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Fashion Business reports: June to August 21

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Graphic design of multiple colours
Graphic design of multiple colours
Fashion Business School 2020
Written by
Tony Glenville
Published date
10 August 2021

Tony Glenville's Fashion report covering June, July and August

“The September Issue” - I mentioned this film to a colleague and the reply was “you can begin to see what’s wrong with fashion, when you see it now”. The rewriting of the rules regarding race, casting, cultural appropriation, ethics and gender within the fashion business seems obvious today, but back then did they resonate?

The important, and good thing, is that given time during the last months, fashion has engaged deeper with concerns, delved into questions, and is exploring issues and investigating more thoroughly. The easy solution, the surface nod to a problem, or the reverse, deep concern, but with little practical application are no longer the solution. Race, gender, ethics, and the planet apply to every single area of fashion from the growing of cotton, to the staff in a boutique. The global attitude to climate change, sustainability and ethical sourcing, alongside our desire to know more has grown during the last eighteen months. Since COVID 019 “launched” in the late winter of 2019, the lock downs, the online fashion weeks, the time spent at home to think, have all resulted in a changed business.

Add to this the news of Trump out - Biden in, Boris Johnson and his lies, Brexit and the catastrophic effects still being felt of the schism between the U.K. and Europe, natural disasters, floods in Germany, heat waves in many parts of the world. Add to this the insularity of most countries approach to COVID, where isolation and turning inwards is the government's solution. Plus, the current situation in Afghanistan and political shenanigans in Spain, France, Canada and, well basically pretty much the entire world, and it’s clear we’re not where we were, as we approach the fashion season two years on.

I read constantly that after 9/11 a huge number of things, which it had been predicted would change, didn’t - 9/11 shocked the world but wasn’t global, it was one day’s events, whereas COVID is global and has caused heartache, distress loss and change across the entire world. This is not a political column and judgement on many things is outside the remit of the newsletters, but the truth is, it’s all gone on too long to snap back to where we were, it’s had a devastating effect on too many lives to remain a glitch, hiccup or simply fade into memory.


The start of the new fashion season finds many things not as before, many shows still on line or for tiny local audiences, the lack of ease of travel, people’s concerns, the lack of travel budgets in many companies, the see saw between classic and understated and quality on the one hand, and the anything goes, extrovert, whoopee dressing on the other. The ever-rising prices of luxury products, where Chanel can still sell in spite of raising prices every season, makes fashion seem insane and unbalanced.

BUT, all this has always been true of fashion. The shop girl on limited income was a standard figure back in the 1920’s and 30’s Joan Crawford as a typist in the movie “Grand Hotel” made in 1932 remarks “I make very little pennies”. The rich customer in made to order shirts, or the glitter of diamonds, is always contrasted to the workers or those who keep the system going. So, class, money, culture and fashion from Love Island and ASOS to Savile Row and Cartier isn’t a new dichotomy. What is fresh and exciting is the gradual understanding that luxury can be sustainable, as can budget dressing. We’re examining the structure of the business as well as its attitudes. Huge names like Boss are investigating ways to be more thoughtful, and so are H&M. Right now, it’s easy to criticise, but every step in the right direction is to be applauded. It’s now beyond green washing, knee jerk reactions and paying lip service to “trends”, these elements within the fashion business are now transparently high on the list of components which make the industry function.


So, as we look at the future , in spite of problems and the pandemic, we see how the key questions continue to be asked, how the changes are happening and what new exciting initiatives the fashion business is exploring.
It means new approaches, attitudes and roles within companies, it means new ideas, creativity and solutions, and it means thinking.
In this roundup I’ve highlighted some collections, areas of interest and highlights of the summer. Nothing drastically altered in one sense, yet the very consistency of the key factors NOT shifting in a business defined by change, suggest how vital these areas of concern now are, especially if fashion as a business is to survive and grow.

Race, culture, gender, ethics and sustainability are not “fashionable” trends or seasonal topics, they’re the life blood of the business of the future.

Some things to think about...

China has strong views on “effeminate” men and conspicuous luxury celebrities.
All fashion weeks still seem predominantly digital or aimed at digital viewers.
Travel restrictions look to be ongoing, plus lockdowns remaining in Australia and New Zealand. Forms, vaccines, tests, etc all add to travel costs and pressures.
Textiles and their craft increase in importance, see Trend Union, Li Edelkoort and Premier Vision, plus specific Instagram accounts.
Hand crafts continue in their visibility - see Tom Daley & knitting, and the Royal School of Needlework.
Weather and its extremes plus continuing Covid-19, contributes to results in retail which bounce from being muted to erratic.

