For many designers, the calendar is an ongoing treadmill, a machine that is constantly trying to speed up, yet one can run only so fast. If we look at the demise of John Galliano, the death of Alexander McQueen and so many other designers who end up in rehab (Marc Jacobs, for instance), it seems a very high price to pay to deliver fresh collections season after season, year after year.
Catwalk collections are no longer the most profitableBecause the problem is retailers are not content with two collections a year. In fact the most important delivery for store profitability are not the clothes seen on the catwalk, as these are only in shops for about 8 weeks. The most profitable collections are pre-fall and resort.
If we break it down by season, clothes for summer and winter and now interspersed with delivery drops in spring and autumn, along with Resort in November and Pre-Fall in May. If you are an established house, you may have two couture shows, menswear twice a year and perhaps a diffusion line. On top of that you may have promotional shows in Hong Kong, Singapore or Moscow - markets who have the buying power - and you are easily at 10 collections a year. If you show each of these that is practically one show a month. There is nothing glamorous about this calendar, it's relentless fashion that is taking its toll on the industry.
Designers don't have time to stop, reload and recharge before they embark on their next collection and are pushed to perform on a very intense, demanding and unforgiving treadmill.
As Menkes stated, we must accept the pace of fashion today was part of the problem behind the decline of John Galliano et al. The strain on both budgets and designers is enormous. While only the large corporations can really afford to put on the mega ready-to-wear shows, it forces smaller labels and brands to perform on a similar level.
How to make sense of this endless rush for the new when there are no longer any simple seasons? During the summer, when you are shopping for vest tops and maxi dresses, the fall wool coats are hanging on the rails. Come early November, they will have vanished in favor of resort.
So who is to blame? Is it the never-ending public demand for new fashion? Is it the media and fashion magazines? The Internet which make everything available to everyone at all times? Or is it the industry itself? Is the only true luxury today the ability to buy new and exclusive clothes every microsecond?
Traditionally it takes six months for a designer to order fabrics and produce the catwalk collection clothes before they are delivered to stores. Sadly the designer collections are easily outpaced by the fast fashion chains like H&M, Topshop and Zara, Target and J. Crew, who produce their collections in factories in Bangladesh and China where the hourly wage for workers costs the same as buying a button or zipper in Europe, and who can have their versions for sale before the designer looks hit the stores.
So while the wheel of fashion is spinning faster and faster, there seems to be no slowing down for anyone. Stores require fresh product and fashion house's must stay on top of the game. It's inevitable there will be a good deal more crash and burn among designers in the seasons to come.
Source: Suzy Menkes, Herald Tribune
Image: Alexander McQueen