It’s often felt like 2020 has been the year that wasn’t. Our diaries – glaringly empty or mocking us with their scratched-out engagements – have proved the point. Ironically, however, it was only as we hit pause on ‘real life’ that we had the freedom to press fast-forward and get to a place of genuine, positive change.
In fashion, these changes have been swift and fundamental. The COVID-19 pandemic and Black Lives Matter protests left the industry’s clunkiest mechanics and most troubling corners exposed. We knew already that business as usual wasn’t working, but it took this moment of reckoning to implement the necessary steps to address that. Suddenly, seismic shifts that could have taken years were happening in just weeks. But what’s next? And where does the industry go now?
It’s at the swishiest, swankiest, most showy end of the fashion spectrum that change has been obvious – nowhere more so than with fashion weeks. Thanks to social distancing guidelines, designers – scheduled to show at couture, men’s or present their SS21 collections – had to adapt. Fast. They achieved this by migrating their IRL runways to remote presentations that ran the gamut from digital shows to live streams and mini documentaries.
The catwalk show as we know it will, of course, return. But will we be seeing less of them? It’s likely; 2020 has ushered in a slowdown, as we all set about re-evaluating the difference between ‘want’ and ‘need’. ‘More, more, more’ culture felt at odds with the stillness of lockdown. Why did we have all this stuff? Designers too have recognised that the relentless churning out of collections had to stop. In May, Gucci’s creative director Alessandro Michele released a statement saying that he was vowing to cut down from five shows a year to two ‘seasonless’ collections.
‘I have designed for a lot of big brands both global and British over the last 20 years. The increase in options, collections and drops is crazy!’ says Katherine Gethings, a freelance design consultant who works as design manager for TOG member Golden Empire, which owns a 900-person-strong factory north of Shanghai. ‘It puts so much pressure on design teams and the buyers that it almost becomes like a machine – churning out product for the sake of having it, not because there is a genuine requirement. So, a positive change is that all brands are seemingly scaling back, buying narrower and deeper, which is also much more efficient for manufacturing. I think brands need to focus on making what they offer count, be sustainable, have longevity and be the best they can be.’