The future of the Fashion Show

...Presentation is Everything

by Karen Hodkinson
In 2012, Phoebe Philo bucked the trend. So did Stella McCartney and Moschino's Cheap & Chic. They all chose against catwalk shows in favour of smaller presentations. Philo due to the birth of her fourth child, McCartney favouring a black tie dinner (while models stroll by the tables) and Moschino for its first appearance at London Fashion Week.

Falling on the oft used cliché, as soon as economy hits crunch time, it's not fashionable to be seen spending too much money. It just seems wasteful to be spending too much money on something that only lasts 20 minutes, which might or might not garner media attention, which might or might not translate into sales. Scaled down presentations chime better with our recessionary hit times.

The catwalk or fashion show, over the years, has increasingly become associated with status, wealth and celebrities. It's about who's sitting in the front row and houses putting on a spectacular spectacle that's talked up in the press. Clothes become a secondary matter. But isn't a fashion show simply a vehicle which designers use to show their collection to their clients? Like a printed book is the platform which is used to read a great literature work.

Digital has already changed the way we listen to music and read books. So why not fashion? Is there a different way for designers to showcase their work and communicate with their clients? Quoting Jessica Michault from her blog: “Looking forward it will be the ability of a brand to create connectivity within the limitless and isolative Internet universe that will define a brand’s virtual and bottom-line success. Buyers will need more than ever to feel like they have a voice within the void. This makes the importance of building a personal and profound relationship with online clients a fundamental function for all companies.”

Surely the younger generation who have grown up in a digital and social media world are best placed to explore and experiment with technology and use it for their own gain. Putting on a fashion show costs at least £10,000 – and that's only at the cheaper end. Imagine how much money, and time, young designers can save. And it would free up their creative juices to focus on just making a strong collection. After all, isn't that the point of a designer in the first place? To make beautiful clothes that people want to wear. Or has the fashion system grown so large that perhaps some reflection is due? Maybe we need to go back to asking ourselves, what does it mean to be a designer?

Referring to the inestimable Azzedine Alaia, in an interview with 032c and also published on the Business of Fashion: “Why do I make clothes? What should the clothes I make be about?” There is just one good reason to do fashion: to make the woman look more beautiful. If that is not the case, it has no meaning for me to create. And it has no meaning for her to buy something that massacres her style. I truly never calculate – I only think about women when I create. And I owe it all to the women, all my success.”

Alaia famously does not get on with American Vogue's Anna Wintour – she has not photographed the designer's work in years. Yet, American women love him and Barney's has a 140 square metre space devoted to him. Then there is the example of 28-year-old Emina Hadzic, a young Bosnian designer running British-based fashion label La Luna London, who has come to the notice of the Duchess of Cambridge.

It takes courage and self-belief to go against the flow. Young designers, without the clout of a bankable CV and cachet of an established house, might not have the confidence to work outside the familiar or the established system. But strong brands are not built in a day. It takes time. Creativity needs time.

And here, it's worth quoting Alaia again (from The Ground magazine): “As I said many times, the fashion world, its system, can be disturbing. The system imposed Galliano, and others, to make four collections for him, four collections for the house, four for men, and four for women. When you have one idea per year, it’s already a miracle! Now, it has become crafty fiddling at a breakneck pace. That’s not the essence of fashion. How can you really be creative under these circumstances? For the young designers it’s very hard, and for the more mature, they drink more, take more drugs… what I am saying is that the system is not right. We have to see the work from another angle. The system is too stressful: too many collections, too much pressure. As in other fields, if you want to do a good creative job, it takes time. What’s the point? I’m working 24 hours a day. I have had a house in Tunisia for 20 years, and I never have time to go because there are collections, fittings….”

Now, don't get me wrong. I like fashion weeks. It's a wonderful celebration of fashion, one festival where clothes lovers can congregate around. It's easy for designers to hit a large audience at one time. But the fashion system has grown much bigger and more complex. It's now a spider web of traditional fashion weeks, online fashion weeks, bloggers, concept stores, e-tailers, retailers, print magazines, digital magazines, etc. interacting with one another to make up this one big, constantly evolving organism called fashion. Nothing stays the same for long these days, and more than ever, one needs to innovate. But above all, always remember the point of fashion.