LONDON, United Kingdom — Imagine this: it's February 2022 in Los Angeles. It may be winter, but the sun is shining, the temperature is a balmy 70 degrees Fahrenheit, and the global fashion set has descended on the city. Welcome to American Fashion Week — if you can call four days a week — a bi-coastal event that takes place in New York in July and on the West Coast six months later, turning Venice Beach into a carnival of shows, street style and shopping. The location makes sense — and not just because it allows attendees to avoid the blizzards that typically hit New York at this time of year: the A-listers are in town for awards season and the music crowd has just landed for the Grammys, presenting a wealth of opportunities for celebrity-led activations.
Given the brevity of American Fashion Week, not everyone puts on a traditional runway show. And why would they? The format is outdated for the most part, now that more creative presentations, parties and pop-ups drive more social media engagement and sales. Even Grammys performances have fashion partners now — deals worth millions — while some fashion events boast performances to rival the Grammys.
It's a noticeable shift from Paris' Couture Week, a more traditional, rarefied environment that's no longer just for haute couture, but men’s and women's ready-to-wear too: these days the Fédération Française de la Couture curates a mix of brands from across the world that “embody the spirit of couture.” Indeed, brands now choose where to present their collections based on their sales and marketing strategies, not where their headquarters are based. Locations can even vary from one season to the next.
While fashion editors and buyers still travel from mid-January to mid-February, the next round of major ready-to-wear collections now comes in July, allowing brands that choose to show during this month more time to produce their collections, as well as more time for those collections to sit on the shop floor before discounting begins. Even American department stores, long known for deep discounting, are now sticking to defined sale periods like their European counterparts, and fashion month is when everything is still at full-price and wholesalers benefit from a bump in shopping from all the media attention.
The traditional fashion month circuit now starts with Pitti Uomo, the only dedicated men’s moment remaining on the annual fashion calendar, still centered on what is the largest men's trade show in the world. This is followed by a reimagined couture week in Paris and ready-to-wear weeks in Los Angeles or New York, London, Milan and Paris again. But many attendees need only travel for just under three weeks to hit them all, as each ‘week’ is now only a few days long. (Back in 2017, when the Federation Française de la Couture shaved a day off Paris Fashion Week, New York, once spread out over nine days, followed suit and days have been trimmed, here and there, from fashion weeks since.)
The only downside, apart from the relentless pace and the resulting jet lag, is that smaller, emerging labels have a harder time securing a presence on the schedule. But that's okay. Launching collections via Snapchat’s Emerging Talent feed has become a more cost-effective and successful tool for driving exposure and virtual reality studio tours now allow for intimate access to young brands for both fashion fans and trade professionals alike.
This, of course, is only a roughly imagined future for what fashion month might become. And while reality in five years' time may not actually resemble this, the fashion month of the future is sure to look pretty different to today. Fashion immediacy, the consolidation of men’s and women’s shows and a mini-exodus of brands abandoning the traditional womenswear schedule are forcing the four main fashion councils to rethink the way they operate.
What do you think? How can the industry reshape fashion month for today's world?