Just a week after luxury designers and retailers teamed up to demand a shift in fashion’s selling calendar, the fashion industry’s leading bodies have put up a united front to support the new direction.
The subject of realigning the retail calendar has hounded the industry for years – just why is stock delivered three months before each season ends? The practice is followed by heavy discounting to get rid of products that are still perfectly in demand.
Prices of lightweight, summer dresses are slashed while the season is in full swing. Coats and boots are discounted before Christmas – when another two full months of winter lie ahead. The opportunity to sell at full price is missed.
The Covid-19 pandemic has dragged this issue back into the spotlight, and now the British Fashion Council (BFC) and Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) have thrown their weight behind the seismic change that designers and retailers have been calling for.
The issue was fuelled by an open letter spearheaded by Belgian designer Dries Van Noten last week, in which signatories including fellow designers such as Mary Katrantzou and representatives from leading retailers such as Selfridges and Harvey Nichols, urge the industry to realign the seasons, starting from autumn/winter 20. Other goals include discounting only at the end of every season and factors that will aid sustainability: producing less product and less travel.
In a statement issued late this Wednesday night, the two UK and US fashion industry bodies have said they “share the common perspectives of their members” and outlined a series of initiatives for the fashion industry to adhere to in the future, saying “these changes have been overdue for a while, and the fallout from the coronavirus has forced us all to prioritise the process of rethinking how our industry should function.”
Both councils recognised the problem of unsold stock being stacked up and urged brands, retailers and designers “who are used to fashion’s fast, unforgiving pace, to slow down”.
They have also encouraged designers to “focus on no more than two main collections a year,” which will slow the hamster wheel of showing pre-collections between the autumn and spring seasons.
The councils argue this will also benefit designers, saying: “a slower pace also offers an opportunity to reduce the stress levels of designers and their teams, which in turn will have a positive effect on the overall well-being of the industry.”
While it may be tiring, designers and brands are unlikely to simply stop creating lucrative pre-collections, because of the pressure on profits. Fashion houses are unlikely to ramp down creative output, as there is a lot of catching up to do revenue wise.
The BFC and CFDA letter also tackles the sustainability issue raised by Van Noten and his peers, and we may have seen the last of the high-spectacle shows in far-flung destinations.
When it is again possible, the councils are encouraging designers to show in the main fashion capitals of New York, London, Milan and Paris during the scheduled autumn/winter and spring/summer schedules, instead of shows in distant locations with attendant large carbon footprints.
This is also to limit the need for buyers and press to travel. However, it can be seen as disregarding the less-hyped fashion weeks across cities that aren’t in fashion’s big four, including Copenhagen, Berlin and Shanghai.
Intentions are good, and Covid-19 appears to have refreshed fashion’s united front, with both governing bodies standing by a slower, less wasteful approach to the future. Promises of fewer collections and less travel giving creativity the breathing space it needs sounds like a positive lesson to learn from the chaos of the pandemic. However, the elephant in the room is how realistic these intentions will be when the financial aspect comes into play.