Those who are familiar with the fashion industry know all too well the immense pressure of the global fashion calendar – for design teams, Creative Directors, and manufacturers alike. Runway shows are the pulse of the trillion-dollar industry, with marketing and production revolving around these glamorous events. The fashion year begins with Couture and Men’s Fashion Weeks in January, and ends with Pre-Fall collections in December, with everything from Ready-to-Wear and Resort squeezed in between.
That was until the pandemic brought the global apparel industry, stuck on hyper-accelerated auto-play for decades, to an abrupt halt.
Experts have long argued a need to slow down, particularly citing environmental urgency. While sustainable and philanthropic movements have gained momentum in the recent past, fashion’s real issues continue to raise eyebrows. Thirteen million tons of textile waste end up in landfills every year, toxic runoffs from fabric manufacturing end up in water supplies, and an alarming 10% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions come from the fashion industry. Unless the industry collectively addresses the root of the problem — overproduction — no small effort will actually make an impact.
Fashion Week, which originated as a biannual event where designers showcased their creativity, soon evolved to include a multitude of collections catering to different seasons, pushing brands to manufacture more than their clientele can feasibly consume. With almost 80% of the total production destined for landfills, it poses the uncomfortable question of whether fashion’s seasonal model is outdated.
What Is Seasonless Fashion?
Seasonless fashion – as its name suggests – is fashion that does not conform to typical seasonal trends or schedules. On the contrary, seasonless collections are produced with the intention of having a longer shelf life on the shop floor, and can be both sold and worn throughout the year.
Since the advent of digital media, it has became increasingly clear that fashion is disconnected from traditional seasons. Consumer purchasing has instead been hugely influenced by novelty and creativity, as opposed to seasonal needs (take for example a country such as the UAE, which has no climatic “seasons” and is consistently warm throughout the year). Also, given the global business model, it can no longer be ignored that not all countries follow strict seasonal definitions, thus sliding the seasonal fashion schedule further out of fashion.
Why Is It Important to Adopt a Seasonless Model?
The traditional fashion calendar has long been highlighted as an issue by both industry insiders and consumers. But it took a pandemic to get the ball rolling in favor of a more relaxed timetable. If you’ve been wondering why it’s vital for the industry to reduce its pace, consider fashion’s conventional business model, which consists of not only Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter collections, but also, Pre-Fall, Cruise, and Resort – effectively pushing the shelf life of each collection to three months or less before it ends up discounted on sale.
The constant bombardment of new collections not only overwhelms consumers with choices, but also makes the products highly disposable. Take, for instance, the recent shelving of the Spring/Summer 2020 collections: COVID-19 was declared a pandemic in March, around the same time as the Spring/Summer 2020 collections were due to hit shop floors. The pandemic, however, forced retailers to close down their physical premises, leaving them with deadstock (new, unsold merchandise) in sealed warehouses and shuttered stores. Having quickly lost its charm in light of newer collections, a Spring/Summer 2020 item is now likely to be sold at highly discounted rates, thus exposing fashion’s outdated seasonal model. Naturally, this wouldn’t have been a problem with a collection designed to be worn year-round.
Realizing a need to update, luxury giants like Gucci, Saint Laurent, and Michael Kors have opted out of the traditional model, giving birth to a new decentralized fashion calendar. While Saint Laurent announced in April that it will not be showcasing as part of the official Paris Fashion Week schedule in September, Gucci and Michael Kors have gone a step further and committed themselves to two seasonless collections per year. It remains to be seen, however, how many others brands will follow suit.