring/Summer items during the winter’s sales.
Where the cruise collections come from?
Originally the cruise/resort collections were created for wealthy women who could afford off- season luxury cruises and Eastern voyages.
The result is a calendar which follows commercial seasons rather than real ones, ending up with five or even six collections per year in order to increase sales and consumption.
This is a consequence of the philosophy “see now buy now” introduced years ago that, together with the Fast Fashion, have revolutionised consumers’ habits.
Note that a brand like Zara needs only 15 days to convert ideas into items, producing an average of 24 collections every year.
Can a fashion luxury brand keep up with it?
The answer is no.
If we look at secondary seasons like cruise/resort, they are rarely as exclusive as the main collections showed during the Fashion Weeks. They are often presented through shooting or digital shows and in the last years just few cruises have had their own fashion show.
Luxury is about authenticity and exclusiveness. Luxury brands not only produce timeless goods, but they provide also the dream factor which make them unique.
High end fashion brands start to design their collections more than a year before in order to deliver the authenticity and the high quality typical of iconic products.
The craftsmanship and the whole processes behind the production of a luxury good are infinite and extremely accurate. Therefore it is unreasonable to keep up with the fast pace dictated by fast fashion.
“It doesn’t make sense that one of my jackets, or one of my suits, live in the store for three weeks, become immediately obsolete, and are replaced by new goods, which is not too different from the one that preceded it. I don’t work like this, I find it immoral to do so.”Giorgio armani
What to expect in the future of fashion shows?
Giorgio Armani and Emporio Armani Collections will be presented next September in a show that will put together women’s and men’s collections. Next January Armany Privè Show will be proposing together winter and summer collection.
Giorgio Armani is not alone in this revolution. Alessandro Michele, Creative Director of Gucci has a very clear idea of the future of fashion shows. His intention is to abandon “the tired ritual of seasonality and shows to reclaim a new scan of time, closer to my expressive need”.
Gucci will arrange two shows a year, mixing genders, styles and rules, starting a new era in the name of freedom.
The first brand which has left the obsolete concept of seasonality was Yves Saint Laurent. “Now more than ever, the brand will control its periodicity and legitimize the value of the times following its own rhythm, giving priority to the relationship between people and their daily life.” Said a representative last April.
Saint Laurent will not present collections during the rest of the year 2020. It is arranging a new schedule for 2021 according to its creativity and its needs.
Last May also Dries Van Noten communicated his intention to synchronise the fashion seasons with the actual ones, publishing a letter on the New York Times. The letter was signed by many other designers like Marine Serre, Thom Browne and Craig Green.
Not only designers. Famous retailers like La Rinascente, Antonioli, Selfridges, Mytheresa, Nordstrom e United Arrows are on it.
According to the group headed by Van Noten, “It is not normal to buy winter clothes in May. For me it makes no sense. And it is not respectful for the customer who buys a product at full price to see it discounted 50% six weeks later.”
This movement towards a more sustainable and slow fashion system is becoming more and more popular. However, there are some implications which can make this challenge really complex to undertake.
What is the impact of the slow down of the fashion system?
On one hand the environmental impact will be significantly lower. A reduction of collections and fashion shows imply also a reduction of transfers and greenhouse gases, as explained in the article about the pollution of Fashion Weeks. On the other hand a decline in production causes a reduction of sales.
The slow down of the fashion system is a first answer to the issue of overproduction which is strongly affecting the environment. This is particularly important in terms of disposals and pollution in emerging countries, where unsold products and garments end up in landfills.
Another effective tool to avoid overproduction is the On-Demand system, where the production of a good starts only after the buyer places an order.
The On-Demand solution emphasises the customisation and the exclusiveness that only luxury brands can deliver through goods and experiences.
But, less seasons mean less collections and therefore less items to be sold. The On-Demand production requires higher flexibility at each stage of the supply chain.
Can Fashion luxury brands afford it in the middle of a global crisis?
Due to the Pandemic, the whole sector has recorded serious losses that have badly affected the collections of 2020-2021.
Are these changes economically sustainable?
New technologies and Artificial Intelligence can facilitate the processes, making them scalable and quicker using less resources, like digital prototyping, 3D and algorithms.
The focus on quality over quantity and the eventual On-Demand structure can relaunch the craftsmanship and the local labour. This will encourage fair trade, transparency and traceability with a consequent reduction of transportation costs.
Regardless the crisis, brands need to embrace these new paradigms in order to become more sustainable, otherwise they risk to be out of business. Customers are increasingly informed and careful about the planet.
Are people ready to face a drastic change in the paradigm of see-now-buy-now?
Both Armani and Van Noten have criticised the absurdity that boutiques can offer linen dresses in winter and wool coats during summer.
But the real question here is: Are the buyers ready to give up this system? This is something we will discover in the next seasons.
As for now the ongoing educational path towards sustainability can certainly help the consumers to face these changes. However the communication strategy designed by brands will play a key role in the acceleration to slow fashion.