Friday, May 27, 2011


A couple of weeks ago Miu Miu hosted a discussion forum at their London location, amongst some players in the fashion industry called, the Pace of Fashion. (See video below.)

Host Iman Amed, (a more analytical thinker in the fashion industry, a rarity)--is an Associate Lecturer at Central St Martin's College of Art & Design, and the Founder and Editor of the Business of Fashion, (a website that aspires to cover fashion on the business and systematic end).  The discussion seemed promising at first. With Amed's introduction statement: "I've been asked to open to conversation on The Pace of fashion," he further elaborated on how the digital revolution, along with the operational aspect of the fashion industry is currently experiencing a disconnect with its consumers.  

Alexander McQueen Website on October 6, 2009.
Gone are the days when one used to cut-out magazine clips to show friends or a sales person what you want to buy--rather we're currently submerged in a market where once it hits the Internet (not the stores), we can instantly share it with hundreds of our Facebook or Twitter connections, often leaving the shopper to wonder: Why won't these shoes or that dress be available until the next fashion season begins!? And when would that be exactly? Moreover, why is that again?  Which leads us to conclude: Is this an outdated business method in the face of e-commerce? 

In fact, this has been the looming fashion question--significant, yet left unanswered.  Since the web started dispensing information faster than humanly digestible, a few designers like Alexander McQueen, realized--and thereby proactively addressed the very issue at his talented hands.  Prior to the fashion visionary's untimely death, he decided to answer the problem head on: In October of 2009, he collaborated with Showstudio to air his fashion show live on the Internet (featured just below--note the cameras' presence), and further pushed the envelope by allowing viewers to purchase his pieces literally as it hit the virtual runway (see right). 

McQueen understood--given how the Web 2.0 and social medias  have disrupted our daily offline rituals--business as usual for the fashion industry may no longer work.  Print media showing the fashion houses' sellable goods (in this case, non-sellables), at least a season before the collection actually enters the stores is no longer conducive to an upgraded digital landscape of supply and demand

And this has worked since the industry's infancy, but with the onset of new media (further empowered by mobile devices and social networks), coupled with the implosion of our global economy, such factors have pressingly exacerbated the present fashion structure in question.  

Soon after McQueen's bold call to sell his designs off the digital runway: others like Oscar de la Renta, Emporio Armani, Dolce & Gabbana and Ralph Lauren all prompted to live-stream their shows the following season; and houses such as Burberry and Gucci even went as far as to also sell off the live-streaming runway.  

Tom Ford Spring/Summer Collection 2011/2012.
Presented last January.
Fashion giant, Tom Ford on the other hand, did the absolute opposite: He made a point of orchestrating a very intimate show behind the web-curtains to unveil his Spring/Summer 2011 (modeled by his closest celebrity friends)--while requiring his few exclusive guests not to share mobile pictures,  tweet, or use any sort of digital tools to delay his comeback collection from going prematurely viral.

Ford wanted to make the conscious decision to put it Online when he deemed it ready; and yet interestingly enough, he also elected to sell the collection once it hit his Online shop, just weeks after the show.

Such recent turn of events in the fashion world underscore the following looming questions: Does the fashion industry need to rethink its current business model? Do collections still need to be conceptualized a year ahead?  In a post-deep-recession-world: doesn't the retail landscape need to anticipate a complete makeover enable to maintain a healthy inventory in this unstable economy? 

Having watch The Pace of Fashion discussion (video featured top left), we don't really think that any of these consequential items had been mentioned or even considered.  As much as we love the fashion world, the discussion panel (apart from Iman Amed and the brilliant Suzy Menkes of the International Herald Tribune), seemed quite ill-equipped to handle a less visceral discourse outside of  color stories, outfit options, and the random selling out of wedges types of conversations. 

Instead, what needs to happen is a powwow amongst the savvy influentials such as Anna Wintour, Bernard Arnault (CEO of LVMH) perhaps, some very brilliant business fashion heads and designers who've been struggling to deal with the consequences; and it certainly wouldn't hurt to invite intellectual fashion journalists like Suzy Menkes and Cathy Horyn.  Because as ephemeral and style focused as fashion can be--it's also a billion dollar industry--making the pace of fashion a very serious conversation that needs to happen in the company of those who have the power to give the fashion business a major makeover.  

Hence, since The Pace of Fashion dialogue is a bit of a disappointment, as a consolation, have a watch at Caroline Weber, Associate Professor at Columbia University  (video featured right via BigThink), who astutely recognizes the need to employ technology to meet the digital consumer's needs--enable to revive the market.  In the end, we highly agree with Alexander McQueen: Designers need to create lines for the present and making those fashions available now, rather than designing for a collection that may already be outdated once it hits stores.  Otherwise, if the pace of fashion continues as is, fashion forward may soon turn into fashion backwards. 

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