In addition to the shut-down of the entire supply chain (factories, style departments, prototype atelier, stores), the two months of lockdown have resulted in the interruption of all shows, the cancellation of cruise and haute couture fashion shows, the cancellation of the Fashion Weeks dedicated to menswear and their postponement to September, at the same time as women’s fashion. With the closure of the last Milan Fashion Week, Giorgio Armani ruefully staged his fashion show behind closed doors, live-streaming the event to invited guests. In April, with the world in complete lockdown, he penned an open letter to WWD (Women’s Wear Daily), in which he reiterated his belief, without mincing words, that the collections should be in sync with the seasons, less anticipated, less forced, in which luxury products are given time to be absorbed as a life philosophy. Therefore, starting from June 2020, the designer will be make available his tailoring services to customers: a large range of models, from current and previous collections, will be proposed and revised according to the fabrics chosen and the changes requested, with a view to moving towards a slower, less wasteful and more sustainable fashion system. He also confirmed that the men’s and women’s collections will be presented jointly in September (in a way to be defined), while the Armani Privé collection – traditionally presented in Paris – will have no seasonality and will take place in January 2021 at Palazzo Orsini, Milan. "Enough with fashion shows all over the world, resulting in polluting air travel. No more money wasted on vulgar displays of mild ideas. The moment we are going through is turbulent, but it also offers us the unique opportunity to fix what is wrong, to take away the superfluous, to find a more human dimension… No more enormous shows, no more waste. This is perhaps the most important lesson we are learning from this crisis.” Armani’s impassioned letter brings the discussion back on “traditional” calendars, which already made headlines following the announcement by the Saint Laurent fashion house to “regain control of its calendar,” without respecting the dates previously indicated. Alessandro Michele from Gucci (Kering Group) also shook up the fashion system with disruptive announcements made on the company’s official Instagram account which completely revised the brand’s approach: two big presentations per year, no previews or cruise collections, a gender-fluid section for the online and more time in stores. “We have to take the time to do things right. In respect of the Made in Italy that must be kept dear to the heart and to the many people working in this company.”
This sentiment was also echoed in the manifesto signed by designers and independent companies (including Dries Van Noten, Tory Burch, Pierre Hardy, Craig Green, Gabriela Hearst, Altuzarra, Jil Sander) who, together with large retail groups (Bergdorf Goodman, Nordstrom, Rinascente, as well as some Italian stores such as Sugar, Antonioli and Tiziana Fausti), proposed a new protocol for the fashion calendar that involved completely revising the system of manufacturing, distribution and sale of clothing. According to this initiative, the men’s and women’s collections would be presented together in January/February and then in June, to then arrive in stores in March and July. The group will also work on increasing sustainability throughout the supply chain by reducing the production volumes, keeping a smaller inventory, limiting travels and renewing Fashion Weeks, also paying attention to their carbon footprint.
Dutch designer Ronald van der Kemp has always been committed to these issues. During the lockdown, he organised a charity fashion show called “Army Of Love” at the Hotel de L'Europe of Amsterdam. An outdoor show with safe social distances, during which the models stepped out onto balconies overlooking the canal. With the invaluable support of Amsterdam Fashion Week, van der Kemp managed to go from idea to presentation in three and a half weeks. One model per room, with individualised hair and makeup kits taking the place of hair and makeup artists. The dresses and masks came with instructions on how to wear them. The models then waved white flags as a metaphorical act, illustrating the brand’s surrender to a sustainable future. The designer has always been a promoter of green fashion and circularity, actively engaging in recycling materials and sustainable production, focusing on a more ethical consumption. “Fashion shows have now become marketing tools, instead I want to focus on creativity and on attention to detail, without rush. Apart from the masks, I didn’t make any new clothes for the event, it represents five years of fashion that I’m putting in a different context.”
It’s possible that this time the health crisis will convince the heads of companies, organisations and industrial associations to face a turning point, which has been requested many times, but never really put into practice. It concerns the rituals and customs of Fashion Weeks, their sustainability and, above all, their positioning in the annual calendar, in a world that has completely changed since the fashion system institutionalised presentations on the catwalk.
For the moment, the temporary solution proposed by Camera Moda (Italian Fashion Chamber) includes an entirely digital appointment to promote the SS 2021 men’s collections and the pre-collections for Spring 2021. In fact, the first Milan Digital Fashion Week – July Issue will be held from 14th to 17th July. It is not the first entirely digital event to make up for the cancellations of the traditional fashion weeks: Shanghai already experimented one in April (in conjunction with the Chic exhibition), London Fashion week for men will attempt one in mid-June. Paris has announced a similar format, scheduled for 9 – 13 July: dates that “bypass” the Milanese ones and for the first time brings Paris Fashion Week before Milan Fashion Week, during which in February a digital formula had already been experimented to keep contacts with Chinese buyers who were unable to travel. This initiative reached 25 million users in streaming.
“The development of a digital fashion week is a concrete response to the situation we are facing, as it gives us the opportunity to continue along the path we chose in February with our 'China, We Are With You' initiative,” commented Carlo Capasa, president of Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana. “In this difficult situation, it is essential to give all companies the opportunity to present their collections. Our aim is both to support the restart of the entire fashion system and to reach out to the media, buyers and the entire fashion community with a huge array of content designed for all players in the system.” Basically, the CNMI will propose a digital platform featuring photographic and video content, interviews and backstages with slots dedicated to each brand. The aim is to create a rich and varied schedule of events that can be used by operators in the sector, enriched by other content such as webinars on themes of special interest, talks and events (subject to accreditation). Special attention will be given to young emerging brands that the CNMI will help by funding the production of digital content. At the same time as the presentations of Milan Digital Fashion Week, a section of the platform will be activated dedicated entirely to showrooms which, during February’s MFW, had already experimented with new and interesting ways to present and sell the collections “remotely.”
In July, Pitti Immagine Uomo will present the Spring-Summer 2021 collections on the Pitti Connect platform. The initiative thus anticipates, in streaming, the physical show postponed To January 2021 due to Coronavirus. "From early July,” confirms Agostino Poletto, general manager of Pitti Immagine, “Pitti Connect will allow exhibitors to show their collections via video chats and virtual showrooms, thanks to a specially developed marketplace". Pitti Connect will also allow exhibitors to increase their visibility, and to maintain or activate business contacts, and be supported through the process of receiving orders while complying with the traditional timing of sales campaigns.