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What if fashion slowed down?

Fashion creates a ton of textile waste and a good portion of it is pre-consumer or production waste.

However with a seasonless collection it won’t be ‘last season’s fabric’ and go to waste

Ninoshka Alvares-Delaney

In the wake of the Corona virus outbreak in Italy, Italian fashion house Giorgio Armani recently staged its women’s Autumn/Winter 2020 show in Milan without an audience. The fashion house released a statement telling guests not to attend the show due to public health reasons and announced that the show would be live streamed on its website, Instagram and Facebook pages instead. This got me thinking that if a crisis situation could push a giant fashion house to slow down just one element of its functioning, what it would take for the entire fashion industry to slow down.

Fashion has always been showcased as per the seasons. Seasonal fashion drives consumers to buy as per seasonal trends and discard clothing for the next season as it is rendered ‘out-of-fashion’. This puts a toll on the planet and encourages consumerism. Initially, designers showcased two collections. While internationally it was showcased as Spring/Summer and Autumn/Winter, in India it is called Summer/Resort and Winter/Festive. Two seasons slowly turned into four seasonal collections, then multiple deliveries throughout the season, and now with fast fashion new collections are on the floor every week. The fashion industry needs to slow down for the sake of our planet and garment workers and one of the ways to achieve that is to do away with seasonal collections all together and adopt seasonless fashion.

Of course designers would always like to showcase their art and creativity, but having seasonal fashion also adds pressure on a designer to create a collection of a certain number of clothes in a stipulated time frame. As a result, it is common for designers to include styles that they are not totally happy with just because they had a minimum number to hit and a tight deadline. Some brands also end up having to rush styles due to the tight deadlines so they don’t have time for proper fittings. Having seasonless collections allows designers to fully work through and test new styles. It also means designers can create pieces that work with their existing and best selling styles. Instead of coming up with a totally new collection, designers can focus on augmenting the existing collection, for example, making a new bottom that works with the popular tops or a layering piece to go with the best selling dresses. Brands can work on creating a more versatile and functional collection instead of trying to sell a whole new set of clothes every season. Instead of producing large collections, many slow fashion brands create a core selection of garments which they occasionally add styles to or offer existing styles in different fabrics or colours.

Another huge benefit is that factories can have consistent, paced production. Currently factories have incredibly busy times with lots of pressure and overtime to get all the garments ready for the season, and then quieter periods before the next season’s production ramps up. Manufacturing outside of this seasonal roller-coaster would not only be less stressful for workers but also provide more continuous, stable employment since currently some factories just hire temporary staff for the busy times.

It also gives brands the ability to work with artisans and craftspeople. Using traditional techniques like Ikat dyeing, block printing, and hand-weaving takes more time than fast fashion’s quick turnaround can allow. Unfortunately we’re losing a lot of these beautiful textile arts and cultural methods with current industry demands. Slowing down fashion and allowing longer production cycles means that brands can support and share handmade, artisan textiles – making their pieces unique and imbued with a rich history of textile craft.

Fashion creates a ton of textile waste and a good portion of it is pre-consumer or production waste. Brands have to order a certain amount of fabric and it might not all get used, for example a brand could have too much fabric for the amount of clothing being cut or they might cancel or change a style. This ‘dead stock’ or ‘roll-end’ fabric will typically end up collecting dust somewhere. However with a seasonless collection, even if the brand has to order a larger amount than their production needs, they can continue to use the fabric in future production runs – it won’t be ‘last season’s fabric’ and go to waste.

Seasonless fashion can prove beneficial for existing ready stock as well. To get ready for the next season, brands have to get rid of stock. They’ll usually try to sell as much as possible on sale, but there’s often still leftovers. In extreme cases brands have actually been found burning any remaining stock. With a seasonless collection, brands don’t have deadlines to get rid of products and don’t create overstock waste. They can offer discounts if they choose or to show appreciation for their customers, not because they have to get rid of out-of-season clothes.

One advantage to manufacturers is that they can do away with runway shows. In the past buyers would attend fashion shows to order next season’s styles and customers would get a preview of what’s coming up. Now fast fashion has totally changed the game – knocking-off trends from the runway and having them in stores a few weeks later. In today’s age of technology, a fashion show is completely unnecessary. Sure a fashion show is a fun event to attend, but with the cost of models, a venue, makeup and hair, stylists, dressers, lighting, and so much more, the cost of garments hit the roof. Forbes estimates a 10 to 15 minute runway show can cost anywhere from $200,000 to over $1 million in case of international labels, with the pay-off being celebrity and influencer attention. Brands can spend the same amount of money on fair wages to their workers, reducing environmental impact and showing not only their final garments but also giving customers an insight and transparency into how they are made.

As for consumers, seasonless fashion gives them more time to think about purchases without the pressure of buying immediately with the fear of an item disappearing soon, thus reducing impulse purchases. People who truly love their clothes have developed their own personal style. With the removal of seasonal trends, consumers can focus on the styles of clothes they love rather than feeling pressured to update their wardrobe with the latest fashion. It also helps one get creative with their clothes once the constraints of trendy looks is removed.

I see seasonless fashion, or timeless fashion, the way forward. It think it fits perfectly with the values espoused by the slow fashion movement. With our current economic and health situation, it is time to introspect and adopt sustainable means. Seasonal fashion is so last season.

Stay safe and stay stylish!

(Writer is a fashion designer. You can follow her on Instagram and Facebook @ninoshkaindia or whatsapp 8698797633)

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