Friday, December 2, 2016

The Changing Face of Fashion Presentation

The fashion industry is changing. The so-called system is coming to an end. The establishment vs the outsiders. What season is it, again?

Fashion like many other industries, rapidly moves and morphs into an uncontrollable entity. Industry dignitaries can only watch as this all unfolds around them, adapting themselves, their content and output to the developmentally temperamental fashion landscape. Publications are changing, fashion houses are changing—internally and structurally. Publications such as Elle in the UK are changing their release schedule, InStyle are making the move to online-only; Teen Vogue in America are switching to quarterly publishing to incentivise their issues and to make them more special, like books worth keeping and not throwaway papers for their loyal teenage readership. Brands like Gucci, Bottega Veneta and Vivienne Westwood are consolidating menswear and womenswear. Vetements, Public School are presenting their collections off the official calendar, opting for different show times throughout the year.

Vetements is a notable disruptor. Nobody foresaw a small Parisian fashion brand, comprised of designers from Céline, Givenchy and Margiela and led by Georgia-born Demna Gvasalia, who showed during the Spring 2015 season, to rise meteorically and change fashion. They started as anti-establishment provocateurs presenting in gay clubs and Chinese restaurants, but sure enough, they became the establishment—in fact, they are now redirecting it.

Demna and Guram Gvasalia, the creative and business minds behind Vetements are two men wielding a great deal of power. When they announced six months ago they would be presenting their Spring 2017 collection ahead of schedule, in July, on the eve of couture week, the industry reacted accordingly. Other designers swiftly followed suit. 

Offering their brand as the guinea pig for their own experiment, it proved opportune time to ask a plethora of answerable questions. What does it mean for the brand to present Spring 2017 in July? What does it mean for designers who will also opt out of the official calendar? What does it mean for the entire industry, particularly the ones who operate on the official calendar?
Ownership & Control
The first reason behind this switch to showing Spring in July is perhaps the simplest to understand: brands have full ownership and control. Speaking to the Business of Fashion, the Gvasalia’s said that the switchover came about due to the fashion buyers, the ones solely responsible for purchasing what men and women will eventually get the chance to buy. The fashion buyers are in town, after the men’s shows and to view the pre-collections. They argue that the buyers have more to spend and thus, it would be appropriate that they adjust their show schedule to allow maximum sale opportunities.

Secondly, by presenting in July, the designers have an extended period of time to manufacture the clothing that will go into stores earlier and stay longer. The current shop floor system only grants a few months to each designer’s collection. By showing earlier, having an extended production and delivery period, the designers can maximise profits.

There’s also something about seeing a spring/summer collection, albeit eight months before the seasons actually arrive, is the timeliness of it. For some, excluding this critic, there is something disconcerting about seeing a mini dress or a t-shirt-shorts combo in October when temperatures are beginning to plummet.
What’s with all the fuss? People in the industry are becoming burnt out. Jeremy Scott, a pop-cultural provocateur if there ever was one, mused on the idea of becoming burnt out in his Fall 2016 Moschino collection. The collection featured tattered tuxedos, licked by flames, scorch marks visible on dresses that were falling apart. Forging his own design signature on a Marlboro cigarette box, he changed “smoking kills” to “fashion kills”. Along the line it has and it will continue to if creatives aren’t given breathing space.

Designers work instinctively and reactively. A million and one things are expected from them. They have deadlines to meet, figures and projections to meet; they have customers and editors to please. Exposure after all is what their clothes will need to sell. First and foremost, they have to please themselves. And in a creative field, if they can’t do that then what’s the point? 

Preserving the mental health of the designer is the most important task at hand. In her brilliant piece for the Business of Fashion this week, ‘Does Fashion Have a Mental Health Problem?’, Helena Pike interviews an anonymous London-based creative director who shared his experience. “As I progressed through my company, things only sped up. Expectations were high and the momentum got to the point where I was taking on too much work, pushing myself too far. I finally crashed… I was exhausted like never before.” 

A seasonal shift might the designers piece of mind. 
Personally speaking, I was initially opposed staunchly to this switch. Months later, I’m still on the fence, not knowing whether all this change would be truly worth it in the long . However, the more you rationalise the move, the more you can understand why brands, such as Vetements, would choose to switch their schedules.

The reason why I oppose the seasonal switch is the discord it will cause in an industry which already confused and complex enough, without throwing another systemic spanner in the works. 

The beauty of the big four fashion weeks is that they have every press and buyer and stylist under the sun at the same time. They’re all in town to preview, view, purchase, interview, borrow—outside of that month timeframe, everybody returns to their corner of the world. Everybody convenes in January and June, February and September. Outside of that time it’s particularly difficult to rally all the possible supporters. (Side note: Menswear and womenswear are rightly separated. Not only do they cater to different people, but together they would cause a hideously overcrowded schedule and it would result in the fashion month becoming fashion months.) 

What would happen is that fashion’s governing bodies, the Council of Fashion Designers of America, the British Fashion Council, the Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana, and the Fédération Française de la Couture, du Prêt-à-Porter des Couturiers et des Créateurs de Mode, came to together and decided whether or not they should shift their schedules accordingly? Should womenswear commence at the end of January, at the beginning of July—those bodies have the power to cement the foundations of change. In consultation with designers, a conclusion could possibly be arrived at. Fall in January, Spring in July, maybe so.

To conclude, here is a powerful quote from the New York Times’ Vanessa Friedman, “Sartorial spaghetti is being thrown at the wall to see what sticks. But something will, and then the whole sparkly, chiffon-clad edifice could tip.” 
Elle, Harper's Bazaar, NowFashion, Autre Magazine

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