alessandra ambrossio fashion week runway catwalk 600 x 600

Fashion weeks in Milan, Paris, New York and London have always been the beating heart of the industry. Twice a year, respected editors, buyers and bloggers gather in their most outrageous outfits to watch the latest offerings trot down the catwalk. You know you’ve made it when you’re invited to Gucci, Prada or Saint Laurent – and sitting front row at Paris Fashion Week is still what every little girl in her mother’s leopard print Balmain jacket dreams of doing.
But over the past year there has been a revolt by angry, exhausted designers and worried retailers who say the industry, and more specifically the seasonal fashion calendar needs urgent reform to keep up with the modern world.

‘We have everybody complaining about the shows,’ says Diane von Furstenberg, designer and president of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA). ‘Everything needs to be rebooted.’

As with every creative industry on earth, the internet has had a seismic effect on fashion. With the rise of social media, designers no longer need to speak to their clients through the lens of a select number of fashion insiders. Instead, millions of people from around the world can follow their shows in real time, which means brands get a flood of attention as images are shared. However with spring/summer shown in September and autumn/winter in February, brands can’t build on this powerful social media hype as the clothes are only available six months later. And once in stores, they look dated since their first exposure was half a year before. Meanwhile, high street brands can now churn out clothes in a matter of weeks, which means that copies of designer gear are often available before the real thing.

Designers are becoming increasingly vocal about this. Henry Holland has said the collections he makes immediately available sell twice as fast as those that hit the shelves six months later. Rebecca Minkoff and Thakoon have both announced they are going to make all their clothes available for purchase from the day following the show, while Tom Ford hopes to harness the power of live streams that will soon allow customers to watch, click and buy.

As well as seasonal issues, another problem the industry faces is the sheer number of shows in the calendar: ready to wear, haute couture, pre-collection, cruise… phew – it’s incredible more designers haven’t collapsed of exhaustion. And along with the increasingly bloated schedule, brands are forcing designers to head up more and more diffusion lines and the result is seeing talented creative directors such as Alber Elbaz of Lanvin heading for the door (see Tom Ford’s solution for this year’s New York Fashion Week).

To help combat this issue, Burberry, Marc Jacobs and Paul Smith have all announced this year that they are slimming down their brands to show fewer collections at less regular intervals. ‘I think the world has gone mad,’ said Paul Smith in an interview with The Business of Fashion. ‘There is this absolute horrendous disease of greed and over-expansion and unnecessary over-supply of product. At one point I had 27 or 28 lines.’

Demna Gvasalia of Vetements and Balenciaga has taken a different approach to a similar problem by choosing to focus his attention on the increasingly popular pre-collections in January and June instead of the traditional fashion weeks. Department stores source almost 80 percent of their purchases from pre-collections so this may be a particularly savvy move.

While some people mourn the loss of magic that the fashion shows once had, the reality is that it won’t be sustainable in the long run. Changes need to be made which make it less exhausting for designers to, well, design. If we can find some kind of middle ground that allows the continued production of beautiful clothes while tapping into consumer potential, then everybody wins.

Fashion weeks in Milan, Paris, New York and London have always been the beating heart of the industry. Twice a year, respected editors, buyers and bloggers gather in their most outrageous outfits to watch the latest offerings trot down the catwalk. You know you’ve made it when you’re invited to Gucci, Prada or Saint Laurent – and sitting front row at Paris Fashion Week is still what every little girl in her mother’s leopard print Balmain jacket dreams of doing.

But over the past year there has been a revolt by angry, exhausted designers and worried retailers who say the industry, and more specifically the seasonal fashion calendar needs urgent reform to keep up with the modern world.

‘We have everybody complaining about the shows,’ says Diane von Furstenberg, designer and president of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA). ‘Everything needs to be rebooted.’

As with every creative industry on earth, the internet has had a seismic effect on fashion. With the rise of social media, designers no longer need to speak to their clients through the lens of a select number of fashion insiders. Instead, millions of people from around the world can follow their shows in real time, which means brands get a flood of attention as images are shared. However with spring/summer shown in September and autumn/winter in February, brands can’t build on this powerful social media hype as the clothes are only available six months later. And once in stores, they look dated since their first exposure was half a year before. Meanwhile, high street brands can now churn out clothes in a matter of weeks, which means that copies of designer gear are often available before the real thing.

alessandra ambrossio fashion week runway catwalk 600 x 600

Designers are becoming increasingly vocal about this. Henry Holland has said the collections he makes immediately available sell twice as fast as those that hit the shelves six months later. Rebecca Minkoff and Thakoon have both announced they are going to make all their clothes available for purchase from the day following the show, while Tom Ford hopes to harness the power of live streams that will soon allow customers to watch, click and buy.

As well as seasonal issues, another problem the industry faces is the sheer number of shows in the calendar: ready to wear, haute couture, pre-collection, cruise… phew – it’s incredible more designers haven’t collapsed of exhaustion. And along with the increasingly bloated schedule, brands are forcing designers to head up more and more diffusion lines and the result is seeing talented creative directors such as Alber Elbaz of Lanvin heading for the door (see Tom Ford’s solution for this year’s New York Fashion Week).

To help combat this issue, Burberry, Marc Jacobs and Paul Smith have all announced this year that they are slimming down their brands to show fewer collections at less regular intervals. ‘I think the world has gone mad,’ said Paul Smith in an interview with The Business of Fashion. ‘There is this absolute horrendous disease of greed and over-expansion and unnecessary over-supply of product. At one point I had 27 or 28 lines.’

Demna Gvasalia of Vetements and Balenciaga has taken a different approach to a similar problem by choosing to focus his attention on the increasingly popular pre-collections in January and June instead of the traditional fashion weeks. Department stores source almost 80 percent of their purchases from pre-collections so this may be a particularly savvy move.

While some people mourn the loss of magic that the fashion shows once had, the reality is that it won’t be sustainable in the long run. Changes need to be made which make it less exhausting for designers to, well, design. If we can find some kind of middle ground that allows the continued production of beautiful clothes while tapping into consumer potential, then everybody wins.

For more on the latest items that you’ve seen on the catwalk at fashion week, go to Shop The Boulevard

Shop The Boulevard
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