A season for change in fashion

Gucci’s Women Fall-Winter 2020 collection was presented in Milan in February. Gucci has shifted its retail strategy so that it actually produces and sells its runway designs in stores, reaping double-digit growth. PHOTO: AFP

Change is on the horizon for the fashion industry, incited largely by the absence of regularity and normalcy during this time of global pandemic.

Designers, brands and retailers the world over have basically been on pause since February, when it became apparent that the coronavirus situation was not going to be simply swept away.

Most recently, a group of fashion industry players, led publicly by the Belgian designer Dries Van Noten, came together to put forward an "Open Letter to the Fashion Industry". The letter outlines a clear intent: "to discuss ways in which our business needs to transform".

The main way this is to be achieved is by realigning the seasonal flow of goods and selling seasons. Currently, fall/winter collections begin deliveries in July and spring/summer ones in January.

The proposed change would see deliveries for both seasons moved a month later, to August and February respectively.

The change may be a mere month, but the effects are potentially large for fashion businesses. August and February would align selling months more closely with actual, real-world seasons, meaning products reach consumers at more weather appropriate times. Discount seasons, which typically run in the last months of each cycle, will be changed to January and July. This means that designers' collections have more time on store floors to sell at full retail prices.

The seasonal appropriateness also opens up a larger window for retailers to provide staggered deliveries and releases of products, ensuring a consistent flow of newness. That could serve to stoke and better maintain consumer desire and interest.

This is particularly important for the high fashion segment of the industry, which has in recent years come to treat mainline collections - spring/summer and fall/winter - as marketing exercises rather than selling opportunities.

The reality is that brands these days are producing pre-collections, interseasonal lines commonly named cruise and resort, that make up the bulk of merchandise actually produced for selling.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 29, 2020, with the headline A season for change in fashion. Subscribe