There was a time that I followed the relentless biannual cycle of fashion weeks like my life depended on it. And whilst my Instagram feed is still abuzz with blurry photos from ultra-bloggers perched on FROWs, there seems to be a change in the winds of fashion. With recent announcements that collections like Tom Ford and Burberry will soon show ready-to-wear collections for the immediate season rather in advance, fashion appears to be losing its pretension and coming to terms with being an industry of commerce rather than of art.
So what does this mean for the great fashion week machine? Well, the institution provides more than simply a platform for designers to show their wares. It’s also a vehicle for self-promotion from the people whose very income depends on being photographed, living aspirationally via social media for the world to envy. The Man Repellers, Blonde Salads, Bip Lings and Susie Bubbles are professional clothes horses as well as sartorial commentators, and that’s almost a parallel industry alongside the designers themselves. That said, I’ve noticed of late that the super bloggers are now perhaps only attending two or three out of four weeks, partly due to exhaustion and partly because their reputations appear to be firmed already. At least three of the ones I follow have given them a miss altogether and gone on vacation.
Nevertheless, the twice-yearly showcase still works for most design houses, and the commercial system is engineered around buyers using fashion weeks to inform later mainstream collections. But this recent decision to show immediate seasons rather than advanced collections does indicate a shift from artistic leadership to an understanding that designers live and die by their sales; even on the catwalks of Paris and Milan, consumer is king.
The powerhouse publicity that fashion weeks generate isn’t likely to bite the dust anytime soon; too much of this behemoth industry is based around the calendar they dictate. But with FROWs becoming increasingly sparse (I’m afraid Helen George and Mollie King do not a celebrity front row make) and even self-made bloggers finding the prospect exhausting, fashion appears to be waking up. The emphasis now appears to move to fashion ‘in situ’, being worn on Good Morning America and on the promo trail, to dinner at the Chiltern Firehouse and on street style sites.
Kendall, Gigi, and Karlie et al may continue to dominate the headlines, but what they wear on the way to the show seems as influential as what they wear in it. And rightly so; the proof of fashion is always in the wearing, and that happens far more than twice a year.