At this point we are all very aware that the COVID-19 pandemic has shaken the fashion industry to its core. Orders are cancelled, shaky supply-chains exposed, and company after company is coming out with bankruptcy statements. The fashion industry has become, bluntly put, one big, hot mess. So what is left for brands to do? Reevaluate. Reevaluate that traditional and broken system. You can see the fashion wheels spinning. What will the future look like? Where do we begin?
If you ask sustainable fashion pioneer Lauren Bravo (which I was very honoured to speak to last week) !yay! she will tell you that she thinks brands need to sell the clothes they didn’t sell this year, next year. ‘We have to be sensible and realise that trends don’t matter. Trends are irrelevant. Just save all of those clothes and hopefully in the meantime that frees up a little bit of time and space for brands to stop and rethink the way that they are working. Put a foot on the brakes.’
As I was pondering over these wise statements last week, Alessandro Michele, the famed Creative Director of all-time-favourite fashion house Gucci, came with the big news that Gucci is going seasonless. Nice prediction, Lauren! And because this news thrilled us so much, we wanted to see how the rest of the fashion world was reacting. And we are so happy to be able to say that we see some very real and positive shifts taking place.
But first, let's take a closer look at what this means for the 9 billion pound company. Gucci broke the news on Instagram with an eighteen picture story that referred to six letters that were written between March 29 to May 16. Speculations are that Michele wrote them himself during his lockdown. (They are definitely worth a read). If Michele ever decides to leave his Gucci days behind him, there is a big break coming for him as a writer).
'These days of confinement, in a suspended time that we can hardly imagine as free, I try to ask myself what is the meaning of my actions. It is a vital and urgent questioning for me, which demands a careful pause and a delicate listening.’ he starts. Later on continuing with ‘The change I imagine involves the capacity to reconnect with the deepest reasons that inspired my entry into the fashion realm … So much haughtiness made us lose our sisterhood with the butterflies, the flowers, the trees and the roots. So much outrageous greed made us lose the harmony and the care, the connection and the belonging’.
And isn’t that the most important thing? Realising that we have lost the connection to our surroundings. Think of how many Gucci collections have been inspired by nature (dare we say, nearly all of them have some link to it?). And think of how its beauty and illumination has been taken away by the fashion industry mimicking its naturalness in a fake and greedy world.
Getting back to the point, Gucci’s main man Michele continues on in poetic commentary for quite some time, before mentioning that the fashion house is going to cut back to only two shows per year. Spring and fall. How exactly they see all of this take shape is still being discussed, but we are more than thrilled. Why? Because Gucci has a lot of power in the industry. Therefore, this decision is going to impact the wider fashion landscape. It will create a blueprint for other brands to follow. Michele realises that as well ‘We are a big brand, so we have a responsibility to take care of our industry. We need to give it the time that’s needed. The things we make have a longer life than what we have allotted to them in the past. We all agree that fall and spring are the most appropriate [time frames] to show our work, but I hope that other brands will follow us so we can have an open dialogue to arrange new dates’ he said to Vogue.co.uk.
And the great thing? Gucci is not alone in its embarkment on a slower and more sustainable journey. Saint Laurent, also owned by Kering, came out with a statement in April where they announced their decision to skip the fashion show schedule for the rest of the year. They wanted to start taking control of their own schedule.
Additionally, the Belgian designer Dries van Noten has initiated a petition that is asking for a more sensible and sustainable fashion calendar. Those that sign the petition are prepared to take advantage of the circumstances that have been created during lockdown to make some drastic changes to their production. The fall deliveries that are late due to the closing of factories are creating an opportunity to make a new normal. Where collections are in store for periods of time that make more sense. So fall collections would remain in stores from August to January, and spring collections from February to July. That already sounds pretty normal, right?
A group statement came out that mentioned ‘The current environment, although challenging, presents an opportunity for a fundamental and welcome change that will simplify our businesses, making them more environmentally and socially sustainable and ultimately align them more closely with customers’. They hope that ‘by working together, these steps will allow our industry to become more responsible for our impact on our customers, on the planet and on the fashion community, and bring back the magic and creativity that has made fashion such an important part of our world.’ With Bergdorf Goodman, Liberty, Selfridges, Tory Burch and Marine Serre already having signed the petition it looks like a very promising start of a new normal indeed.
Told ya there are some real and very positive shifts taking place? So to answer the question that started this article in the first place ‘Is this the end of fashion as we know it?’ I think so. Even though we are living tårough a horribly difficult time and a sense of security is still very far out of sight, the future of fashion looks brighter than it did a week ago.
On a final note I would like to quote Anna Wintour. During a recent interview with CNBC she said the industry needs a moment to reflect. She said ‘Fashion should last, it should be emotional, it should have memories, it should be meaningful, and think that we need to reevaluate - all of us that work in this industry - how we can best present that.
Amen Anna. Amen.
Written by: Danique van Leeuwenstijn
Image: Gucci Instagram