The coronavirus pandemic has already changed every aspect of our lives. It is also catalyzing for the fashion industry to rethink many aspects of the business, particularly the never-ending hunger for newness. This subject is being touched upon by everyone these days, including high profile designers like Vera Wang. Vera admitted to WWD’s Bridget Foley last week that we were on such “ridiculous schedules,” and she referred to fashion as a “relentless treadmill.”
Vera is hoping that the pandemic will force us to slow down and reevaluate the relentless speed of fashion. In Saturday’s episode of the Business of Fashion Podcast, Dutch trend forecaster Li Edelkoort told BoF Editor-in-Chief Imran Amed: “The virus, I think, can be seen as a representation of our conscience. It brings to light what is so terribly wrong with society and every day that becomes clearer. It teaches us to slow down and to change our ways.”
Edelkoort is one of Time Magazine’s 25 most influential people in the fashion world for 2008. About five years ago, after Li overheard three women leaving Barneys New York and remarking that there was “nothing” in the store, she knew something had to change.
In response, Li devised in 2015 a 10 point Anti-Fashion manifesto subtitled “Ten reasons why the fashion system is obsolete.” It is a campaign to think about clothes rather than fashion, emphasize making smaller and better collections, focus on one fabulous thing, and become a specialist.
These are the points Edelkoort makes in her manifesto:
Thanks to the influx of fast fashion, ready-to-wear is moving more and more towards “ready-to-throw.”
Many fashion schools are cash machines. Students don’t take notes. They learn to become ‘little Karl’s’; to do everything from taking pictures, organizing catwalk events, programing music, and less time working on the essence: the clothes.
We haven’t seen any real new silhouettes since Alaïa, Montana, Romeo Gigli, Mugler, and the Japanese wave. Today’s designers reference their mother’s vintage clothes, and they keep recycling what they know. Nobody knows about fabrics anymore, everything is copied, and consumers are not able to boycott the extremely low price industry.
Who is sitting in the front row is more important than the show itself. Journalists are looking non-stop at their screens, and clothes become accessories for the more commercial future IT bags. The written press is replaced by a ‘like it’ generation of bloggers and Instagrammers without any critique or knowledge of fashion, culture, or history.
The issue of speed and fashion was at the heart of Rebecca Willis’s 2013 essay, “Clothes: A Manifesto,” which appeared in The Economist’s 1843magazine.com. Willis conducted a straw poll and sent out a questionnaire to more than 40 women from 18 – 84 representing different sizes, shapes, nationalities, lifestyles, and economic status.
She wanted to know if the fashion industry, which she referred to as “that colossal, frenetic, inexorably whirling machine,” was producing what women want. Does it give them the clothes they need when they need them? Their answers were loud and clear. They wanted to slow down the frenetic pace of change. They desired “better clothes, not faster ones.”
Their answers were loud and clear. They wanted to slow down the frenetic pace of change. They desired “better clothes, not faster ones.”
Alber Elbaz used the opportunity at his FGI 2015 Superstar Award to turn his rousing 20-minute acceptance speech into a wakeup call to the industry. The wise points Alber touched on that night: slowing down, striking a right balance between technology and humanity, the changing role of the fashion designer, showing love and appreciation for those you live and work with, are right on the money.
Alber said that all the editors and writers he knows complain about being exhausted. There is no time to digest – they are writing reviews in taxi cabs. Instead of asking what women want and need and figuring how to make their lives more beautiful, designers now have to be creative directors and image-makers who create a buzz. Everything has to look good in the picture. Everything has to scream. Loudness is the new thing, but he prefers to whisper because it stays longer.
The designer went on to say while we are living in a smart world, it is dreams that make us go forward. He is not against technology, but the most significant change in fashion will come about when tradition, know-how, the human touch, beautify, newness, and technology become one. He closed his speech saying, “I always feel like the fashion industry is a family, sometimes a little bit of a dysfunctional family but still a family.”
The number one priority of designers is taking care of their staff, who they consider being family. Many major fashion brands and large corporations are stepping up to the plate and doing whatever they need to do to help. That means donating funds, making ventilators, or producing and distributing much needed protective gear for those on the front lines.
Last Tuesday, Anna Wintour and CFDA chairman Tom Ford announced a fundraising initiative called “A Common Thread,” which aims to raise awareness and provide relief to U.S. fashion businesses that are affected by Covid-19.