Fashion Business reports: March 21
- Written byTony Glenville
- Published date 31 March 2021
A year on from lockdown, a year on from the last season of collections shown with live audiences, and global travellers, a year of fashion, especially as a business, demonstrating its strengths, it’s adaptability and its creative force. A year in which some buried their heads in the sand or wore blinkers, or whatever analogy you select, whilst others soared with new technology, simple solutions and sometimes simply by smiling and striding ahead. The only thing not to do, it seems, is to stand still and wait for the pandemic to pass.
Social media and communications were paramount to see how things were progressing, keeping in touch in every possible way became more important because we couldn’t exchange information, trade gossip or simply test the waters for something in the ways we’d got used to. Young designers refused to be depressed, and many working in the business; from pattern cutters to historians, and from shoe designers to hairdressers; simply adapted, changed, reinvented and responded with enthusiasm and elan.
This month found New York, London, Milan and Paris collections turbulent and exciting, shifting off the conventional established schedules, showing smaller options within their collections, and presenting press releases less about “inspiration” and more about facts. The fashion business has, as a sweeping generalisation, grown up a lot, shifted its focus a lot and knuckled down to business. What designers make, what it’s made from, as well as how its made, and why they are creating these pieces, are the questions requiring straight, clear, honest and relevant answers. It’s time to explain what a collection may draw on, the designer's personal creative impulse which might be a new view of a specific culture and heritage, or the re-working of a traditional handicraft. It’s information and explanation, not hype and nonsense.
London College of Fashion Business School entered a new importance as fashion in almost all areas, focussed on sifting through what it means as a business not just during a pandemic, but for the future. Week after week, the range and variety of stories, the possibilities for clothes, fashion and the associated creative industries was a delight. Sharing this with students and staff and the industry is a pleasure, editing was the difficult job, when there was so much choice. We can only hope, as times continue to be different, and the immediate disappearance of COVID 19 is not on the cards, that the energy and creativity and the changes in fashion, demonstrate that although frivolity and wild inventiveness have a place, fashion is also a serious business.
Collections commented on included:
- New York Fashion Week
- Mimi Prober
- Judy Turner
- Peter Do
- London Fashion Week
- Daniel W Fletcher
- Nensi Dojaka
- Steven Stokey Daley
- Milan Fashion Week
- Roberto Cavalli
- Paris Fashion Week
- Ludovic de Saint Sernin
- Cecilie Bahnsen
- Marine Serre
- Wataru Tominaga
- Christian Wijnants
- Rabih Kayrouz
- Ester Manas
- Dice Kayak
- Thom Browne
- Masha Ma
- Xuly Bet
- Kenneth Ize
In Issue 44 we observed that - Evolving, shifting, transforming, adapting, updating, responding, mutating; the list of possible words is pretty endless, now I come to think of it. I choose mutating because obviously that’s what the virus is doing, but also because the idea that it’s the same but different, and responding to threats, is exactly what the fashion industry is doing. It’s the same fashion business but it’s changing, responding to threats placed upon it in all directions and it’s evaluating, considering and planning.
I think it’s obvious that every brand, label, house, corporate, designer and every member of those teams, from the leading creative director to the packer in dispatching, is asking how to deal with things. How ARE they dealing with things, and how might they deal with things in the future. Kering opts out of fashion weeks, Chanel acts as though things are “normal”. Some small, often newer, names are forging ahead with brilliant responses, quickly adapting to the times and using every modern device at their disposal to communicate, react, and change. Some fashion people were in trouble before the virus hit, all that happened was their end was hastened. There will be more casualties, especially those whose investigation, creative response and intuition has failed them.
Predicting has never been so tough, so unstable, so much a game of guesswork. The blank white sheet, the return to dressing up, the…….”whatever it is” trend has never been less able to be based on facts and the world around fashion, and more on “I think or feel”.
Watch carefully what’s happening everywhere in the world, because the response to the virus, the approach to vaccination, the communication of the politicians, the acts of governments, the curfews and the closures, are not the same everywhere.
In Issue 45 As we continue to live in uncertain times, the revolving seasons of fashion have themselves become uncertain. PR’s send me spring/summer 2021 one day, and autumn/winter 2021/22 the next. Fashion labels invest in interiors and interior companies start creating bags and accessories, it’s the creative force creating its own rules. It’s not in any sense a bad thing or bad for the fashion business, it’s just indicative of how the fashion world isn’t reacting with one voice or one approach to working during tough times. It’s about the response for individuals guided by what works, what they need, and what will enable them to continue to function as a brand/label/house for the coming months.
We watch fashion here and now, but we plan fashion for the future, but the future looks uncertain and we still need to plan. Indeed fashion is built on tomorrow; deliveries, yarns, displays, atelier hands; it’s always about the next move.
So right now we need to focus, and prepare for the future, but the near future and not the forward planning of the past. Trends for this month not next year, plans for merchandising we can implement next week, not next season, what we can do to PR a new item, now, not when the season starts.
Optimism and energy fuels a desire to solve problems, be creative, work within restrictions. I will not stoop to using historical analogy and cite wonderful examples from the past, because that was then, and this is now. Indeed looking backwards in the belief that we return to fashion exactly as it was before is, in my view, insanity.
Black Lives Matter, gender fluidity, women’s rights, sustainability and sourcing ethics, amongst other subjects, are not weakening their purpose and focus. They have all been on the front page of the papers, the headlines of the TV news and the subject of documentaries, analysts, investigative reporting and indeed protests.
Every one of these subjects is relevant, pertinent, influential and important to the business of clothes. The context in which we create, produce, promote, communicate and sell is the life blood of fashion, it is not irrelevant or a separate discussion; the context makes fashion relevant.
So understanding that, since the appearance of COVID 19 as a global pandemic, the world has changed is essential to fashion as a business. Lingering in the past, the good old days, “remember when”, is as crazy as saying “new normal” and believing that when we return to easier times the fashion business will simply slip back to exactly where it was. Technology, communication and new roles within the business reflect the now, with the respect for the past harnessed to the new. Show how the product is made, show why the product is luxury, show how the studios function, show what the raison d’etre is for the brand, its product and the team.
The customer for budget, instant delivery fashion has always been the same and remains, but many consumers are informed, interested and thoughtful about the fashion system. This will increase with a generation who is more interested in the planet, the journey it’s food and clothes make, and the disposal of the packaging it’s all arrives in.
Fashion has never been an easy career option, fashion has never been a business without huge challenges, fashion has never been a business disconnected from the world it exists and functions within. These are not opinions, these are facts.
The future is actually now; today, in fact, this moment