Runways in Transition: Is the Fashion Calendar Getting a Face-Lift?

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by Alexa Carlson, Fashion Writer

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Due to frustration among designers and confusion among consumers, the fashion industry is considering making some major changes to its calendar. After pushing designers to their limits and missing opportunities to capture consumers, the traditional fashion calendar is perhaps too outdated for today’s fast-paced world.

Traditionally, the fashion calendar encourages designers to show collections prior to the season intended. The two main fashion weeks in a calendar year are Fall and Spring, the catch being that Fall collections debut in February, and Spring collections debut in September. The original concept behind this is that the delay gives designers the opportunity to show their collections and gives retailers a chance to order items in advance. After mass production and distribution, which takes about six months, the collections are ready for sale in stores or online.

Producing collections so far in advance has led many designers to become frustrated with the outdated system. This past year, both Alexander Wang and Raf Simons left their posts at powerhouses Balenciaga and Dior due to the stress the fashion calendar puts on the creative process. Major design houses not only show Fall and Spring Ready-to-Wear collections, but may also feature men’s, Haute Couture or Resort collections throughout the year, potentially causing creative burnout.

Within the last few weeks, both Burberry and Tom Ford have announced they are switching their shows to reflect the consumer calendar. The two design houses are postponing their Fall collections that would have shown in this month’s Fall Fashion Week until September, when the collections will actually hit stores for consumers to purchase.

Ford said in a press release about his decision that the traditional fashion calendar, “no longer makes sense,” and is, “from another era.”

Today’s world is so focused on the new and now that the fashion industry’s traditional calendar throws our desire for immediate gratification off. The hype fashion shows draw from social media platforms, like Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat, exacerbates the problem.

Social media adds a whole new layer of issues to the problems the traditional fashion calendar already creates. Those who never had the opportunity to take part in the fashion industry can now catch a glimpse of the most exclusive shows from the vantage point of the front row’s smart phones. The fact that the clothing and trends presented live aren’t intended for immediate sale and won’t be in stores for another six months is frankly confusing.

Further, a six-month wait time for ready-to-wear shipments allows ample time for fast fashion stores to gear up for the upcoming season and offer similar trends. In the face of a change to the fashion calendar, stores like Zara or Forever 21, which rely on offering customers cheaper versions of runway trends, encounter a dilemma. The alteration of the traditional fashion calendar would disrupt this chance for fast fashion to get a head start on producing runway knock-offs.

On one hand, this proposed change could be an unfortunate adjustment for those who enjoy runway trends but don’t have $4,000 to drop on the latest Chanel bag. However, it does somewhat protect an industry that has no strict legal protection from copycats that get uncomfortably close to replicating original items.

Still, if the fashion calendar changes, how will retailers and magazine editors be able to advertise collections that are not seen until right before their store release? Magazines rely heavily on reporting new trends and work on issues months in advance of their publication. If designers don’t release collections until they hit the stores, magazines will risk falling behind.

The Council of Fashion Designers of America has already begun troubleshooting and looking at potential solutions to the antiquated calendar. According to Women’s Wear Daily, it is working with a consulting group to analyze how switching all shows to fit the consumer calendar, as Tom Ford and Burberry have already done, would affect the industry.

“We have designers, retailers and everybody complaining about the shows. Something’s not right anymore because of social media, people are confused,” Diane von Furstenberg, chairman of the CFDA, said to WWD.

A plausible solution suggested is to show collections only to retailers and industry professionals at the traditional, earlier time so appropriate plans made. Designers would then host their full fashion shows, with all the hype and spectacle, right before their clothing hits stores. This timing would most likely increase sales due to the excitement generated by fashion show publicity.

Many designers seem inspired by the talk of change in their industry. The accessibility of social media has allowed the once-exclusive fashion industry to gain a larger audience that is more informed and excited about designer products than ever before.

“It’s not a private little insider’s game anymore.” Michael Kors told WWD in an extensive interview you can read here.

In addition to Tom Ford and Burberry’s change to their calendars, other designers are offering more ways to implement a consumer-based model in the fashion industry. Brands like Public House and designers like Marc Jacobs have shown collections outside the traditional runway tent to allow more of the public to view their work. Kanye West sold tickets to his Yeezy Season 3 show, which debuted in Madison Square Garden. According to International Business Times, the collection will also be screened in 800 theaters across 26 countries. It seems the more designers work towards directly marketing to their consumers, the more creative they get – a win-win situation.

“We shouldn’t be talking about limits, but about opportunities.” Donatella Versace said, weighing in on the many changes occurring in the fashion industry, in another interview with WWD. This is an exciting time for fashion. Switching the fashion calendar could mean great things not only for the economy but also for designers’ creativity and the fashion industry’s role in society as a whole. While the final solution for the fashion calendar is still being decided, it’s safe to say consumers will be the main focus as they should.

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