The coronavirus pandemic is fueling significant change across fashion — and now Belgian designer Dries Van Noten is leading a consortium pushing the industry to rethink the traditional calendar of retail deliveries and discounts.
The group includes shoe designer Pierre Hardy, fashion brands such as Tory Burch, Thom Browne, Acne Joseph Altuzarra and Erdem alongside retailers Bergdorf Goodman, Nordstrom Lane Crawford, Selfridges, Harvey Nichols, Liberty and La Rinascente. Mytheresa’s Michael Kliger is currently the only e-tailer to subscribe. Public relations agency PR Consulting has also leant its support.
The group, which has been holding meetings via video conferencing platform Zoom, posted an open letter to the industry on Tuesday calling for support.
“We agreed that the current environment, although challenging, presents an opportunity for a fundamental and welcome change that will simplify our businesses, making them more environmentally and socially sustainable and ultimately align them more closely with customers’ needs,” it stated.
When Pierre Hardy received the call, he signed up on the spot as the ideas meshed perfectly with his own confinement soul searching.
“During the last two months myself and my CEO Christopher Turnier had been discussing exactly that: reassessing how to make the business better and reimagine the system,” Hardy told FN today via FaceTime. “We were thinking of how to make things easier, more functional and more relevant for designers, customers and retailers alike.”
He said that although the joy of fashion involves “an escape from reality,” the retail system had become completely divorced from the real world. “Selling boots in summer and sandals in winter was like walking on our heads,” he said wryly.
Hardy observed that “it’s insane it took this catastrophe for us to have an epiphany when everyone’s been saying for the past 10 years that this stupid system isn’t working.” Still, he admitted the pre-pandemic pace simply didn’t afford time to consider the bigger picture.
The consortium is calling for fashion deliveries to be realigned with the actual seasons so fall/winter merchandising would take place between August and January and spring/summer between February and July. A discount period would be set for the end of the season in question as opposed to mid-season sales.
According to the letter, the aim would be to “create a more balanced flow of deliveries throughout the season to provide newness but also time for products to create desire.”
Mytheresa President Michael Kliger also believes change is crucial. “We believe that the future of fashion needs to be focused on desirable product and inspirational customer experience,” he said. “We now may have the chance to get rid of unnecessary clutter and rituals.”
The executive cited strong curation and a focus on customer service as a way to “truly drive full price sales.”
An additional objective of the consortium would address issues of over-production and unnecessary travel. The group would also look to “increase sustainability throughout the supply chain and sales calendar” by minimizing waste, “make use of digital showrooms” and “review and adapt fashion shows,” according to the letter.
The sustainability mission resonates with Hardy. “We’re not perfect, but we only produce items to order, we don’t burn or destroy products at the end of a season and my factory doesn’t exploit its workers,” he said.
However, the proposed system would also have controversial implications. It could refocus industry attention on main collections rather than pre-collections that have driven commerce in recent years. It might also impact the lucrative flash discounting that takes place on holidays such as Black Friday.
Hardy maintained that an element of flexibility and opportunity for adjustment is crucial as the debate and discussion continues.