An Opinionated Guide to Fashion’s New Shape and Schedule
What to watch, where to watch it, where to buy it
and what the heck is going on.
From shows to shopping to seasons to supply chains, the coronavirus has meant the end of the fashion world as we knew it. Instead we’re about to get movies! And playlists! And a lot less stuff! Here’s everything you need to know about what is happening next, updated with new information as it evolves.
What to Watch and When
June 12 to June 14
London Men’s and Women’s Shows
Formerly known as London Fashion Week: Men’s, this is now an all-gender digital event that will encompass virtual showrooms, short films and designer Q. and A.’s. Here is a curtain raiser on what to expect, and highlights of what to watch. The event can be viewed on londonfashionweek.co.uk or by using the hashtag #LFWreset. Published content will then stay online, with plans to make this new Netflix-style platform a continuing resource and archive for the London fashion scene.
A star of the Friday lineup will be Nicholas Daley. Men’s wear presentations by Mr. Daley, a 2020 LVMH Prize finalist, tend to be full of laughter, live music and bright, bespoke textiles. At 12:10, he is presenting a film of his fall 2020 show, accompanied by a new playlist.
A one-time wunderkind turned éminence grise who always speaks his mind, Hussein Chalayan will take part in a live interview at 5 p.m. on Friday. At 6 p.m. Marques’ Almeida, the women’s wear label, will show a documentary that goes behind the scenes of the making of a capsule collection during a pandemic.
For early weekend risers, Bianca Saunders, a rising star of London men’s wear, is introducing a zine on Saturday, at 11.30 a.m. Later on, Charles Jeffrey will be livestreaming one of his infamous Loverboy parties at 7 p.m., followed by a D.J. set from the club favorite Fat Tony, a Kate Moss BFF who also runs a cracking Instagram meme account. It is Saturday night, after all.
On Sunday morning at 11:20, tune in for a film from the Alexander McQueens and Stella McCartneys of the future: students from the Central Saint Martins class of 2021. Then round out the day with a film by the milliner Stephen Jones on his spring-summer 2021 collection and a video diary by Roksanda.
June 29 to July 5
While the physical version of the immense Pitti Uomo men’s wear fair in Florence, Italy, has been postponed until January, a virtual platform called Pitti Connect goes live online at the end of June. It aims to showcase highlights from the 1,200 labels that exhibit there, as well as (we hope) one or two of the always compelling guest designers (Telfar Clemens, Sterling Ruby and Virgil Abloh are alums) that have consistently made this fair the place to watch for trends.
Sadly, the mass migration of fops that make this fair the delight of street-style shutterbugs will be forced from the theatrical proscenium of a piazza outside the 16th-century Fortezza da Basso direct to Instagram. The Scandinavians have been a stealth force here in recent seasons. One insider shortcut is to follow the people followed by @konradolsson, the editor of Scandinavian Man.
July 6 to July 13
Paris Fashion Week
The first three days will be digital presentations by couture houses; the following five will be men’s wear.
Armani is sitting this one out, waiting to show in January in Milan; Givenchy (it is currently without a designer) is off the schedule, too. Balenciaga, whose return to couture under Demna Gvasalia would have been the most anticipated show of the week, has postponed the debut until January.
Dior, however, has committed to being a part of the event, as has Chanel (which already dipped its toes in the digital water with a cruise show in June and is showing July 7) and Iris van Herpen, who is planning a deep dive into virtual reality. Given her long history of understanding the way technology can enable eye-boggling garment design, this is going to be one to watch.
Historically, Paris is the payoff capital in the men’s wear cycle. If London is about experimentation, New York street energy, Florence emerging trends, Milan commerce (and Prada), Paris is the culmination of all these elements. It is here that the experimentalists (both fledgling and seasoned) like Rei Kawakubo, Rick Owens and Craig Green choose to show, here that big houses with muscular budgets make defining brand statements.
