There will be no men’s fashion weeks in June, for one. The Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode, in France, was the first to call off events scheduled for June. Pitti Uomo, scheduled for a week before Paris’ fashion week,
had hinted at a hybrid event—both physical and digital—but the fair has now been postponed until September. The Camera Nazionale della Moda, which oversees Milan Fashion Week, has announced that menswear and womenswear will show together in September, too. Not only are they unsure if it’ll be safe for large groups of people to gather, but so many factories and workshops are closed, thereby making it impossible for brands to produce samples, let alone full collections.
As the fashion world grappled with the reality that they had unwittingly carried the virus across international borders, and as some brands opted to show behind closed doors, a number of industry insiders posited that maybe fashion shows were not necessary after all.
A.P.C.’s ever-outspoken Jean Touitou told , that he hoped this would bring about a future with but a single fashion week per year. Vogue’s Nicole Phelps
As things stand, most brands show four times a year; some show pre-collections (Cruise and Resort); others also show Haute Couture collections. Almost everyone agrees that it is too much—that it’s a taxing ritual to undertake so often—economically, emotionally, mentally and environmentally. A number of labels had already experimented with combining menswear and womenswear and, at the very least, it’s hard to see brands reverting after September’s combined showing.
If COVID-19 turns out to be seasonal—something that comes back with a vengeance when the weather gets colder—it’s entirely possible that the entire fashion calendar gets reworked to accommodate new production schedules that take into account routine periods of social distancing and factory closures and general economic pause. That might force brands to condense things even more: A single combined show that might not include
everything they’re producing, but indicates the brand’s general direction for that year, combined with fewer drops or precisely-timed collections, replaced instead with pieces that have longer shelf lives.
Of course there’s one last way in which COVID-19 is going to have a profound impact on the fashion industry: It’s put the world in a precarious position economically. Even if we’re only in a recession-lite, consumers are already dealing with reduced disposable income. It’s no coincidence that the sneaker craze of the mid-to-late 2010s was augmented by the fact that we were in the best economy in modern history. People had the money to speculate on sneakers—truly wild, in retrospect. The last recession gave us the hashtag-menswear movement, where men spent more individual garments, but less on clothes in general, because those garments were of better quality. Or, in short: Buy less, buy better. The drop model and the industry-wide penchant for collaboration are not the types of things that do well in recessions. Evergreen silhouettes like Gazelles are. A durable garment like selvedge denim is. Sustainable practices like recommerce, too.
Debating the merits of general release sneakers versus limited-edition collaborative drops seems incredibly trivial these days. But, it goes back to using fashion as a case study for how COVID-19 is changing the world around us. Fashion, like everything else, is going to be profoundly changed by this; in some cases, they’re changes that would have inevitably happened in ten years but are now happening over ten weeks. Jarring as that swiftness can be, it’s worth remembering that if fashion is the microcosm through which we’re analyzing COVID-19, we’ve also seen heartwarming displays of solidarity.
So while things are changing, we—all of us, collectively—are doing what we can to make sure things are going to be alright.