How Fast Fashion Is Changing The Way Design Works

It's obvious enough that fast fashion brands like H&M, Zara, and Topshop — as much as we often depend on them to fill out our wardrobes — have the power to cut a serious chunk out of the profits of traditionally untouchable luxury names. With cheaper (and often questionable) labor, massive support systems, and dependably profitable distribution networks, more budget-friendly retailers can seize market opportunities that high-fashion houses miss. But, of course, this isn't new news — not to us, and not to the executives running those giants and struggling to maintain profitability without sacrificing status. Luxury brands are taking serious measures to keep up, as Suzy Menkes explores in this fascinating piece for T, and that means changing the fundamental innerworkings of the design process.
Meaning, more shows and less lead time for designs, as well as an increased focus on resort collections, which, Menkes says, can account for up to three-quarters of annual profits. All told, some brands are aiming to put on around ten shows a year — the usual ready-to-wear collections, plus resort, couture, menswear, pre-fall, promotional shows, and often a few catered just towards extremely wealthy client bases in Asia, Dubai, Moscow, and Brazil. Of course, this takes its toll on the designers. Though there are probably a million reasons that went into the tragic suicide of Alexander McQueen, or the very-public breakdown of John Galliano, Menkes isn't wrong to suppose that the increasingly stressful production cycle — which treats designers more like lab rats than vital individuals with endless creative license — played its part. There is less and less time for the things that often give way to the best collections: Wild and randomly-sourced inspiration and brainstorming, or just running with a crazy hunch.
For our part, we'd argue that it's not more, more, more that will save luxury; it's maintaining exclusivity, mystique, and a certain craziness of design that simply can't be copied. H&M is never going to come out with, for example, a carbon-copy McQueen gown, because there are only a handful of people in the world who would dare to wear such a thing. As the aforementioned emerging markets continue to grow and look for something that will justify "new money" with taste and elite access, there's a good chance that the intersection of the people who will wear the more high-concept designs and the people who can afford to do so will only get bigger. (T Magazine)
fastImage: Via T Magazine.

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