On Thursday, after two different groups of industry professionals released separate (though thematically similar) open letters calling for a change in the way the fashion calendar operates, the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) and the British Fashion Council (BFC) released their own message — and suggestions for moving forward.
"The Covid-19 pandemic is hitting the fashion industry from every angle and severely impacting all of the global fashion capitals, and while there is no immediate end in sight, there is an opportunity to rethink and reset the way in which we all work and show our collections," the letter begins. (Both the CFDA and the BFC have launched financial relief funds for designers and small businesses that have been impacted by the coronavirus.)
In the letter, the groups outline eight core "perspectives" that they're rallying around. Some are issues that were raised in the previous open letters — an understanding that the current fashion calendar is outdated, a desire to slow down the cadence of releases, a frustration with the timeline of deliveries in retail. (One of the aforementioned letters was coordinated by designer Dries van Noten, the other by Business of Fashion.) Others, however, pertain to the work the CFDA and BFC do, specifically, with organizing presentations and runway shows in New York and London, respectively.
The CFDA and the BFC "strongly recommend designers focus on no more than two main collections a year" — as in, no more resort or pre-collections shows, either in New York/London or in some far-flung location. (This year, the CFDA had organized a full fashion week for the Resort 2021 locations, which was canceled due to the pandemic.) Because these pre-collections are big sellers, though, both organizations note that they shouldn't necessarily be axed; rather, they should "return to their original intended purpose, which was to offer the consumer beautiful clothes that carry the ethos of the individual brands but are not necessarily sufficiently fashion forward to warrant a show."
Then, when it comes to the issue of runway presentations, the groups encourage brands to "attempt to show during the regular fashion calendar and in one of the global fashion capitals in order to avoid the strain on buyers and journalists traveling constantly," out of concern for people's time as well as for the environment, when it's once again safe to gather. The CFDA and BFC are working on ways to "organize the virtual presentations for the Spring/Summer collections," as well as other methods of highlighting the lines that would typically debut at New York Fashion Week and London Fashion Week in September, as the status of those events are currently undetermined.
You can read the full list of "perspectives" below.
1. We are united in our steadfast belief that the fashion system must change, and it must happen at every level. We are listening to many conversations taking place. These changes have been overdue for a while, and the fallout from coronavirus has forced us all to prioritize the process of rethinking how our industry should function.
2. We encourage our brands, designers and retailers, who are used to fashion’s fast, unforgiving pace, to slow down. For a long time, there have been too many deliveries and too much merchandise generated. With existing inventory stacking up, designers and retailers must also look at the collections cycle and be very strategic about their products and how and when they intend to sell them.
3. There is a clear disconnect from when things arrive in-store to when the customer actually needs them. The delivery cadence should shift closer to the season for which it is intended.
4. Together, we strongly recommend designers focus on no more than two main collections a year. We firmly believe this can provide our talents with the time they need to reconnect to the creativity and craft that makes our field so unique in the first place. A slower pace also offers an opportunity to reduce the stress levels of designers and their teams, which in turn will have a positive effect on the overall well being of the industry.
5. We understand the commercial need for pre-collections and the need to fulfill the delivery windows of the current pre-collections. However, we recommend that these return to their original intended purpose, which was to offer the consumer beautiful clothes that carry the ethos of the individual brands but are not necessarily sufficiently fashion forward to warrant a show. When we are able to hold in-person events and showings, we would recommend that these presentations return to the showrooms.
6. Once this crisis is over and non-virtual events can resume, we also recommend that brands attempt to show during the regular fashion calendar and in one of the global fashion capitals in order to avoid the strain on buyers and journalists traveling constantly. This too has placed tremendous stress on the industry and significantly increased each individual’s carbon footprint.
7. Sustainability is an important conversation in every industry. Through the creation of less product, with higher levels of creativity and quality, products will be valued and their shelf life will increase. The focus on creativity and quality of products, reduction in travel and focus on sustainability (something we encourage of the entire industry) will increase the consumer’s respect and ultimately their greater enjoyment in the products that we create.
8. While physical in-person presentations are likely impossible, the fashion councils will nevertheless focus on creating fashion calendars and other formats that will highlight and help to organize the virtual presentations for the Spring/Summer collections.
Clearly, these sentiments are felt at many different levels of the industry. So, what happens now?