New Year and new fashions are upon us. Whilst most customers in North America and Europe are still looking for anything warm and waterproof, retailers are starting switch over to the spring summer season by swapping the stock to shorts, short skirts and sandals. Always one step ahead, the fashion folk are already in the autumn winter 2014 – 2015 mind-set as the show season has just begun in London with men’s collections. For the next three months, hundreds, if not thousands of shows are due to take place in Paris, Milan, London and New York.
I’ve never been a big fan of fashion shows. The overall format just seems out-dated, the mega fuss around them only done in vein and the cost of making sure that all this happens in military precision astronomically pointless, never mind the rest of the issues relating to catwalks that we could easily list here. All that waiting around for few minutes worth of fashion is not my idea of either fun or the preferred way for me to do my job as a fashion writer.
But the real reason why the fashion shows concept has become so unbearable is the sheer number of designers who are now selling and showing during the presentation schedules. Victory of it’s own success, fashion shows seem to be growing exponentially in scale and number from one season to next. No longer is it enough just to have the main schedules managed by fashion councils, now there are an increasing number of satellite shows taking place in each major city. All of this means that fashion is starting to look increasingly un-interesting as thousands of designers compete with each other to re-invent the wheel every 4 to 6 months. How can you possibly keep the catwalks looking exiting with so many designers doing the same thing in slightly differed shapes and sizes?
Nowhere is this problem more evident than in the men’s presentations. In order to make sense of the sheer amount of catwalks, designs offered and presentation styles used, I have divide the men’s shows into three categories in order to offer solutions as to how the number of designers showing could be cut down to make my life a little easier.
1. Good show + bad design = out of the show schedule!
Some designers just seem to get too wrapped up with the word FASHION and forget about the fact that clothing is actually meant to be worn. An opportunity to do a show does not mean a reason to go nuts with design for the sake of a bit of publicity. Scared looking models boys going down the runway with whacky crap dangling around, reminiscent of most of the stuff I’ve seen on Project Runway is recipe for a disaster. Yes, these shows create headlines, but all for the wrong reasons as ladies and Aberdeen and Alabama think that this crazy shit is fashion, giving bad rap for the rest of the fashion industry.
Designers such as Astrid Andersen, Craig Green and Agi and Sam (note that all of these show in London) are just a few of the designers that manage to create shows that are style over content, or rather costume. No doubt some of the stylist and journalist will be happy about what they see coming down the runway – a creative looks makes for good copy and an artistic fashion image – but the buyers and subsequently the customers are probably less impressed.
Whilst I certainly wouldn’t want to abolish all of these designers from the show schedules, I would rather just see one or two of them to maintain the novelty value. And in reality, collections like these don’t make any business sense – hence most of these designers last for few season until their novelty wears off- literally speaking. These exercises in mere styling, whilst incredibly entertaining in show context, deliver very little in terms of what anyone would actually want to wear. Most of this stuff is destined for few ‘avant-garde’ fashion shoots through to the sample sales – which in fashion terms of course means the stuff no one really wants to buy unless very heavily marked down (and even then it’s just bought with the next costume party in mind).
2. Bad show + good design = out of the show schedule!
It is the capital C that means cash in capitalism, which graves for quick turn around and constant newness in design. Yet, design at it’s best evolves with minimal yet high-impact increments. Contrary to the popular believe and the image portrayed by the fashion industry with its seasonal changes, trends evolve incredibly slowly along with customers need for only a gradual evolution. Therefore, this is the boringly unexciting but business-wise profitable category of designers who really know their customers’ whats and needs.
Brands such as Margaret Howell, Nicole Farhi, Ann Demeulemeester and Yohji Yamamoto all belong here with their well-established fit, cut, shape and style. Little update here and there, tweaks and minor change happen to garments in the studios of these brands as they know their customers don’t want garment styling that swing like a pendulum from one season to next. Buying from these brands does not come with the additional fear of having to throw half of the stuff away after one season with the dread of looking like last years leftovers.
But this is where the problem lies when it comes to catwalks. The collection brands in this category create are so well considered and consistent that I cannot bring myself to justify the effort of putting together a show for this stuff – it is just not going to be very interesting or surprising. Marni menswear fits into this category, but unlike the rest of these designers, they actually just opt for a small presentation and a look book – clever and convenient presentation if you ask me.
Out of the show schedules please and straight into look books.
3. Good design + good show = catwalk gold
The magical combination of good design and good show is something that only handful of brands get right. There is something amazing in what Lucas Ossendrijver at Lanvin, Raf Simons or Dries van Noten do. Some suggestions here what might be the recipe for success.
Good menswear design and collection requires research, experimentation, editing and variety. Look at any of these designers and what is clear from the offset is that they know their reference points and they translate these into garments that don’t look like costume unlike most of the stuff in the first category. Investmentment in material technology, print and finishes is a key to successful design and these brands are at the forefront of innovation done in a way that that looks natural and effortless, not techy and whacky. With brands such as Lanvin, you can see the innovation in front of you, particularly when it comes to materials. It’s what I would imagine appeals to male consumers for the technicality and good look. Editing is also a key; something Dries van Noten does so well by creating collections that look eclectic yet cohesive allowing choice for the customer whilst making a focused story for the runway. Lanvin and Raf Simons on the other hand, ride high on great casting making the shows come alive.
These brands just have the knack for skating the fine line between the new and too new, wearable and unbearable, all of which makes a great collection that ticks the boxes for show and design – catwalk gold.
Imagine if the show seasons were reduce to only a handful of designers producing great shows with great collections, the whole circus could be over and done with in just under few weeks down from 3 months. Of course there are the women’s collections to edit down, but don’t even get me started with that. I’m certainly not campaigning for less designers or for less design – fashion after all is a huge industry employing millions of people worldwide – just less shows. The glamour of fashion comes from unattainable exclusivity and if the show seasons continue to expand in the rate that it is, fashion is going to quickly loose its cool. We are still going to shop as much as we have been even if there are fewer designers getting the opportunity to showcase their collections on catwalk, on schedule.
There are number of formats that could be further explored as a presentation technique. Women’s resort and pre-fall presentations for example are genius. Most of them take place as small-scale presentations with old-school look book images distributed to the media and subsequently available for fashion enthusiast to view alongside other catwalk images. This means that press can reach the material without anyone having to leave their house and travel across the world, change outfits on hourly bases and have nervous breakdowns over seating arrangements – just check it out at the showrooms. And the best thing about these collections is that everything is wearable and sellable – not just designed for those odd catwalk moments. Internet is still also underused for presentation despite its ability to reach people.
Designers, show producers, agents and PR people, please make the show schedule more convenient, less overloaded and overall shorter.
Of course this will never happen, as ‘convenient’ really isn’t one of those words that can be used when it comes to fashion.