It was the big debate of 2015 and so far you are probably tired of reading about it: the alarming pace of fashion was the great culprit in the Dior-Raf Simons separation, social media is making the industry rethink its calendar (a few examples: New York Fashion Week is considering turn into a consumer-targeted event, Rebecca Minkoff will show spring/summer instead of autumn/winter in the next fashion week, Proenza Schouler will present pre-fall close to the launching date) and even runway shows are being questioned (Tom Ford and Thomas Tait are some who have given it up and announced new formats to show next collections). Besides, we saw a great number of designers leaving companies that apparently had no issues (Alex Wang, Alber Elbaz, Donna Karan) whilst others decided to shut down or make drastic changes (Jonathan Saunders, Thakoon). The overall feeling is the same: there is something really weird going on, as fashion seems to be losing its enjoyable, fun, whimsical side.
Nevertheless, fashion is not just ‘fashion’ anymore. It is in the centre of an entertainment industry where brands need to, well, entertain the audience. As customers gained directly access to their beloved labels trough social media, this dialogue has to pay off, hence the excitement of shows in different locations, a myriad of events and campaigns, and, of course, the effort to bring new products practically all the time.
Curiously, if we watch old couture fashion shows, from the 1950’s and 1960’s, it wasn’t uncommon to see collections with over 100 looks, and presentations that would last for hours. If we assume that the average collection has now 30 to 35 looks, shown in less than 10 minutes, one can argue that designers create more or less the same amount of products. Yes, but creation, development, distribution and promotion were made in a much limited scale, with more time between deliveries. Additionally, let’s not forget that a great deal of brands now belongs to conglomerates that trade in the stock market, so they need to show investors how profitable they are. Evidently, the pressure to meet financial goals just increases the demand to create the next big thing and this never-ending search for the new is clearly tiring everyone involved. There is too much of everything: too many designers, too many collections, too many products. And too little time to digest or simply admire the creations.
The industry knows that in a globalized world, where brands are sold in every continent, it doesn’t make sense to divide collections in spring/summer or autumn/winter anymore, nor launching spring in stores when it’s still snowing outside. They know that it’s pointless to promote pictures of products that will be available to purchase only 6 months later as it’s ridiculous to think that some of them are only conceived to be “picture perfect” for Instagram. But everyone else is doing it, and no one wants to feel or, worse, make the client feel they are left behind. There is no time to think or reflect if these models are good for the brand image, for the employers for the business strategy. Just go with the flow. And sell, sell, sell.
But, maybe, isn’t the time for us, the consumers, to start thinking about the urge to buy, buy, buy? Who is really going to shop for everything they like on Instagram? How many pictures do you actually remember after rolling your feed for one minute? How many it bags do we need in our closet? Remember when fashion wasn’t obsessed about accessories and bags didn’t even appear in ads? The media taught us that mixing up high fashion with high street is the way to go, which is great, but do we need to shop every time we enter in Zara, H&M, Forever 21… And who can afford a new dress from Dior, Gucci or Chanel’s pre-fall, spring, autumn and resort?
No one seems to have the answer to the $1 million (or billion) questions about the change in the calendar, the relevance of fashion shows and even the need for so many collections. But everyone agrees that fashion needs to rethink its purpose and stop this hysteric pace that simply cannot bring anything positive to brands, designers, retailers and consumers. Less is more is a statement that never goes out of fashion. It’s time to focus on it.
Good readings to inspire:
Was 2015 the year fashion crashed? From departing designers to collapsing seasons – Alexander Fury, The Independent
The death of fashion lead to appetite for something new’: The Emancipation of Everything – Lidewij Edelkoort manifesto, Fashion United
The Year in Fashion: In the Wake of Fall’s Designer Exits, It’s Time to Start Thinking Small – Maya Singer, Vogue.com