The governing body for French fashion has yet to release a schedule, but Kim Jones, the Dior Men designer, confirmed his commitment to a presentation, albeit a digital one, on July 11. Rick Owens, who used the lockdown as an opportunity to amp up his kooky Instagram diary, will also show. “How not totally sure,’’ Mr. Owens said in an email. “But definitely not silent.”
To avoid the Epcot Center effect of most digital presentations, Ms. Kawakubo, fashion’s acknowledged thought leader, has elected to showcase all of the labels under the Comme des Garçons umbrella in a video presentation held during Paris Fashion Week, though staged at her headquarters in Tokyo.
July 14 to July 17
Milan Digital Fashion Week
The Milan men’s wear shows will move to Sept. 23 to Sept. 28 to piggyback on women’s wear, and they will also be digital. That makes these shows essentially a placeholder for the fall (and next summer, if the old schedule returns, which is still up in the air) and an opportunity for brands to experiment. Think an anything-goes fruit basket of men’s wear, women’s wear, pre-collections and dolphin acts. (Just kidding about the last one.)
Dolce & Gabbana is back. Maybe? After decades of ignoring Italian fashion’s governing body and operating outside the system, not to mention a series of recent missteps, including a racist video in China and numerous offensive remarks, the brand will once again be on the Milan schedule. And despite a past in which it was famous for banning journalists (including those from The New York Times) from the shows, it will be open to all. Whether it’s a real reset remains to be seen.
Likewise confirmed to take part: Etro, Bottega Veneta and Dsquared. Schedules are pending, but Prada, nimble as always, can be counted on to treat a migration to digital from analog space as merely another artistic challenge.
Gucci “Epilogue.” There will be an unveiling on July 17 of what would have been the cruise collection, originally scheduled for May 18 in San Francisco because, Gucci said at the time, the city’s “spirit represents Alessandro Michele’s vision for Gucci: the acceptance of diversity and the right to be oneself.” Instead, this virtual … whatever will effectively mark the end of the old fashion cycle (at least for this brand).
Also on the 17th: the Ermenegildo Zegna XXX spring-summer 2021 collection, which the designer Alessandro Sartori has called a “phygital” show. We know, we know — you can’t wait to find out what exactly “phygital” (“physical” + “digital”) looks like.
New York, London, Milan,
Paris Spring-Summer 2021
All of the governing fashion week bodies insist that the September and October shows are going to go ahead as planned, though no one is willing to say what form they’ll take.
New York Fashion Week will showcase both men’s and women’s wear shows. So will Milan.
Some big brands will be missing:
Dries Van Noten The designer said he did not expect to embark on a fashion show again until February 2021, although whether he would then plan to show spring in spring, or stick with the traditional rhythm of showing fall-winter six months ahead of time is still unclear.
Off-White New Guards Group, which owns the license for Off-White, has announced that Off-White will no longer be part of Paris Fashion Week but will instead introduce its next collection, for spring 2021, in stores in February. Thereafter, the company said, “The collections will be organized by monthly installments and will satisfy any commercial need, leaving Virgil Abloh all the creative space he needs.”
Potentially showing in some form, but perhaps later in the fall, and not during the official Milan shows: Gucci. But when it does, it will show men’s and women’s wear together.
Despite fears of new spikes in virus cases, Florence is laying plans for what the Pitti Uomo organizers called a major event in September. “Physical remains essential in a digital world,” said Raffaello Napoleone, the chief executive of Pitti Immagine, the fair’s governing body.
New York Fashion Week: Men, which broke apart well before the coronavirus altered the landscape, promises to be a ragtag affair. A handful of designers will post digital presentations, while others plan to move their online shows to September to conform to the women’s wear schedule.
The scrappy New York Men’s Day, notable as an incubator of new talents, may yet step unto the breach, with familiar talents like David Hart forgoing his fascinating themed presentations (Blue Note records was the inspiration for one) in favor of a direct-to-consumer collection posted to his website; and Private Policy, notable in the past for politically charged presentations, compiling a digital look book in lieu of a show.
