Will The Show Go On?

Fash­ion con­tem­plates the un­think­able: the end of sea­sons. By Jamie Huck­body.

Harper’s Bazaar (Malaysia) - - Contents -

New York Fash­ion Week hadn’t seen or heard any­thing quite like it. “Wad­dya say? Wad­dya say?” hollered Kanye West as he ad­dressed a crowd of 18,000 fans at Madi­son Square Gar­den. “F*ck Nike! F*ck Nike!” was its re­sponse. Kanye West: “Y’all ain’t say­ing that loud enough.”

The crowd: “F*ck Nike! F*ck Nike! F*ck Nike!” Sprin­kled among those who had paid for the priv­i­lege of shout­ing at and lis­ten­ing to the 38-year-old rap­per was the in­ter­na­tional fash­ion cognoscenti, more used to Ladurée mac­aron-flavoured po­litesse than Parental Ad­vi­sory hip-hop ban­ter.

This, ladies and gen­tle­men, is the fu­ture of the fash­ion show. “What­ever that thing was —was it a fash­ion show, an art in­stal­la­tion, or some kind of mu­sic con­cert? It to­tally blew my mind,” said one in­flu­en­tial on­line re­tailer, to­tally agog, as she hur­tled out of the sta­dium. “It’s the first mem­o­rable show mo­ment I’ve had since McQueen died.” Be­cause for all of the ego­tis­ti­cal mouthing off (“My dream ... is to ... be the creative di­rec­tor of Her­mès.”), the 21-time Grammy Award-win­ner called time on the con­ven­tional cat­walk show: an in­su­lar, trade-only event where in­vite-only guests get to watch pre­dom­i­nantly Cau­casian mod­els wear clothes that will drop into stores in half a year’s time; an event strug­gling to stay rel­e­vant in a dig­i­tal age when mul­tira­cial Gen­er­a­tion Z con­sumers de­mand im­me­di­acy and to be part of the ac­tion.

On the other side of the At­lantic, more sea­soned de­sign­ers were get­ting to grips with the dis­con­nect be­tween run­way and re­tail cal­en­dars. “In a world that has be­come in­creas­ingly im­me­di­ate, the cur­rent way of show­ing a col­lec­tion four months be­fore it is avail­able to con­sumers is an an­ti­quated idea,” Tom Ford said in a state­ment. “We spend an enor­mous amount of money and en­ergy to stage an event that cre­ates ex­cite­ment too far in ad­vance of when the col­lec­tion is avail­able to the con­sumer.”

For the past few sea­sons, Ford has been ex­per­i­ment­ing with how and when he show­cases a col­lec­tion, and re­cently, an­nounc­ing that he has pushed the show­ing of his Au­tumn/Win­ter ’16 col­lec­tion seven months on from the sched­ule so the clothes can go on sale the day of the pre­sen­ta­tion. “Our

cus­tomers to­day want a col­lec­tion that’s im­me­di­ately avail­able,” con­tin­ued Ford. “Show­ing the col­lec­tion as it ar­rives in stores will al­low the ex­cite­ment that is cre­ated by a show or event to drive sales.” Christo­pher Bai­ley, Burberry’s CEO, also an­nounced that from Septem­ber of this year, Burberry will col­lapse the con­ven­tional fash­ion sea­sons (Spring/Sum­mer and Au­tumn/Win­ter), the brand’s dif­fer­ent lines (Pror­sum, Lon­don, and Brit), and its men’s and women’s shows into two sea­son­less an­nual shows known sim­ply as “Fe­bru­ary” and “Septem­ber”, with the full col­lec­tion be­ing avail­able to buy as soon as the show is over.

