The CFDA and British Fashion Council Joint Message Hints That a Physical Spring ’21 Fashion Month Could Be Canceled

On Thursday morning the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) and its U.K. counterpart, the British Fashion Council (BFC), announced a joint letter in which it recommended key changes that the fashion industry should make during and after the pandemic.

The suggestions for change are more or less what many other leaders (like Dries Van Noten in his open letter and the forces behind #rewiringfashion) have pointed to in recent weeks. But that this new message is coming from two official organizations is important — it’s the first time that an international statement has been made about how to move forward. (Consider the back and forth between Italy’s Camera Nazionale della Moda and France’s Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode in recent weeks on scheduling a men’s virtual fashion week for July.)

This is also the second major statement that the BFC has made in the pandemic; in April, it announced a new gender-neutral, digital fashion week scheduled for June 12-14.

Here, six key takeaways from the joint letter — which includes a hint that a physical spring ’21 women’s fashion month is unlikely to take place come September, at least for New York and London fashion weeks:

1. Slow down on inventory

The letter points specifically to the gluttony of deliveries and merchandise in general. It suggests that each designer and brand be more concise and strategic about their product offerings and how and when they intend to sell them, in hopes of preventing the current backlog of merchandise.

2. Close the seasonality gap

“There is a clear disconnect from when things arrive in-store to when the customer actually needs them,” the letter states. It goes on to suggest that the “cadence” of the delivery cycle be more attuned to what people are actually shopping for at a given time of year. This has been one of the biggest criticisms of fashion retail from both in and outside of the industry.

3. Plan on a virtual showing of the spring ’21 women’s season

While it never explicitly states that the spring ’21 women’s fashion month is canceled, it does hint at it: “While physical in-person presentations are likely impossible, the fashion councils will nevertheless focus on creating fashion calendars and other formats that will highlight and help to organize the virtual presentations for the Spring Summer collections,” states the letter.

4. Stick to two seasons — no matter what

The letter urges that all designers focus on only two main collections a year. “We firmly believe this can provide our talents with the time they need to reconnect to the creativity and craft that makes our field so unique in the first place,” the letter states. “A slower pace also offers an opportunity to reduce the stress levels of designers and their teams, which in turn will have a positive effect on the overall wellbeing of the industry.”

5. If pre-collections are a must, don’t give them a fashion show

The letter acknowledges that pre-collections can have some commercial viability in closing product gaps for some brands — but it recommends that these collections remain only in showrooms. That was the case before mega brands started to showcase resort and pre-fall lines in glamorous, faraway locales as a means of boosting brand visibility and exclusivity. “When we are able to hold in-person events and showings, we would recommend that these presentations return to the showrooms,” the letter states.

6. Stick with sustainability

Sustainability is mentioned as a key tenet for the future of the industry, and the groups reiterated a need to scale down on product offerings to help the entire industry reach a more sustainable level. The letter also urges brands to stick to a uniform calendar once physical shows and presentations can resume, to cut down on the carbon footprints of travel in the industry.

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