Although it may seem difficult to recall, men’s Fashion Week was happening just a month ago. It was technically scheduled to begin in Milan on 14th September. It was expected to be the first fashion week that would return to normal after two years of difficult starts and stops. The Omicron variant quickly made the rounds, throwing everything into chaos and adding anxiety to what was supposed be a celebration of victory.
Here’s the current situation: London’s men’s show was cancelled in December. It was moved to coincide with February’s women’s shows. Giorgio Armani, who is the main designer of Emporio Armani, cancelled his men’s shows in Milan Fashion Week. He also cancelled his women’s couture shows. Jonathan Anderson, the JW Anderson host, switched to digital formats this morning. Brunello Cucinelli is stepping aside as the long-standing anchor of Pitti Uomo’s menswear trade show. The Paris Fashion Week show schedule, which was published late last week, features a mixture of presentations and in-person shows.
One major takeaway is how megabrands like Dior and Louis Vuitton continue to devote themselves to IRL events. It’s possible that things could change in the future. These shows are a huge investment by large brands, which allows them to attract our attention. The front row VIPs, flashy production values, and the promise that there will be plenty of buyers and editors all help to guarantee a bankable media moment.
Today, however, it is not possible to have a universal approach that works for everyone. Already there are rumblings about things not working and they are increasingly coming from the fashion industry. An open letter was sent to the fashion industry asking for changes in its practices. Grace Wales Bonner, Craig Green and Dries Van Noten were among the signatories. The signatories requested that the entire idea of before be rethought to take into consideration sustainability issues and reduce the fiscal and creative stress associated with the retail calendar. It was obvious that not every label could afford to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a limited schedule to showcase a collection, particularly smaller and mid-sized labels.
One of the biggest signs that there is change is the fact that some mega-labels are rethinking their participation in the old system. Gucci, which broke away in spring 2020, now exhibits its collections co-ed style twice a year outside of official fashion week events. Over the years, Gucci has tried other methods of showing its collections, such as hosting a film festival or a 12-hour livestream. Bottega Veneta was a traveling circus before Daniel Lee, its creative director, left.
Balenciaga is the brand most in-explicable with Fashion Week expectations. The label has largely stayed off the runway since the pandemic. It’s instead created a videogame (hints at future metaverse aspirations). It turned an ersatz red-carpet into a meta “runway”, created videos, including one with an army digital clones, and collaborated closely with The Simpsons. The designer now appears to be art-directing Kim and Kanye’s divorce, rebound relationships, and collaboration with the Gap.
This raises the most important fashion week question: Why limit yourself to a few weeks per year when you can have the whole zeitgeist?