Making Their Own Schedule
Saint Laurent, led by Anthony Vaccarello, plans to “take control of its pace and reshape its schedule,” at least throughout the rest of 2020. (It says it will be back on the official Paris schedule in 2021). What does that actually mean? Who knows! Saint Laurent hasn’t been any more specific than to write that it will “launch its collections following a plan conceived with an up-to-date perspective, driven by creativity.” Well, OK then.
The Scoop on Shopping
Have shops opened again?
In many of Europe’s major retail hubs, yes. You can shop in Paris and Milan, two cities hit hard by the outbreak. Large shopping areas in Dubai and Tokyo also reopened to the public in early June. Retailers in China and Hong Kong have been up and running for months now.
In the United States, most states and cities have allowed stores to reopen. In Los Angeles, for example, they reopened on May 27. (Nationwide, however, several popular shopping districts have been affected by closures and damage amid the recent protests.)
On June 8, retail stores in New York reopened, but only for order pickups — not browsing. London shops will remain closed until June 15.
OK, but are people actually shopping?
In the United States, it’s a mixed bag. When Georgia reopened in late April, people flocked to stores, restaurants and salons. But newly reopened malls in California have been described as “ghost towns.”
Foot traffic should gradually improve. In April, retail sales fell 16.4 percent, the industry’s largest monthly drop on record; May’s figures, when they are released by the Commerce Department later this month, are expected to look better. (That may not be saying much.)
Are new hygiene rules or standards in place?
Yes. Some rules are mandated by local governments, but others are being implemented, and advertised, by the stores themselves — part of a strategy to “over-communicate” cleanliness to wary shoppers.
Typical measures include increasing store cleanings, enforcing social distancing — with signs or reconfigured store layouts — offering a lot of hand sanitizer and requiring sales associates to wear masks and submit to temperature screenings.
But how will this change the experience of shopping?
You will probably notice the most significant changes at beauty stores or counters. (No touching allowed!) Fitting rooms will likely have reduced availability, and items will go into quarantine after they are tried on. At checkout, phones and tablets may replace registers, and cash will be discouraged or not accepted at all.
You may also notice sales associates hovering more as you shop. High-end retailers in particular are trying to figure out how to nail customer service when their employees have to stand six feet away from customers and cover half of their faces. Super-personalized service is one solution. Everyone is a V.I.P. now.
Stores will likely be emptier for a while — not just because shoppers are spooked but because businesses are limiting occupancy to promote social distancing.
Some stores are also requiring customers to wear face coverings. For more information about a specific store’s policies, it’s best to check its website or call to inquire.
What about sales?
There is a growing movement to reset the sales calendar, so that instead of major markdowns happening in November (or earlier) and May, they will take place according to a more logical seasonal calendar, allowing clothes to be delivered to stores in the months they will be worn, stay on shelves at full price for that time and go on sale only when they are less relevant. Lane Crawford, Saks and Nordstrom have signed open letters committing to this plan.
Giant cruise shows. The planned exercises of one-upsmanship formerly known as cruise, which were adding a third show season to the traditional two — you know, the ones where Louis Vuitton goes to Rio or Dior to Marrakesh and they bring all the bells and whistles and models and V.I.C.s (very important clients) for a three-day shindig and show — were canceled this year, and there are no signs that any company plans to restart them. Gucci publicly committed to only two shows a year, and the C.F.D.A. and B.F.C. came out in favor of the change.
Elizabeth Suzann, a Nashville label known for its devotion to slow fashion and linen sack dresses, closed in April after seven years.
Jeffrey, a wildly influential high-end store in Atlanta, Manhattan and Palo Alto, Calif., opened in New York City in the meatpacking district in 1999 and closed for good in May, by order of Nordstrom, its owners.
The Modist, a luxury fashion e-commerce platform catering to modest dressers, closed in April.
Peter Pilotto, the women’s wear label founded in London by Peter Pilotto and Christopher De Vos, won acclaim for its elegant shapes, digital prints and a cultish celebrity following. They designed Princess Eugenie’s wedding dress last year. But an Instagram post this spring confirmed that they had decided to press “pause” on the brand, for now.
