What does the future look like for fashion shows?
Lockdown has given fashion houses a mirror for reflection - a chance to look into what is right and wrong consumption, taking control of the fashion schedule, and whether the spectacle of the fashion show is a dying tradition.
The British Fashion Council announced at the end of April that is would be combining its menswear and womenswear digital platform to showcase a gender neutral fashion week in June, the month that was previously set aside for Men’s Fashion Week. ‘The current pandemic is leading us all to reflect more poignantly on the society we live in and how we want to live our lives and build businesses when we get through this. The other side of this crisis, we hope will be about sustainability, creativity and product that you value, respect, cherish. By creating a cultural fashion week platform, we are adapting digital innovation to best fit our needs today and something to build on as a global showcase for the future.’, the BFC’s Chief Executive, Caroline Rush, says. This is clearly an uncertain time for the fashion industry, and a shift in a different direction from the conventional fashion week format that has lasted for decades. One that worked well, that was until we encountered a global pandemic.
On Monday, Alessandro Michele, the creative director of Gucci, held a video news conference to announce that the brand will be reducing the number of shows that it holds from five to two. The label called the traditional rota of spring/summer, autumn/winter, cruise and pre-fall shows “stale”. Michele believes that, “clothes should have a longer lifespan” and, “two appointments a year were more than enough to give time to form a creative thought, and to give more time to this system”.
In a personal post published onto Gucci’s Instagram page titled ‘Notes from the silence”, Michele expressed how days in isolation have left him with a lots of time to reflect and examine how as consumers, we have consumed too frivolously, which he believes, “have burned the house we live in”. Michele explained that he has had, “time — time I have never had before to think about my work, my creativity, our future, the future of the company.” This time in lockdown has clearly disturbed him and brought on a desire for profound change. In turn this could have a profound ripple affect on other large brands, and the way that they will create their collections.
As Vanessa Friedman, fashion director of The New York Times comments, “Gucci under Mr. Michele has proved perhaps the most influential brand of the last five years”, and through the last five years he has been one of the more progressive designers in the industry. Friedman comments that in Michele’s personal Instagram entries, he made “a link between ‘performative’ fashion shows and the problem sustainability”.
Performative fashion shows are a large part of what makes fashion week an exciting spectacle, something that Gucci largely plays into. However, while there may be sustainable issues with creating a spectacle, Michele’s influence isn’t just through his ability to put on a good show, but also his ability progressive engagement with culture. He has created silk pussy-bow blouses and babydoll dresses for his male models, and in 2019 for the Met Gala, dressed Harry Styles in earrings, and Jared Leto in an evening gown. Maybe it is no surprise that Michele is fashions new front runner towards a change in the ‘traditional’ system, and his ability to understand in a time of crises that there is need for sustainability to come before spectacle.
Gucci, however, is not the first brand to announce that they may leave the fashion calendar. Yves Saint Laurent, (also owned by Kering, the Gucci parent company), creative director, Anthony Vaccarello, released a statement last month saying that “the brand would take control” of the fashion schedule “conscious of the current circumstance and its wave of radical change”. Dries Van Noten also announced that he would not have a show until 2021, and his couture show will be held in January in Milan instead of Paris.
Back in March while Milan’s AW20 fashion shows were still taking place, and the spread of coronavirus present, Giorgio Armani was the first designer to rethink how he wanted to present his show. He asked guests not to attend, and instead to watch it on a livestream. This appeared to be a suitable solution to the crisis at hand, however with the possibly of fashion shows making a permanent switch to digital, is a fashion month of live streamed shows even possible on a large scale?
Vogue’s fashion critic, Anders Christian Madsen, believes that “so much of fashion week is about relationship and conversations, and a community that encourages creativity and informs buyers on sometimes a daily - even hourly - basis on what you wish to buy and how to enhance your customer’s lifestyle.” This idea of relationship, conversation and community is what has been keeping the fashion world alive and exciting for decades. Behind the scenes at fashion shows you will find thousands of people that will be at risk of losing their job if physical fashion week’s cease to exist. Madsen comments that, “countless self-employed freelancers, who make the shows happen and are now in danger of losing their livelihoods: from stylists to producers to writers, and their agents.” Without fashion shows, large brands still have the ability of live-streaming their shows, or creating virtual presentations, while small and emerging brands may not have the capacity to stay afloat amidst the job cuts.
It is apparent that fashion houses will have to adapt with the changing desire to consume clothing in a sustainable manner, and it is beneficial that large brands like Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent are adhering to this. There’s an opportunity to rethink and provide a different solution. What is clear is that the carousel of international fashion shows will still go-around, however it will be interesting to see if they have used this valuable time in lockdown to rethink their values, and if so, will this change the spectacle of the fashion show as we know it?