Your 2017 winter coat is coming down the runway right now!
That promise didn’t do much for you, right? That’s because our shopping expectations have changed.
It’s a time of instant gratification. Or, let’s call it Instagratification to be topical. Nowadays, it’s easy to scroll through Instagram and click-to-buy something because a brand or blogger made it look irresistible. Our transactional decisions are predicated on an aspirational life, but now it’s sold to us in expertly edited 1080 x 1080 square pixels.
Instagratification has been the norm at NYFW for a few years. But this season, something has changed. It’s the first time a number of designers are speaking out against the traditional, four season [Spring/Summer, Resort, Pre-Fall, and Fall/Winter] calendar [read: CNBC]. There are many motives behind this, but in general, designers are saying production demands are too high and the lag time it takes them between runway and retail allows fast-fashion brands to copycat their designs at a lower standard [Instagratification in action].
It’s a blurry era in fashion where luxury can’t decide whether to compete against its fast-fashion foes or set itself apart. Fast-fashion is left suspended in time, hoping its copycat model keeps working.
Typically, when there’s this much confusion in an industry consumers need something to fill the void. It has to be something they didn’t know they needed but when it hits, it makes perfect sense. Ethical designers would be crazy not to jump at this opportunity to find their foothold amid the chaos. It’s the perfect time for an ethical intervention.
THE LUXURY INDUSTRY IS FED UP.
Real craftsmanship and luxury design isn’t appreciated the way it used to be. The fashion industy as it exists is a trend producing machine built for women (and men) chasing an ephemeral notion that new clothes will fill a void – of coolness, of credibility, of whatever tickles their fancy.
Don’t misunderstand me. I’m guilty of indulging in style. I love the feeling of finding a brand that gets my aesthetic as much as any gal. But fashion is art. Design is hard work. And it’s not being respected because we’re able to find copycats of real design so easily and so cheaply.
Imagine yourself as a designer today. The process goes something like this: seek inspiration – toil over sketches – present idea to team – negotiate with manufacturers and suppliers – burn hours of midnight oil in production against looming runway deadline – pitch collection to retailers – host big-budget runway show – see a crappy, poly-rendition of your design on a prosaic Zara mannequin at the mall for $74.99 three weeks later. I bet that feels rewarding to Burberry’s head designer. I can’t even afford these clothes and it irks me.
There are other forces at play that have designers fed-up. Luxury sales are lagging due to weather trends because designers are unable to adapt and produce on-season clothing at the same pace of mass retailers [read: nytimes]. This is also where inventory becomes a concern. If designers are producing seasonal collections a year in advance with no predictive data on consumers or the weather, they can be left with huge stockpiles of unwanted clothes when their designs reach retail.
The bottom line is, what’s driving this change is not based on ethical decisions. But it may lead to more stringent supply chain management and less production in general. And that’s only a good thing. It could, however, mean competition from luxury designers that would pit ethical brands against fashion’s establishment.
THE LINES OF FAST FASHION ARE BLURRING.
The change is not just happening with luxury retailers. Fast-fashion brands are wising-up and adapting to two key trends. They’re moving toward more eco-conscious and ethical designs and scaling their clothes up to offer higher-quality, curated collections. Why? Because consumers are saying they prefer buying consciously and dressing in a minimal, uniform way. This shift sounds promising, but fast-fashion is answering this call with half-baked ethics.
Take Zara’s studio collection as a case-and-point. According to R29’s interview with a Zara spokesperson,
With the ‘studio’ collection, the quality standards are not different; however, [those] garments tend to carry a more elevated and exclusive feel. In spite of this, all of our production follows the same SRC policies.
So basically, They’re positioning it as a luxurious option, but what they’re really selling you is a load of BS when it comes to quality. See what I mean about blurry and half-baked?
Fast-fashion brands are also defying traditional notions that luxury is reserved for the few.
Retailers like Banana Republic and Jcrew have shown at fashion week. And, most recently, H&M launched another collaboration with the front-row-girl’s favorite brand, Balmain. This is a more refreshing trend that proves conventional models are out the door and off the showroom floor.