I know I keep blogging and going on about the change that is occurring in the RTW industry. For at least the last 8 years since I’ve been associated with a local design college, the students are being taught sustainable practices and thinking in terms of sustainable methods of designing clothing. Then they get out in the real world, and it’s a whole other practice. The truth is that even though they are learning sustainable practices, and taught to design in sustainable terms, they really can’t use it when it comes to the product hitting the pavement. The truth is that even today in the middle of fashion upheaval, sustainable is simply a code-phrase for something that they all dream about, but don’t really use.
But more articles are being published about the change that fashion retailing and manufacturing must go through, as well as the way clothes are sold. The whole concept of clothing is undergoing a massive shift. And I’m wondering if this COVID-19 situation isn’t the catalyst if not catastrophe that fashion needed to regain some sense.
The cheap fashion that has been prolific in the last 30 years was and always had been unsustainable. The model had to break. I’ve often used the concept of a rubber band being stretched to its limits then being asked to stretch more and more, eventually breaking. Although the typical fast-fashion business model could have lasted a couple of more years ultimately, it would have broken, and the situation caused by this virus has accelerated that change.
So what change is that? And why is a sewing professional and teacher writing about it? Because there are many changes that not only affect the way that you will purchase clothes in the future – more of a mind change, but will also affect what you think of sewing and sewists. In this latest article from Financial Times, is an interview with Dries Van Noten (drees – van – no’-ten), a well-respected European designer. Yeah, I know, why am I quoting a business newspaper – it’s because they have been on track with the news coming out of European designers and the effect of the COVID-19 on the business of fashion.
1. Designers have to be more mindful of how they design clothing
2. Designers have to be more sustainable in the manufacturing of their clothing and take direct responsibility for that process.
3. Designers have to rethink how clothes are purchased – not with the latest gimmick, but the opposite, with care, and clear intent about a durable design that will last longer than a few weeks.
4. Discounting can not be prolifically used as a sales technique. Customers are tired of purchasing a winter coat, only to see it go on sale for 50% off within weeks of when they bought it.
5. For the first time in a long time, Designers will actually have the ears of the beancounters. For the last 30 years, the beancounters have been in charge of how the design Maison has conducted business – how many shows, how many designs, how they are marketed, how they are manufactured. With the dawn of a new age, the designers can take the reigns here and design with quality in mind rather than quantity.
6. Many designers are totally aware of the contribution of artisans and craftspeople in the making of their garments. They would like to see more respect and therefore added security to the availability of those crafts and skills that designers use.
7. Hopefully, the end of the “fashion show” extravaganza. That is a thing of the past and really horribly wasteful and extravagant. There’s no need for all that when a design is good, it sells itself.
Those are some of the reasoning behind designers and how they will change in the future. With that in mind, a lot of major Maisons in Europe will be showing only two shows a year. This is something that independent young designers have already done. Designers like Zac Posen, Jason Wu, and others have settled on two shows a year to maintain balance in their lives as well as create a demand for their clothes. Because they are not available for six or more shows a year, People are more excited and positively looking forward to the show when it does come.
So that’s from the designer/RTW/manufacturing point of view. So what! If you sew your clothes, you could pretty much care less about the retail clothing people are doing. Well, that’s not really true. Sewists have and will always follow a lot in what the fashion designers are doing. From the time there was a fashion model, there were sewists who wanted that latest empire waistline the queen was wearing.
…or the bustle that was all the rage on the promenade,
…to the Twiggy fashion dress.
Sewists have seen what looks good and want it for themselves. Now, after a few decades of this, most sewists develop their own style (even ladies who have seamstresses on staff do the same – see my last Friday’s email for more on that What? You don’t get that weekly free email….well click here and sign up – after you get the first email click the “View this email in a browser click here” and it will take you to see the email in a browser AND past emails – check out the one for May 29)
But wait, what has happened in the last 30 years to skew the cost of clothing? Yep, you guessed it: the fast-cheap-fashion business model. This so skewed the price of clothing, that sewing no longer was a valued skill. To compound matters, because the consumer had no idea what a well-made item was, the clothing became even cheaper and even poorer quality.
To jump back from that skewed pricing and cheap quality is a little like putting toothpaste back in the tube. Enter the COVID-19, which caused an immediate halt in fashion, retail, production, manufacturer, and sales. As a result, the fashion industry has a chance to take a breathe and get off the addiction needle of the fast-fashion business model. It’s going to be hard, but there are so many designers who are so tired of putting out 6 to 10 shows per year to keep up with a constant fashion frenzy. As a result, you’re seeing, Prada, Gucci, Dries Van Noten, Lane Crawford dropping out of the fashion frenzy schedule and returning to a few shows per year – some will only show twice. This sounds like it’s something from a foreign planet, but actually there are already designers who have started this like Zac Posen, Jason Wu and even Jean-Paul Gaultier has bowed out of the fashion business altogether to try something new (talk about great timing).
Fashion has a chance to press the restart button and reset the whole industry. With fewer shows, there will be fewer people attending the shows, and hopefully, we will also get to the point where we have more curated reports on fashion rather than ongoing fashion overload from the Instagrammer set.
At the same time, we sewists can revel in the fact that our knowledge once again is valuable, as well as welcoming new people who want to learn how to express themselves, fit themselves and enjoy customizing their looks with a valuable skill.
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