Over the past several months, it’s been nearly impossible to pick up a trade publication or scan a newsletter without encountering a think piece about the relentless pace of fashion. Indeed, the past several decades have been a time of massive growth for the fashion industry, and not just in terms of production. The advent of pre-collections like pre-fall and Resort means that many designers are churning out at least four to six collections per year, a far cry from the bi-yearly calendar of yesteryear. The fashion shows themselves have changed as well, transforming from intimate, even secretive events into extravagant productions that border on contained raves (looking at you, Yeezus). This steady acceleration seems to have occurred unchecked over the past few decades, with collections becoming larger and more frequent and fashion weeks growing more and more theatrical. But the recent flurry of designer exits, from Alexander Wang at Balenciaga to Raf Simons at Dior and Hedi Slimane at Saint Laurent, has many questioning the perils of fashion’s backbreaking schedule.
Although the headline-making decampments began over a year ago, when Donna Karan stepped down from her eponymous label after thirty years, the uproar really began last October, with Raf Simons’s exit from Dior. Almost overnight, journalists for the likes of vogue.com and The Cut were dedicating hundreds of words to debating the necessity of such a jam-packed fashion calendar. Their words soon gave way to a global conversation spearheaded by the designers themselves: After being unceremoniously ousted from Lanvin, Alber Elbaz characterized the industry’s fast pace as a creativity killer. Even Simons, who is famously discreet, eventually spoke out about the burn out that comes from doing upwards of eight collections a year. By the time the fall 2016 shows rolled around, people were more interested in questions like “How many seasons are too many?” than they were the latest runway trends.
from l-r: Alexander Wang, Raf Simons, and Alber Elba take their final bows at Balenziaga, Dior, & Lanvin, respectively
Aside from a few existential crises over the exit of a few of my favorite designers (merci beaucoup, Raf and Hedi), I’ve largely ignored the “speed of fashion” debate. Call it a side effect of teenage angst, but just the sight of another headline philosophizing the existence of pre-collections was enough to give me burn out. It wasn’t until last week- when I was reading reviews of the latest Resort presentations, no less- that I started thinking about the issue. Here’s what I came up with:
In my Biology class this year, we spent a few weeks learning about Darwinian evolution. While I could bore you to death with the specifics of the first bacteria, the emergence of oxygen, the Cambrian explosion and blah, blah, blah, I’m boiling it all down to this: Things take time. That was true for homosapiens, who gradually morphed from a prehistoric fish into the modern man over millions of years, and it is also true of fashion. vogue.com contributor Maya Singer nailed it in her review of DKNY’s latest Resort outing, in which she noted that strong collections are a matter of “Evolution, not revolution.” When designers are bombarded by a schedule that requires an entirely new collection every three months, they are robbed of their ability to develop organically. Instead of being fleshed out and “fully considered,” their creations are more like essay written just before the deadline: slipshod, confused, incomplete.
As fashion lovers, we revere creatives like Karan, Wang, and Simons for their ability to reflect a moment in time via a piece of clothing. In essence, what outstanding designers do is create wearable time capsules that are available at your local Bloomingdale’s. But we can’t expect what we see on the runway to be the best translation of a designer’s vision of, say, spring 2016, if said designer barely has time to comprehend spring before he’s looking at fabric samples for fall. At the risk of sounding like a four-year-old, such expectations are, at the very least, not fair.
I’m not suggesting we eliminate all the excess collections and go back to the days when new line-ups were presented to a select few inside tony Left Bank studio spaces. The best thing about today’s fashion industry is how the Internet has opened gates of what was once an insulated sphere to the outside world. Heck, the only reason this blog came to exist in the first place is thanks to style.com’s (RIP) coverage of fall, resort, spring, pre-fall, and everything in between. What I am saying is that we need to revaluate what exactly we want fashion to be. If the answer is the same as it’s always been, that we want fashion to be a tangible manifestation of the present moment, than perhaps it is time to remove some of the demands placed on designers. And if our answer has changed? Well, I guess that’s another one of the great things about fashion: There’s always next season.