It wasn’t long be­fore other de­sign­ers fol­lowed Burberry’s lead. Vete­ments’s Demna Gvasalia stated that he would be for­sak­ing the main fash­ion sea­sons in favour of the more com­mer­cially lu­cra­tive pre­c­ol­lec­tion sched­ule in June and Jan­uary, while Paul Smith is unit­ing his menswear and wom­enswear de­sign teams and merg­ing his many lines into two col­lec­tions per year. Some de­sign­ers on the NYFW sched­ule quickly ma­neu­vered ahead of the ac­tion: both Michael Kors Col­lec­tion and Proenza Schouler cre­ated capsule col­lec­tions (called Ready-to-Wear, Ready to Go, and Early Edi­tion, re­spec­tively) that went on sale in their flag­ship stores the af­ter­noon of their Au­tumn/Win­ter ’16 shows. “We wanted to shorten that time frame, make some pieces and see how [con­sumers] would re­act. We don’t want to make any rash de­ci­sions or a huge change just yet. It’s an ex­per­i­ment,” said Proenza Schouler’s Jack McCol­lough and Lazaro Her­nan­dez, high­light­ing that it will be the smaller, more ag­ile la­bels that will have an eas­ier time nav­i­gat­ing the choppy waters of change. Be­cause let’s face it, the change is mas­sive and will in­volve turn­ing the fash­ion sys­tem up­side down. “You nor­mally de­sign the full show, then you show the show, and then your sup­ply chain starts to kick in. Now, we will be de­sign­ing the show, and as we’re do­ing that, we will be pass­ing things over im­me­di­ately to our sup­ply chain part­ners,” ex­plained Bai­ley. “We do not have the an­swers to ev­ery­thing. We are go­ing to be learn­ing as we go.” It’s no over­state­ment to say that this new op­er­at­ing model will ul­ti­mately af­fect what you wear and buy, be­cause ev­ery stage of a gar­ment’s/ac­ces­sory’s jour­ney will be changed. It will de­ter­mine how fab­ric sup­pli­ers de­velop/cre­ate their prod­uct; how a bou­tique places its or­ders; and how magazines such as Harper’s BAZAAR cover trends. Hold on—will there ac­tu­ally be any agreed trends if editors don’t have the usual four months’s grace to di­gest, edit, and pack­age the big sea­sonal themes?

How will the high-street copy­cats sur­vive if they can’t get a lead on what their high fash­ion, lux­ury ri­vals are putting in store? “The pro­posed changes to the cal­en­dars and mov­ing man­u­fac­tur­ing dates are so new that it’s dif­fi­cult to fore­cast the ef­fect of such deep change to the struc­ture of the fash­ion in­dus­try,” says Dion Lee.

Back at West’s gig, one NYFW veteran put all of this change in “strictly off the record” per­spec­tive: “What are fash­ion ‘ de­sign­ers’ sup­posed to do when it’s im­pos­si­ble to rein­vent the wheel but they still have to keep the cogs of in­dus­try and com­merce turn­ing? All of those peo­ple who turned up to­day wanted a show, and Kanye gave them one. It’s what the Vic­to­ria’s Se­cret peo­ple have been do­ing.” And while there is much un­cer­tainty as to if this is the last sea­son we will see in the old for­mat, there are a few things that are cer­tain: 1) the show must go on; and 2) there is no bet­ter place than a fash­ion hap­pen­ing to see so­cial hi­er­ar­chy in ac­tion.

Be­cause one of the most po­tent images to come from West’s show was of Kim Kar­dashian and her fam­ily, who sat on the other side of the di­vide, dressed in a cream and sug­ary-pink wardrobe de­signed by West in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Bal­main’s Olivier Rouste­ing.

There might have been racial in­clu­siv­ity in West’s model cast­ing, but it seems fash­ion is ul­ti­mately a game of ex­clu­siv­ity. Wad­dya say, Kanye?

Will there ac­tu­ally be any agreed fash­ion trends if editors don’t have the usual four months’s grace to di­gest, edit, and pack­age the big sea­sonal themes?

Kanye West at the Yeezy Sea­son 3 pre­sen­ta­tion

Michael Kors back­stage at his Spring/ Sum­mer ’16 show

Burberry Spring/ Sum­mer ’16

The Kar­dashian- Jen­ner clan at Yeezy Sea­son 3’s show Lady Gaga at Tom Ford Spring/ Sum­mer ’16

Vete­ments Spring/ Sum­mer ’16

Back­stage at Proenza Schouler Spring/ Sum­mer ’16

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