How are luxury brands responding to the Pandemic?

December 4, 2020

In this Fashion Column, DUCFS 2021 Menswear Director Izzy Taylor explores how the fashion industry has attempted to rebound from a series of show cancellations and shop closures as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic - and how this might just have prompted change the industry has long been in dire need of.

In a time when so many are struggling, it may seem odd to examine the actions of luxury brands. But their influence on the industry and society on the whole cannot be ignored despite their relatively small clientele. Not only do they dictate trends and therefore what’s on the high street, but they have the unique ability to lead and act as pioneers for industry-wide change. 

Whilst COVID-19 has had catastrophic impacts for retail, for the fashion industry the cancellation of shows was perhaps a blessing in disguise and a necessary catalyst for positive change. This prompted an unprecedented variety of presentation methods. Why has the industry been fixated for so long on physical shows when their creative message could be communicated through a different medium? 

Gucci has just started releasing daily short films to share their Spring 2021 collection. Many argue that there is nothing quite comparable to seeing the garments on a runway and the atmosphere created in a show space, however these videos would seem to prove otherwise. The incredibly accessible nature of this method of presentation leaves nothing out – in video we are able to see how the clothes move, and this is something that can be experienced widely beyond the fleeting moment of a show. This widens the artistic sphere of influence a collection can have. It serves much more wholly as a piece of art, rather than an object to be bought. 

Christopher Kane also reflected the importance of seeing fashion as an art form in his SS21 Ready-to-wear collection. As mentioned in our ‘Meet the Fashion team’ article at the start of term, I was obsessed with how he had harnessed his boredom in lockdown. Kane reverted to painting, something he hadn’t done in 14 years – presumably because the hectic nature of producing collection after collection after collection in order to keep up with the traditional fashion calendar swallowed up this aspect of his creativity. Through lockdown, he created a series of portraits of girls which have been transformed into the prints for this latest collection.

Look: Christopher Kane. Model: Mia Brown. SPRING 2021 READY-TO-WEAR.

Seasonal considerations do give a purpose to A/W and S/S collections - the designs we covet in the colder months are never going to carry through to the warmer months. But do we really need more collections than this? Cruise/resort collection, pre-fall collection - are these superfluous? Does fashion really need four seasons?

In May, the CFDA and BFC alongside the Business of Fashion expressed concerns at the volume of output (which in turn creates excessive waste), calling for the traditional calendar to be abandoned in place of a more streamlined one. Whilst not all fashion houses have taken to it, those who have are at the forefront of a slow but positive movement towards greater sustainability in the industry as a wider whole. This all marks a realisation that something fundamental has to change for production to be sustainable - and that sustainability needs to be a pillar for any house wishing to ensure longevity for their business.

In addition to the volume of collections produced, the slow return to the runway show after a serious period of global reckoning has highlighted the need for a greater balance between the artistic power of a lavish show and environmental responsibility. Whilst presentation can absolutely transform the meaning of a collection, there is an increasing recognition that this has to be done in a way that doesn’t generate excessive waste.

There is no room for doubt anymore in the luxury fashion industry. With the power of the technology we all have at our fingertips and the huge budgets many of these houses have, there is simply no excuse for cutting corners. Whilst the light at the end of the COVID tunnel seems to be nearing, it’s long-term impact on the world is only just beginning. Only in the next few years will we understand what long-lasting, and impactful change this pandemic has had on Fashion - but it might just be the disruptive change the industry has long been in need of.

Edited by Caragh Taylor