The novel coronavirus, its related lockdowns, and the cancellation of major fashion weeks in June and July has the fashion industry questioning its status quo. Saint Laurent is the latest brand to try something new: Today the Parisian house announced that it would move off schedule the remainder of 2020. While Paris’ menswear fashion week was already canceled in June, many have assumed that fashion weeks could resume, in some from, in September. If they do, Saint Laurent won’t be there. In a release, the brand noted, ‘Saint Laurent will take ownership of its calendar and launch its collections following a plan conceived with an up-to-date perspective, driven by creativity’.
Speaking to WWD, artistic director Anthony Vaccarello and chief executive officer Francesca Bellettini painted a picture of physical-digital hybrid shows that would operate outside of the traditional bounds of the fashion calendar. ‘This season I want to present a collection when I am ready to show it,’ Vaccarello said in an interview. The pair stressed the importance of brand building and slow fashion, suggesting smaller aesthetic shifts between seasonal collections and a stronger core product offering. ‘It’s not a complete change season after season. Everything is intended to be mixed with previous seasons. It’s always about the attitude of the same woman or man. In the show, you can really see what’s from last season. More image pieces will always be there, as it’s not the time to be boring. It’s time for even more creativity’, the designer continued.
Saint Laurent is the first major label to officially leave the traditional fashion calendar as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. In Milan, men’s fashion week has been pushed to September, to coincide with women’s, with all the usual headliners expected to participate. Ditto for Paris Fashion Week, which put its menswear and couture weeks on pause, but is expected to make a digital-facing announcement soon. London Fashion Week, meanwhile, has gone all digital, inviting its designers to contribute content during the time earmarked for London Fashion Week: men’s in early June.
Will others follow suit and step outside the fashion week system? The idea of large brands of staging pre-collection style extravaganzas on their own timelines could seem appealing as a way to monopolize the digital news cycle and create stronger brand initiatives, however Saint Laurent stresses that in doing its own thing, it is not pulling its support of Paris Fashion Week. ‘Saint Laurent’s announcement that we will not hold events in 2020 according to the usual calendar does not in any way diminish the role or importance of Paris Fashion Week-which is, very simply, the best in the world’, Bellettini said to WWD. Still, the decision has the potential to set off a chain of events that changes the concept of Fashion Week forever.