Gucci’s creative director Alessandro Michele has announced that the brand is permanently abandoning the traditional fashion calendar as the industry rethinks how it operates in the light of Covid-19.
By desegregating menswear and womenswear, and shunning mid-season collections, the Italian luxury label will reduce the number of yearly shows it stages from five to two.
In a series of diary entries titled “Notes from the Silence,” posted to Michele’s Instagram account Sunday, the designer said he intended to “abandon the worn-out ritual of seasonalities and shows” in order to “regain a new cadence.”
“We will meet just twice a year, to share the chapters of a new story,” he wrote, adding: “I would like to leave behind the paraphernalia of leitmotifs that colonized our prior world: cruise, pre-fall, spring-summer, fall-winter. I think these are stale and underfed words.”
Major brands have conventionally followed a hectic schedule of separate men’s and women’s runway events at Fall-Winter and Spring-Summer fashion weeks in New York, Paris, London and Milan. Many also stage additional one-off “cruise” and pre-fall shows.
But the coronavirus pandemic has intensified existing concerns about the environmental and economic sustainability of the jet-setting schedule – and the cycles of consumption it encourages.
Michele, who worked with Fendi before joining Gucci as a bag designer in 2002, said his new strategy emerged while confined to his home during lockdown. His goal of “purifying the essential by getting rid of the unnecessary” is tied to concerns about the fashion industry’s environmental footprint, he explained.
“Our reckless actions have burned the house we live in,” reads one of the diary entries. “We conceived of ourselves as separated from nature, we felt cunning and almighty. We usurped nature, we dominated and wounded it.”
On Monday, Michele confirmed the move during a video press conference, in which he said the decision had been approved by Gucci’s chief executive Marco Bizzarri.
A number of other luxury labels have signaled changes to their future calendars amid the coronavirus pandemic – albeit in less committal terms than Gucci.
Last month, Saint Laurent, which is owned by Gucci’s parent company, Kering, announced its intention to “take control of its pace and reshape its schedule.” And in an open letter to Women’s Wear Daily, Giorgio Armani argued that a “careful and intelligent slowdown” is “the only way out” of the current crisis.
In April, Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour called on the fashion industry to have “more of an emphasis on sustainability” and on “luxury and creativity and craft.”
A lighter calendar may help luxury brands cope with the significant losses of revenue experienced since February, when the coronavirus outbreak shuttered outlets in lucrative Asian markets. Stores in Western countries soon followed suit, with the most recent Fall-Winter fashion weeks also severely disrupted as buyers stayed away, and a number of brands presented collections behind closed doors.
Figures from elsewhere in the industry have also been advocating for a slower approach. An open letter signed by more than 500 sector figures, including Dries Van Noten, Chloé CEO Riccardo Bellini and the British designer Craig Green, advocates “adjusting the seasonality” in order to “create a more balanced flow of deliveries through the season” and “provide newness but also time for products to create desire.”
Similarly, the #rewiringfashion initiative has called for men’s and women’s fashion weeks to be combined, while arguing that shows are staged “too far ahead” of the items’ release. The campaign, which was initiated by the industry publication Business of Fashion, proposes moving Spring-Summer fashion weeks to January and February, and Fall-Winter to June.
A rare joint statement from the Council of Fashion Designers of America and the British Fashion Council urged the industry to “slow down” and to “rethink and reset the way in which we all work and show our collections.”
“Together, we strongly recommend designers focus on no more than two main collections a year,” read the statement. “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 wellbeing of the industry.”
There are signs that consumers share many of the same concerns. Research published Monday by the UK’s Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce found that only 19% of adults in Britain think the fashion industry should go back to normal after Covid-19. 35% percent of 18-24 year olds said they intended to buy fewer clothes after lockdown ends.