I have just finished reading the exhaustive analysis that BOF and McKinsey developed for “The State of Fashion 2021”. We are approaching the end of a year, which has been dramatic for the fashion industry, hitting with particular violence in the retail sector, which has recorded heavy downturns and consequently closures of stores globally.
McKinsey’s graph requires a serious and immediate reflection on the eve of a year, 2021, which will necessarily need a turnaround.
“Fashion must rewrite its own rules”, is the message that has been shared for months by those who make, communicate, and love fashion. I am thinking of the extraordinary appeal of Giorgio Armani with his heartfelt letter to the operators of the sector, later shared by stylists from all over the world. A path that finally includes sustainability, circularity of the economy, greater respect for the environment, a fashion linked to seasonality, style and elegance, takes its time, respecting the artisan supply chain.
Even to journalists and communication operators who attended the Fashion Weeks of the last years, it was clear that the system was out of control, a fashion wholly detached from reality, leading only to an extreme spectacularization of a world that never existed. Yet, in recent years fashion had given necessary signals against the trends.
In the early days of 2019 at the Teatro alla Scala I attended theGreen Carpet Fashion Awards 2018, the awards dedicated to sustainable fashion organized by the National Chamber of Italian and Eco-Age Fashion. The award for “best-emerging designer” was assigned to Gilberto Calzolari, with a dress made with jute sacks from Brazil and purchased at the Navigli market. The dress was combining a “poor” and very ancient fiber with a delicate natural cotton muslin used to cover its interior and embellished with Japanese floral motifs embroidery in Swarovski crystals. A garment merging materials of different origins with the traditions of other countries. I was impressed. It wasn’t a fast-fashion; it wasn’t just a show; instead, it was pure elegance.
I believe it is essential that the clothing and textiles sector returns to concreteness and finds internal strategies to resist unexpected events better, as the recent pandemic has shown us, but not only.
It will be essential not only to focus on e-commerce as the experts’ analysis suggests but also to reconsider how the consumer can be involved in a system that has not ever represented him. Teaching the importance of a thoughtful purchasing choice, to buy a garment because it defines us, it talks about us and not just because it is fashionable. It is transforming the purchase in a boutique into a real relaxing experience, where the customer feels to have listened. I am thinking back to fashion ateliers of years 50’s and 60’s, as depicted by journalists of that time; precious lounges where the customer was seated and then guided by choosing the most suitable garment for her. Obviously, without even remotely hypothesizing a disappearance of fast fashion that will have to continue to exist but will have to be reshaped on a life that has changed for all of us, so that it is concrete, not excessive, of quality and that follows the natural trend of the seasons. We already have more than positive examples. If we think of the giant commitment of the fast fashion Zara engaged in the production of a line, Join-Life, which protects and preserves forests, has zero chemical impact, and supports re cycling with the collection of used clothes in the shop.
And about us, engaged in communication representing a bridge between brands and consumers, it is our duty up to enhance through our channels, both press and socials, the importance of a future that brings people back to the center, as an active part of a world such as that of fashion in which interpreters must be and not just simple consumers, observers and critics, and no longer mere spectators. This is the bet to win in 2021.