Fashion industry evolves, as virus forces rethink
PARIS (AP) – The pandemic has torn a multibillion dollar mouthful of the fabric of the European fashion industry, halted catwalks and forced brands to show their designs digitally instead.
Now, in the hopes of a return to near-normality by the end of the year, the industry is wondering what fashion will look like as it dust itself off and back into place.
The answers vary. Some believe that the Fashion Week format, in use since the 1940s, will be radically rethought. Others believe Asia will consolidate its huge gains in influence. Many see brands seeking greater sustainability to woo younger customers.
“The impact of the pandemic will undoubtedly increase the importance and influence of Asia on fashion,” said Gildas Minvielle, economist at the Institut Français de la Mode in Paris.
“Luxury in Europe has already rebounded, but that’s only because it’s globalized, only because of Asian buyers,” Minvielle said. “They spent on European brands.”
Asian buyers are still seen as a largely untapped market, but their wealth has recently shifted to that of Westerners. China, in particular, was already seen as the global engine of luxury industry growth before the pandemic. His faster containment of the virus will leave him in an even stronger position.
“In the next 50 years, the money will come from the East as it has been (coming) from the West for the past 50 years,” said Long Nguyen, chief fashion critic of The Impression.
It could see a designer aesthetic that bends more to Chinese tastes.
Another trend that has strengthened during the pandemic is the decision to forgo the frantic pace of parades from the track calendar.
As the virus spread across the world from East to West, these went overnight from a live sensory experience, in person, to a pre-recorded digital display put online. Many have predicted devastation for the industry, but the homes have proven to be surprisingly resilient. This is because the system was already behind a change.
Since the advent of social media, brands have become much less dependent on traditional advertising media such as fashion magazines. Now they are creating their own online channels, bypassing glossies, to release their designs.
“Each brand is a media entity in itself,” said Nguyen, calling the way the industry operates “obsolete”.
Additionally, as shoppers themselves move online, homes have necessarily become much less reliant on traditional outlets such as department stores.
Some houses have done better than expected with the new digital format. Smaller brands, in particular, have welcomed the discontinuation of setting up catwalks which can be astronomically expensive – for relatively little return.
Parisian couture designer Julien Fournie said the virus had left him wondering “if fashion shows are really necessary” in the first place.
The virus has seen many brands, including French luxury giant Kering’s Balenciaga, Alexander McQueen and Bottega Veneta, tear apart the traditional timeline to show off their new collections when it suits them – both creatively and financially. Saint Laurent started the trend last year, making headlines for leaving Paris Fashion Week to “take control of the pace.”
The advantage for these brands is that they set dates on their own terms, with collections that don’t compete with others for attention at the same time. Yet many nostalgic reviewers, buyers, and consumers alike claim that nothing can replace the physical track experience.
“Brands are increasingly deciding the optimal time to show themselves… They want more control over their activity and that is their right”, Pascal Morand, Executive President of the Fédération de la Mode de Paris.
“But this is not the end of Fashion Week. No matter what people say, they are all waiting to get back on track and get back to the physical experience.
Stella McCartney, who unveiled her off-calendar fall collection last month, said the industry is seriously questioning the relevance of seasons “even before COVID” as climate change has sadly underscored how bad it is. absurd.
“There was a moment when the lockdown started – in the sky there were no planes, you could hear the birds,” McCartney said. “Everyone was talking about nature taking its rightful place,” she added, expressing frustration with the industry’s lifestyle that requires thousands of miles of travel per year.
McCartney said that across the industry, there is now a feeling that brands need to embrace sustainability “to survive,” particularly to attract more environmentally conscious young consumers.
An example of such eco-thinking is the reduction of waste in collections. Luxury giants have been criticized in the past for burning unused or unsold luxury goods.
And McCartney doesn’t seem to think this will be the end of the parade either.
“I don’t think we’re going to throw away where we are today and I don’t think we’re going to throw away where we were yesterday,” she said. “It took a long time, but I miss the energy of the end of the show, the engagement with my community, I miss seeing the clothes in real life and in motion, the expressions of the models, the his. This is art.
Adamson reported from Leeds, England.