It’s notable that the majority of the grievances these coalitions address are pre-pandemic ones: sustainability was 2019’s buzzword, and many designers, editors, and industry leaders were already talking about making fewer collections and traveling less frequently for shows. Designers have been experimenting for the past five years with showing on different schedules: showing less (like Pyer Moss’s Kerby-Jean Raymond, who shows once a year), or with showing not at all (all praise Acronym’s Errolson Hugh!). In other words, these proposals are less a radical shift than they are reforms that would take the industry back to an earlier, smaller scale.
That sounds good from a business perspective, but consumers are more suspicious of brands than they’ve ever been before, a trend that awkward pandemic marketing has accelerated. Have consumers been trained to hunt for discounts, or is it also possible that they’ve found an inferior product going hand-in-hand with a culture of constant novelty? Are the products that designers are making the stuff of lifelong wardrobes, or are they the flotsam of the hype machine? Ideally, a slower pace and fewer collections would allow designers to make stronger and more compelling collections. (Marine Serre and Acronym, for example, make just two collections annually, and you can see it in the strength of their statements.) Many designers need a creative reawakening as well as a business one: I am one of those freaks who loves fashion shows, but I will admit to having afternoons in Europe and New York where I go from show to show with little understanding of what I’m seeing and why it matters. I hate feeling that way—but too many designers remain attached to an outdated mode of pseudo-European fantasies of Margiela and John Galliano fumes, like having a fancy fashion show and a weird-looking fanny pack means they are legitimate and their insecurities will be squashed forever. (Spoiler: they aren’t.)
Notably, neither LVMH nor Kering, the industry’s two largest conglomerates, have signed on to any of these pacts—but they have also not outlined any changes themselves, and one presumes that may be in the cards. The conglomerates are essentially the wind gods of the luxury industry, so they are poised to lead, whether they decide to make their own series of proposals themselves or not.
Take a look at what the three major proposals are outlining below. Are they enough to get you excited about fashion again?
Who: Led by designer Dries Van Noten, Altuzarra CEO Shira Sue Carmi, and the president of Hong Kong luxury retailer Lane Crawford, Andrew Keith, the group also includes designers like Marine Serre, Eckhaus Latta, Paco Rabanne, Caroline Herrera, and Nina Ricci (the latter three are all owned by Puig, the Spanish conglomerate that also owns a majority share in Van Noten’s business). Chloe, the insouciant French girl brand designed by Natacha Ramsay-Levi, signed on last week. The group has strategically partnered with retailers, as well, including British department store Selfridge’s, Nordstrom, and Mytheresa.
What: The group’s efforts, organized across a series of Zoom calls and circulated through an online petition, are primarily focused on recalibrating the selling season and setting parameters for when and how retailers can discount clothing. Under their proposal, stores would sell Fall/Winter merchandise from August to January, and Spring/Summer from February to July, which would align with seasonal weather patterns. (What happens when global warming expands or contracts seasons?) Retailers would agree not to discount collections until January, for Fall/Winter, and July, for Spring/Summer. (France already regulates sales in this way by law.)
Ramifications: Because of frequent markdowns and seasonal events like Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Singles Day, consumers have been trained to expect hefty discounts. This proposal hopes to right that imbalance, but it’s a tough moment to expect consumers to start paying full price again. Plus: what happens when global warming causes seasons to expand or contract?