Fashion Month is coming to an end and I have been trying to find a brief way to summarise it. However, so far, I have not been really successful, I have mixed feelings about it. The only thing coming to my mind is the question whether this really is the future of fashion?
When the pandemic started, I was hopeful that we would all reassess our lifestyles. And many of us did – What do we eat? Where do the ingredients come from? Can we be more regional? I remember seeing queues in front of the small shops along the high street in my hometown. From the baker, to the butcher to the vegetable farmer – as people were stuck at home, they not only “rearranged” their clutter but also tried to reconnect with producers from the region.
Similarly, after the first shocking news of brands abandoning suppliers in countries like India and leaving them with inventory for which the brands never ended up paying, our attitude to shopping for clothes also changed. Suddenly, small brands producing locally, applying sustainable approaches and rethinking processes finally got the exposure in the media which they had long deserved. Fashion shows were either cancelled or moved online and more than one designer claimed they would rethink the insane amount of collections necessary to fill the annual fashion calendar. I thought that this pandemic had taught us something: that our lifestyles are just not sustainable in the long-run. I thought that it would impact consumerism driven by multi-billion-dollar-brands. But did the fashion industry really change?
When I look at the footage and reports about the past month, unfortunately, I doubt it. First of all, the “fashion circus” is in full swing again and, just like before the pandemic, it is moving around the world again. Despite the claims during the lookdowns to “never go back to the insane fashion calendar”, there is no difference to fashion shows before Covid. The calendar seems equally busy, the crowds equally big. (Also the coverage has not changed. I keep seeing the same videos from the runways shot by influencers, celebrities and those who want to be part of them. Again, we receive countless product endorsements and recommendations for yet another “it-piece we can’t live without”.)
One particular event perfectly illustrates the state of the fashion industry: the French label Coperni “spray painted” a dress on model Bella Hadid. Watching the video, it looked as if the dress came to life by turning a liquid into fabric. The videos went viral and the label was celebrated for its innovative approach. It did look interesting and futuristic. However, when looking into the media coverage and press statements, I was disappointed to read that it is yet another type of polymer. The liquid can be mixed with other materials and it may be recycled. It may be turned into something else. It was an ingenious PR-gig, but it would have been great to see that they came up with a more sustainable alternative. It was futuristic, but I hope that this is not the only future fashion will face. The video struck me because it shows that the issues the industry is currently facing are only being addressed at a meta-level. Despite their urgency, they are still considered “niche”. The “spray paint dress” will not go on sale, it obviously has served its purpose to get people talking during fashion week. It also shows that the majority of decision-makers in fashion think that its future is only in tech. But what the industry needs is more than just fancy tech solutions and meta-level talk. We need more than just a few “green” or “sustainable” collections which will never make up for the amounts of items produced – unsustainably – for regular ones. We need to rethink how we wear fashion, how often we buy it and how it is created.
I am not implying that we all have to lead flawless lives. I do love fashion and as human beings, we need creativity. It is natural to crave something beautiful and it is perfectly fine to treat oneself. But the scale at which it has been done and the extent of harm created outweighs this substantially. If I was a fortune teller and tried to read what was in the fashion crystal ball, I would hope for the following:
1) Reduce the fashion calendar and the number of locations. The fashion metropolises will crucify me, but this needs to be discussed. Is it really necessary that the industry travels across the globe multiple times a year? I think it could be condensed to one major event per year to enable people to meet in person. But the pandemic has shown that collections may also be presented online, regionally or via different channels. It will definitely need a lot of rethinking but I do think it is possible.
2) This leads to the amount of collections per year: despite the resolutions during Covid, the actual amount of collections has not decreased. With Spring/Summer, Fall/Winter, plus their “pre-“equivalents and Cruise and Resort Collections, we still have six major collections a fashion brand is expected to produce per year. While social media and the internet in general need a novelty factor, it is not only insanely unsustainable to produce that many collections, but it is also a huge barrier for smaller brands to enter the industry.
3) Exactly these smaller brands will be the driver for change in my opinion. There are many of them who opted for a slower approach with a small number of collections and a limited amount of garments per collection. Furthermore, there are countless brands who actually try to solve the problem with approaches which might not be a fancy “spray-on” dress but actual problem solvers – from upcycling, to repurposing, innovative sustainable material and reviving artisanry.
4) Lastly, and maybe even most importantly, I would like to see the consumers change. Only if we as consumers change our shopping behaviour and ask questions will the industry change. We can all hope that it will change by itself but the true force is pressure from those who part with their money for the products.
This is why I would like use today’s Postcard as a little reminder. Let me be that little fairy sitting on your shoulder when you are about to click “add to cart”. Is this product really worth buying? Do you really need it? What is the brands sustainability approach? And if you really found an item you absolutely love, I wish you that you will cherish it for a long time.
With this, I wish you a fashionable week ahead!