Cosmetics, beauty and skincare...

With mask wearing, gloves, sanitiser etc ruling some lives for weeks, and months on end beauty and skincare shifted its focus, less lipstick and more hand cream? Check out discussions about on line for this area of business, plans to attract different demographics from baby boomers to Gen Z. It’s shifting changing and complex as it moves into new ways of thinking.

Further reading:

Online versus real shopping

Online versus Bricks and Mortar is a key question. Debate rages, endless financial pages pieces try to evaluate, weight U.K. the pros and cons or offer advice. Just read it all and carry on thinking. With so much lock down still in progress it’s really too early to predict.

Further reading:

Local versus global

This is something I personally and professionally feel very strongly about. Understanding our own territory, relating fashion to food with local being the way forward for the food and hospitality industries. Think about all the pluses for local?

Further reading:

Jacquemus

Embracing nature before everyone else for his shows and then back indoors? Think about Jacquemus and what he does.

Luxury

Sustainable, sourcing, materials, quantities and the pieces dying local unique

Ethical, makers, packers, weavers, etc the treatment of the team and the materials, the journey, the staff, the people, the pay, and of course the studio, atelier and the factory

Big brands versus small and local or specialist or limited quantities handmade versus mass produced.

Communications

Communicating - PR and the facts, press releases dump fluff for facts designers cannot hide behind themes and dreams

Trends

Trends, how do they work?

With scattered shows, untidy fashion weeks and online, the neat formula for trends is being eroded. Do we still need them? If so, how do they work? Pick ‘n Mix your seasons genders and looks - see Vogue Runway Seasons in 2021/22 - how do they work?

Micro trend! Just I question trends, there is no doubt that stories, hot items, the look of the moment and all those neat packages to PR, sell products and simply inform do work.
The all over print in top pants dress and jacket, whatever seen at amongst others - Balmain, VTMNTS, and Marc

Haute Couture

Couture was partially, indeed mainly, online and digital or for tiny audiences. Three shows stood out. If you’ve not seen, watch. Plus, do investigate the details of the staging, house history, and the creative context and design details to add to your appreciation of these collections. Note how couture is blurring gender but with no apparent fuss or highlighting.

The old guard

Chanel & Dior have little interest in pushing fashion forward. The brands sell product and sell a name, they no longer challenge or set the trends, moods or styles of the season, or even the future. They play endlessly on an extremely limited number of brand identifiers, but this means the sales figures are driving the designers, the men in suits are happy, and the brands are strong.

Further Reading:

Copies & Collaboration?

Why do people buy copies? HFT explored this and discussion is ongoing. What is copied is also essential research work. Chanel and Dior but not Rick Owens or Dries van Noten? Think very carefully about copying, plus brand collaborations. Do these partnerships strengthen or weaken the brand? Are they “window dressing” or major money makers? Why do designers also work with high street brands? The feedback after Sabyasachi for H&M sold out was awful, angry and unhappy.

Menswear as a separate category?

Do we still need to see menswear shows, fashion weeks, products and focus? If gender blurring is on the increase, what is the need for the separation? Which then leads us to think about and question - Men’s grooming, cosmetics, spa and body work?

Stay true to yourself

Some designers evolve and transmute and mutate season after season. There are few shocks, but their firm creative philosophy grounded in knowledge of their clients and their strengths means that they run parallel to fashion. They’re neither ahead or behind, they are simply themselves. The demand stays strong without huge highs and lows, sell through is regular and the product is of high quality. These names, labels, brands and designers are all across the globe and often have very loyal local followings as much as global. Three big name examples of designers whose work is brilliant and whose pieces have a strong fan base are Dries van Noten, Yohji Yamamoto, Thom Browne and Rick Owens. These are just instant examples but you should think about this genre of designer and luxury name. It’s the heart of many fashion weeks and stockists, it works and it’s honest and true.

Next month:

Sustainability - Food & Fashion. What do they have in common and why aren’t we referencing the one to the other? If “eating is an ethical act” then so must fashion be? This is a quote from a Netflix programme - “Chefs Table” on cook Dan Barber made by Ruth Reichl, acclaimed food writer.