In more ordinary times, Fashion Week offers us all a glimpse of the future. Designers flaunt the most outrageous versions of their latest styles in carefully curated shows, while retailers consider how they’ll adapt these styles for mass consumption. In our first glimpse of post-COVID Fashion Week, though, designers emphasized innovation in their online presentation
, bringing smaller scale collections to the digital stage. As for the styles on display, they reflect a more conservative strategy for a marketplace in flux.
Timeless Not Trendy
When models stepped out on stage for Fashion Week this year, the typically flamboyant styles that define the shows were few and far between. Instead, high-end designers like those based in Italy’s recently reopened studios
held back, well aware that orders were at a historic low. How long they plan to hold back cutting-edge designs, however, varies widely between designers. Some assume we’re looking at a timeless future; do we really need additional styles on top of the coats and jackets available
in stores today? And do buyers, even the wealthy, really have the disposable income to sustain these seasonal cycles? These are real concerns, and they’re only fueled by pre-COVID worries about waste in the fashion industry.
Innovation Without Waste
One of the major advantages of focusing on timeless styles
– a classic trench coat, a well-fitted suit – rather than trendy ones, is that it substantially cuts back on wastefulness. After all, when fashions don’t change, there’s no need to buy new garments unless you wear out what you have. The problem with this perspective, however, is that fashion is an art. It’s fueled by creativity. Creativity and waste are hardly synonymous, though.
Seeing an opportunity to rethink the industry’s approach to fashion, both economically and environmentally, some industry leaders have used COVID-19 as an opportunity to recommend a calendar adjustment
. Reducing waste in fashion, these designers say, requires moving summer fashion shows back to the summer and winter styles back to winter, rather than showing fashions with significant seasonal lag time. Right now, the gap between major runway shows and clothing seasons allows fast fashion brands to replicate runway styles for mass consumption, fueling huge amounts of waste. Moving the shows would be a barrier to such duplication.
A Break For A Breathless Industry
Whatever COVID-19 does to reshape the fashion industry in the long-term, it’s likely encouraged the fast-paced field to slow down. Pre-COVID, there was an intense push for top fashion houses to present as many as eight collections a year
, an unsustainable and entirely unnecessary pace. Post-COVID, it’s likely brands will go back to showing just two collections annually, a pace more aligned with designers than consumers. Just as many individuals have used the pandemic as an opportunity to reconsider their values and priorities, designers have realized the pandemic is also a chance for them to take back control of their industry.
Some may argue that fast fashion brands – the kind that populate suburban malls and flood the web with budget styles – don’t depend on Italian couture to determine trends, and that’s true, to an extent. The most important names in fashion, from Gucci to Yves Saint Laurent, will always have some influence on mass produced fashion. By creating smaller, more focused collections less frequently and with less lead time, though, these high-end designers can stop contributing to cheap styles that will be trashed after a few wears. When you put it that way, timeless sounds like the ideal style strategy for the future.