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Fashion Business reports: September Collections part 1 New York, London and Milan

Graphic design of multiple colours
  • Written byTony Glenville
  • Published date30 September 2021
Graphic design of multiple colours
Fashion Business School 2020

Showtime, back to the future?

Do we believe that everything is “back to normal”? How has fashion responded to change? Is ethical sourcing and sustainability at the heart of fashion in 2021?

Many of the plans and promises of less product, fewer collections, and a simpler more straightforward process have failed to materialise.

For many, the front row seat, the Instagram account and the endless pieces on view means - whew, we’re back where we were. The desire to arrive at a hotel in a glamorous city, and open endless invitations, receive flowers and to spend nights at parties cancels out any sustainable or ethical progress made.

I ask you, should we be questioning a business which believes that producing huge amounts of clothes, jamming people together in a space to watch them, and producing a “show” is forward looking?

I ask students and staff reading this, who are the future of the business, will you think in a fresh way, or do you think the established system is the only option? I personally and professionally truly believe in the new names and brands, the smaller labels, the thoughtful designers and those who question and create using new ideas, new methods and new attitudes.

Luxury names are working on the principal that they are untouchable. Is this true?

Some notes to consider as we stride through the endless collections.

These are, to repeat from earlier reports, not reviews, or what I think, but questions and observations regarding these shows. Notes to get you thinking, disagreeing or simply analyse individual shows and their strengths and weaknesses.

New York

Remember that most American brands and designers sell predominantly in America. Remember that this season few people were able to visit New York. That’s really all there is to say about endless collections, which had nothing fresh to say, did not contribute to the fashion discussion, and were pretty much forgettable.

Thom Browne - As always, I personally love the work, if at times it pushes conceptual a little too hard. It’s often a curate’s egg of great and dodgy, but it’s always interesting and when in the hand beautiful quality which can justify the high price level.

London

In spite of having so many collections and many small or new names, it seemed lacklustre. There was a huge chasm between those who seemed to be stuck in a rut and offered more of the same, and some exciting but uncommercial collections. The important thing is to keep searching and discovering.

Matty Bovan - interesting, engaging and totally 100% British in attitude

Harris Reed - immensely clever by using second hand clothing and reinventing it. Have a look at how he balances his signature style with the reinvention of vintage.

Halpern - he’s really grown up from the endless sequinned looks. It’s interesting how he established a look, worked amazingly through lockdown on his approach to fashion and its power.

Milan 

The truth is that there are new names are burgeoning in Italy but they don’t receive much press, or coverage. Vogue Italia and Sarah Maino support and promote these new small adventurous designers, so please find them and follow them on Instagram.

Marni - exciting, unusual, an event; thoughtful and inclusive. A huge amount of work to realise the idea and the concept.

Prada - lost it to my mind. It’s a major name, it’s a luxury brand, it’s not just black nylon handbags, but the excitement and the surprises are now missing. It’s a collaboration again; why does it take two to create a collection of clothes?

Missoni - it’s fascinating that almost everybody dislikes this collection. The entire raison d’etre of Missoni; colour, pattern and ease; is thrown out to be replaced by flesh exposing slashed pieces. Who hired this designer? Who thought they’re be appropriate to the house and its heritage? It’s just all wrong. Once again one asked the question- who is the customer?

Fashion and Food

I’m writing this without an instant answer, and I’m putting it into this month’s report to instigate thoughts, ideas and discussion.

For everyone who buys fast food, there is someone shopping for organic produce to make something at home. The customer enquiring about the origins of their steak is also likely to see how the animals are reared. A chef will always tell you that good food requires excellent ingredients.

So where does this leave fashion?

Do we say that we need to know where our tweeds were woven? If you use cheap shoddy fabrics, can you make beautiful garments? If the cotton is organic, where and how is it grown, how is it harvested, and how are the people who work on the journey from raw cotton to a t shirt treated, housed and employed?

I also ask these questions simply because food, the mainstay of our lives, is being questioned. Oil, vinegar, salt and pepper are often special, expensive and exhibited in kitchens and even on dining room tables. We talk about free range chickens, we visit, “pick your own” and we grow our own herbs and tomatoes where and when we can.

My point for discussion and consideration is that fashion sometimes ignores the materials, the fabrics, the buttons, zips and trimmings in its search for sustainability.

If the very ingredients of clothing are faulty, unsustainable and the people throughout the journey are badly paid, and working in unsavoury conditions, we’re failing both ethically and sustainably.

The analogy is that food has now become a general discussion for many, and continues, recent events in the U.K. have pointed up the fact that much food travels for too long and from far too great a distance. The packet of lettuce which turns to black mush in two day’s tells its own story, but isn’t that true of the top which barely lasts a season?

Are we asking the right questions, and are we tracing the process thoroughly enough in the fashion business?

If a fashion designer and a chef are the creative force behind the product, it’s important that there is a balance of skills, purpose and approach. Where many, many chefs now work with local produce, nurture lost or endangered ingredients, and actively engage with the local community, how does the fashion designer work in a parallel manner?

That’s really it for now, consider and think, propose and ponder, investigate and enquire, it’s time we upped our game in terms of the raw materials of clothing.