Has everyone forgotten about sustainability?
For years, brands and retailers have been racing to prove their green credentials. They recycle (or so they say). And upcycle (at least a little bit). They say they are carbon neutral (or plan to be). Many make lofty promises to be more transparent and socially conscious. But the coronavirus, and the related store closings and economic losses, has raised new questions about the industry’s commitment to sustainability.
Will fewer fashion shows mean less production by the fashion industry?
Although there have been significant delays to the production of collections by luxury fashion houses, most businesses say they still plan to present new offerings later this year. This is despite several proposals from groups of independent designers and executives mooting major changes to runway shows, the fashion calendar and discounting practices.
For the fast fashion sector, it looks to be a different story. As stores closed across Europe and the United States, many retailers canceled orders for clothes, bags and shoes worth billions of dollars from Asian garment factories, forcing them to close and lay off hundreds of thousands of workers.
A few retailers are making new orders, but the long-term survival of Asia’s garment factories is uncertain.
Will the carbon footprint of fashion week be reduced, given that so many are now taking place online?
Yes, for now. Just to attend the ready-to-wear collections, tens of thousands of professionals fly to four countries in a single month. Simple math indicates that the exercise is a veritable bonanza of carbon emissions, and if, as expected, the schedule of runway shows will be vastly reduced in September, so, too, the carbon footprint will come down.
What will happen to the inventory that has not or cannot be sold?
In the world of fashion retailing, in which stores try to keep inventories closely matched to sales, even a small stack of unsold clothes can be a bad sign. Billions of dollars worth of unsold inventory has piled up in warehouses as a result of the pandemic.
According to McKinsey, the value of excess inventory from spring-summer 2020 collections is estimated at 140 billion euros to 160 billion euros ($159 billion to $182 billion) worldwide, between €45 billion and €60 billion ($51 billion to $68 billion) in Europe alone. That is more than double the level in a normal year.
So what will brands and retailers do with it all? Ideally sell it, either by themselves or through wholesale partners, although many consumers will soon be looking for fall clothing. Unsold items used to be burned, though increasingly that practice is frowned upon (just ask Burberry) — and actually outlawed in France.
If the stock doesn’t sell, most businesses will have to slash prices or pass it onto discounters. After that, it could end up in giant landfill sites in developing countries, adding to a huge and existing environmental issue for the fashion industry.
Are fashion seasons still going to be a thing?
Depends who you ask. Many designers are mulling over how they define “season”: Alessandro Michele of Gucci said he is thinking of his collections like pieces of a symphony; Giorgio Armani has announced his couture will be “seasonless”; and at Carolina Herrera and Dries Van Noten (among others) there are discussions about showing spring clothes, at least to the public, in spring, and fall in fall.
Still, most of the luxury powerhouses have stayed quiet in recent weeks, so it’s unclear whether they’re ready to give up the old way of doing things.
Will fashion brands still invest in sustainability in the way they said they would?
The pandemic has put much of the fashion industry into panic mode. After years of carefully investing in corporate and social responsibility policies, many businesses are now fighting to survive.
Inevitably this makes spending on initiatives more difficult, at a time when consumers are more conscious than ever about the values and actions of the brands they buy. Petitions and social media campaigns like #PayUp are attempting to put pressure on brands that have yet to pay for orders produced in countries like Bangladesh. A number of recent reports, including one from the Boston Consulting Group, say that the best way for fashion companies to guarantee their future is by maintaining their environmental and social commitments.
What can I do as a consumer?
Do your homework, particularly when it comes to fast-fashion retailers. Research which companies have been treating their workers well and have paid for orders made before the coronavirus outbreak. Look into what companies say about their environmental practices. Note those who don’t say anything at all.
Be mindful about what you buy. Think about your relationship with acquisitions. Invest in things you’ll wear for years rather than throwaway looks you wear for one event or post on Instagram.
Support independent designers whose futures aren’t certain.
Look into resale instead of buying new clothes.