“Isn’t it curious that an industry constructed with the need for newness in its foundations is so stubbornly striving to function under an obsolete system?”
by Raquel Fernández Sobrín
They say history repeats itself. They say history repeats itself when they actually mean that people have a mysterious tendency to repeat their own mistakes. Last month has been quite similar to the last days of February and the beginning of March, for example, with fashion shows happening while coronavirus infection rates increase as do the restrictions in every European city in a new attempt to stop them. Shows haven’t taken place with the usual ceremony and splendor, but they neither have taken place in a moment when is possible to say we still ignore the risks we are all facing. Fashion week is to fashion what Isabel Ayuso, regional leader of Madrid, is to the Spanish capital: an element that persistently mistakes optimism and desire of recovery with plain and simple ignorance. An element, in other words, unable to face the idea of change. Isn’t it curious that an industry constructed with the need for newness in its foundations is so stubbornly striving to function under an obsolete system?
Luxury sales will decrease between a 25% and 45% this year, according to the Boston Consulting Group. They won’t reach 2019 levels until at least 2023 or 2024. Those numbers prove how brands and designers haven’t exactly a choice when it comes to present new collections. It is a life or death matter for most of them. The uncertain scenario doesn’t imply they have to hold tight to the idea of the fashion show (how many clients attend the shows anyways?) nor to the idea of a “safe” format because, even these words don’t pretend to become some sort of J’accuse, Vogue Runway galleries are currently a catalogue of the many mistakes we make while wearing a mask.
Any options left? Sure, digital presentations. The thing with this format is that without the music, the lights, the fog and the ovations; collections need to be truly consistent to make sense. Without all the fuss only ideas are left. We have seen plenty of them: Collina Strada’s cute change, Jonathan Anderson’s boxed shows for JW and Loewe (would the poet sleeves and parachute skirts mean the same if presented on a runway?); Christopher Kane’s artworks, a confession of his lack of appetite for designing clothes during lockdown. A confession of his interest in experiment with paint and glitter and a symbol of a close relationship stablished with his 92-year-old neighbor. We’ve seen how the most anticipated show of the season, Miuccia Prada and Raf Simon’s first co-created collection, besides a gentle reminder of why their names mean so much in modern clothing history, highlighted the way human collaboration can improve what it’s already good precisely now that society seem to start adopting again a “kill or be killed” mood. We have seen an appreciated Glenn Martens’s efforts to create pieces you can wear a thousand different ways. It can be a definitive attribute in a constantly changing scenario. We have walked along Paris with Balenciaga until the last seconds of its video, until we could read the credits that made us aware of all the security measures involved in the filming. We have received (and accepted) Marine Serre’s invitation to be free to face our destiny.
Obvious statement: fashion is not a cure. Not for SARS-COV-2, not for any of society’s illnesses. But it does have the power to work wonders as a balm. Do we need to see beautiful things specially now, when “beauty” is more diverse than ever? Yes. Do we need to contemplate new things? Yes. Do we need to pretend nothing happened during the last months and we are right back where we left it? Emphatic no. At this point we all can agree in one thing: life goes on. Life goes on but doesn’t continue.