Going further to a new normal
Since the pandemic started, the world was not only torn into believers and non-believers, into the careful ones and the “after me, the deluge” ones, into the harmed and the benefitting ones, into pessimists and optimists, into egoists and altruists, but first and foremost into the ones that wished to go back to normal and into the ones pleading for a rewiring of the current system. Because what COVID-19 discloses is much more than just a health crisis, it is an economic, environmental, social and fashion crisis:
The pandemic showed us how strong some lobbies are, how easily everyday life-restricting laws can be pushed threw in times of crisis, how dependent small shops are on their buyers, how much it costs to maintain a club or event-location, how nice it is to do home-office for some, how challenging it can be to do home office with children, how cool it is to support your local gems, how nature is recovering in the absence of humans, how memes can shape one’s understanding of reality and how important barbers, hair-dressers, bars and social contacts are. We realized that we don’t need unnecessary travels, fashion weeks or fast fashion in our lives. So why go back to normal? We should use these insights to go further and beyond – to a new normal.
Corona hit the fashion industry hard: Stores were closed, orders and fashion weeks cancelled, marketing budgets were revoked and factories shut down. Smaller designers had to rethink their independence, invest in their online shops and other technology, some even had to declare bankruptcy. Big labels switched their production to the ones of masks and sanitizers, taking an end to their production of current collections.
But Corona also gives us the chance for a reset, a new start – this has been understood by many, interlaced all imaginable societal layers and arrived within the fashion industry. Since the whole world went into lockdown, famous voices have been raised asking for a radical change of a broken system. The secretary-general of the United States pronounced the crisis as an opportunity for a more sustainable economy. At the beginning of May, a consortium of designers and CEOs published an open letter addressing the problems of fashion’s system. As the initiator, Dries van Noten, told the New York Times: “When you try to explain how fashion works to people not in fashion, it’s impossible. Nobody can understand it”. The letter recognizes COVID-19 as a chance for a fundamental change aiming at a more sustainable, environmental, designer and customer-friendly approach.
Shortly after, fashion’s most influential online platform, The Business Of Fashion, facilitated "Rewiring Fashion", a kind of manifesto, pointing out the problems and the accompanying solution approaches they came up with. By bringing together 64 internationally recognized fashion brands and their creative minds, like Phillip Lim, Christopher Kane, GmbH, Haider Ackermann, Isabel Marant or Missoni, the platform enabled real exchange and fostered a plan. The manifesto states: “We find ourselves facing a fashion system that is less and less conducive to genuine creativity and ultimately serves the interests of nobody: not designers, not retailers, not customers — and not even our planet. It’s time to slow down and rediscover the storytelling and magic of fashion.“
"Rewiring Fashion" demands a fashion calendar that is in sync with the end customer and seasons, as well as enables longer selling periods. Fashion weeks will be merged into two genderless main events which cuts unnecessary travels, downsizes collections and gives designers longer creational phases. Furthermore, they tackle the issues of the addiction to discounting and fast fashion knock-offs by presenting their collections directly before store-launches. The elimination of mid-season sales, in turn, leads to a reduction of unsold products, waste and landfill burnings. It is the first draft of a union of influential fashion personalities working on a better system – and it already found more than 1500 supporters, among them renowned industry pioneers like 032c or the Italian Vogue.
On Monday, one of the most powerful fashion houses worldwide, leading fashion industry's sales numbers, Gucci, has announced to reduce its fashion shows from six to two a year. Under Alessandro Michele, Gucci's collections will be gender- and seasonless. It is the first step towards the feasibility of "Rewiring Fashion". But to achieve real change, industry leaders, like Kering or LVMH, have to draw level with "Rewiring Fashion". If this happens, the fashion world will never be the same.
In the meantime, we can try to be the change in the world we want to see: This is why Freiraum aims to build new distribution channels for small and independent brands while at the same time guaranteeing total creative freedom to the brands – they can choose how they want to be presented, at what prices their products will be sold and when, as well as how long they will be part of Freiraum. This is why Freiraum does not offer mark-downs if they are not directly commissioned by the brand. This is why Freiraum functions as a showroom, experience creator and mediator rather than a traditional store to avoid surplus production by using the Freiraum stocking model. And this is why we give our brands a platform to tell their stories in the most genuine way. We do not sell the brand's products to the customer but connect the brand to the customer's world. We give every brand the freedom it deserves!
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