The Paris Haute Couture Federation – made up of the Trade Union Chamber of Haute Couture, Women’s Fashion and Men’s Fashion – announced a few weeks ago in a statement, the suspension of the Haute Couture Week, scheduled for 5th to 9th July. As a measure of protection against the spread of the pandemic generated by the coronavirus. In addition, it has been decided to cancel Men’s Fashion Week, which was also to be held in the French capital from 23rd to 28th June.
Although the management of this organization ensures that they consider alternatives to present both the collections Haute Couture autumn/winter 2020 and spring/summer 2021 men.
These decisions will have a direct impact on the economy of the luxury fashion industry as well as on the direction that firms take when launching collections on the catwalk.
The main buyers in the luxury sector come from China. In fact, they represent between 33% and 35% of luxury purchases worldwide. And the stop in the consumption of luxury goods due to the illness, has been reflected in the data given by the MSCI Europe index, which indicates falls in the textile and luxury market of 23% between January and March. Groups and companies such as LVMH, Burberry and Richmont are suffering the ravages of the coronavirus on an economic level, whose shares fell between 1.9% and 3% in one week, according to Reuters.
Despite this economic impact, many brands have devoted their resources to ending the shortage of healthcare equipment. This is the case of the LVMH group’s production plants in France, where perfumes and cosmetics from brands such as Dior, Givenchy and Guerlain are manufactured. As well as the luxury brand Moncler or Donatella Versace which have made donations of millions to support Italian cities where the pandemic has established a critical state, such as Milan.
As for the catwalks, and in particular those of Haute Couture, we must bear in mind that parades are no longer just a way of showing the world the creations of a house. They have become useful as an investment in marketing in order to publicise the real sources of income: perfumes, make-up lines and creams.
The prices of haute couture pieces are around 60,000 euros and wedding dresses can reach hundreds of thousands of euros depending on the materials used and the hours it has taken to make them. For the same reason, it is not considered that the presentation of these pieces in the Fashion Week brings enough profitability to the brands, despite their high prices.
In this way, the suspension of fashion weeks could cause a change in the presentation cycles of collections and, consequently, the frenetic rhythm that has been developing during the last decade, in which the firms themselves are ahead of the seasons and which is influenced by the production system that carries out fast-fashion characterized by being very accelerated and manufacturing large volumes.
There are already designers like Giorgio Armani – who in an interview for WWD – has announced that the firm is considering skipping the pre-fall presentations prior to this autumn. The designer is more in favour of slow fashion, whose show calendar should be adapted to the real and seasonal needs of clients. This would enable them to improve links with their public and reduce stock exposure during sales campaigns. On the other hand, he sees this exceptional situation as an opportunity to correct certain pending aspects of the industry such as sustainability. Betting on sustainable clothing could encourage consumers to appreciate more durable garments, rather than more sophisticated designs. For this reason, the Italian company has already introduced some measures, such as extending the summer season until September.
Other firms, such as Balenciaga, have postponed the launch of their collection – with which it would make its debut in the Haute Couture – until 2021.
However, other fashion weeks covering ready-to-wear collections have resorted to the use of new technologies to avoid cancellation. The Shanghai Fashion Week held in March opted for the virtual transmission of the catwalks through Tmall, one of the Alibaba Group’s Marketplaces. In this way, buyers were able to purchase items on the spot, without having to wait for the collections to arrive at the stores. And without overlooking the fact that more than 150 brands and designers of the relevance of Diane Von Fürstenberg or emerging designers such as Angel Chen, were able to exhibit the collections of the autumn/winter season.
Nevertheless, the suspension of fashion weeks and other major events linked to the fashion industry as the MET Gala or CFDA awards means the opening of a new range of possibilities and challenges at the economic level.
The detractors of this sector, define it as elitist and frivolous. On numerous occasions they have criticized the lack of involvement of fashion brands in transcendental issues, such as the environmental crisis. On the contrary, in recent years it has become clear that a large number of designers and firms have expressed their intention to move towards sustainable fashion.
Perhaps with this latest development, there will be a pause in the fashion industry to establish new strategies to guide the buyer towards a much more responsible consumption. On the other hand, to rectify a system that perhaps prioritizes excess production and modulates a space in which responsibility, trends and quality coexist.