Is seasonless fashion the future?
The fashion year was initially split into 2 seasons - spring/summer and autumn/winter - but luxury brands now have as many as five seasons per year, and in the case of fast fashion that number is quickly doubled, and then some. We now see multiple restocks of fresh ‘new’ styles within each of the four seasons, followed almost immediately by clearance sales to make space for what comes next. Although it is now clear to the fashion houses that they are losing influence as public interest moves from Fashion Week to environmental impact.
There is no denying that the pandemic has had a massive impact on where fashion will be heading from here on out, as sales plunged we watched the biggest brands turn their backs on 2020’s autumn Fashion Month. Michael Kors, Saint Laurent and Gucci were among those who announced cutting back on collections and shows going forward. Simply put, people are not buying as much right now due to the pandemic and this has caused a radical shift in a system that has has been overproducing for decades. But making meaningful and lasting change doesn't just come down to the fashion consumer buying less, the fashion industry needs to take this moment to completely overhaul the system that has left landfills overflowing and garment workers unpaid - and “seasonless fashion” is being touted as a part of the solution to the labour and waste crises we now find ourselves in.
Seasonality actually makes a lot of sense, depending on where you live in the world. In less than a week the UK has seen all four seasons, and this is not an unusual event for us to be donning our summer dresses one day and diving back into our knitted jumpers and snow boots the next. But within fashion, season means something altogether different, it is purely a business tactic intended to sell more items. It is not unheard of for fast fashion companies to design and produce new collections weekly, and this constant drive has less to do with consumer demand than it does with the business's bottom line - to make money. The bigger the production number, the cheaper each piece is to make, which in turn makes each piece cheaper to buy - so it is just good business sense to overproduce and cause waste. How this waste is dealt with depends on the brand. A fast fashion brand will sell garments are disturbingly low prices, while luxury brands that don't want the market flooded with discounted pieces would rather burn "extra" inventory to avoid cheapening their name (looking at you, Burberry). The idea behind this increased number of seasons is to create a newness that can be sold.
What exactly is seasonless fashion?
It has little to do with the weather, the core of the idea it is to shift the current perspective of fashion consumerism. At the moment hems are altered and patterns changed on similar products in an attempt to differentiate them from what was released last season and create a sense of urgency in the shopper. The first step would be to slow down the seasonal cycle, and to start looking at fashion as timeless, adjustable and durable. We should be able to build a year-round wardrobe from the pieces we buy, and not be incessantly pressured to replace them with something new every few weeks. There is an ever-increasing number of sustainable slow fashion brands who are focusing on perfecting well-made pieces that can stand the test of time, others who make in small or made-to-order batches and there are innovations in textile recycling where old clothes can be used for materials for new pieces. If the fashion industry got rid of the fashion calendar entirely, it would allow brands the time and space to create collections that work for their customers and would push fast fashion to do less. Seasonality and trends don't need to define how we dress and there are many benefits to now actively ignoring them and going seasonless.
Well designed garments
It is common in the fashion industry for designers to add pieces to a collection because they need to reach a minimum number and/or are working to a tight deadline. Seasonless collections allow brands to fully work through and test new styles, they can focus on increasing the versatility and function of a collection rather than start from scratch each season. Designers would have the time to create pieces that work with existing styles - when augmenting a current collection they can create pieces that will add to those their customers already own, perhaps creating a transitional piece for a summer item to adapt it for the colder months. Real craft takes time.
Consistent trade for garment workers
Currently, textile factories have increased pressure to get production ready for a season which will often lead to workers being forced into overtime, and then being laid off when it gets quieter again. Manufacturing outside of this seasonal roller-coaster would provide more continuous and stable employment for garment workers and allow for craftspeople to use more traditional techniques which are not currently compatible with fashion's fast pace. It would mean that we wouldn't be at risk of losing various cultural textile arts, like block printing and hand-weaving, to the demands of the fashion industry's schedule. Slowing down fashion and allowing longer production cycles means that brands can support artisans and the rich history of textile craft.
Developing your personal style
Picking up the current trends is an easy way to continuously spend money, create tons of waste and pollution, and wear the same clothes as everyone else. Usually when somebody truly loves their clothes they have cultivated their own personal style and have spent time curating pieces according to that. Seasonless fashion is the removal of seasonal trends, meaning consumers can focus on the styles of clothes they love instead of feeling pressured to update their wardrobe with the latest-soon-to-be-old trend
Reducing impulse purchases
A seasonless collection gives consumers more time to think about purchases and to decide whether a piece will be a good investment for them and their wardrobe. There are less concerns about styles selling out, or not being on trend a month or two later. Less impulse buys means less returns, which will usually head straight to the landfill anyway.
On top of the impulse purchases, returns and generally poorly made pieces that end up in the landfill, fashion creates a lot of pre-consumer production waste - one is deadstock fabric, when a brand orders too much fabric for a design it will inevitably end up collecting dust in a warehouse as the brand cannot be using "last season's" fabric. Typically, slow fashion brands won't have this problem and will be able to use "leftover" fabric in subsequent collections.
To get ready for the next season, brands have to get rid of "old" stock and they’ll usually try to sell as much as possible on sale, what is left from that will be shipped off to overflow stores, sent to the landfill or they may do a Burberry and just put a match to it all. With a seasonless collection, brands don’t have deadlines to get rid of product and don’t create overstock waste. They may offer discounts to show appreciation to their customers, but not because they have to get rid of out-of-season clothes.
Less (possibly, no?) fashion shows
Fashion shows were originally for buyers who would attend to preview and order the next season’s styles. Nowadays, fast fashion has totally changed the game – knocking-off trends from the runway and having them in stores a few weeks later. Nowadays it seems that fashion shows are purely for publicity - Forbes estimates a 10-15 min runway show can cost anywhere from $200,000 to over $1 million, with the big pay-off being celebrity and influencer attention - but they argue that this publicity is critical to their success. As digital and social media evolves, the shows have gotten bigger and more elaborate, to the point where they’re no longer just industry events. With the right models, celebrities, and setting, a runway show can generate millions of dollars in media impact value, which calculates the reach and resonance of social media coverage. But the travel and energy involved in putting on one of these shows doesn't have a small carbon footprint either, it is still unknown precisely how much environmental damage is incurred by these shows. Extinction Rebellion has taken issue with more than just the travel and energy use, they’ve called for London Fashion Week to be cancelled altogether - arguing that along with its carbon footprint, Fashion Week “creates the desire that results in the consumption of fast fashion and beyond".
The end of the fashion industry's calendar would relieve the pressures placed on workers, consumers and the planet significantly. Seasonless fashion is not about making all items beige and gender fluid, its about removing the structures that limit florals to spring and boots to winter, its about looking at clothing as a longterm investment that will suit us and our lifestyles irrelevant of what month it is. It is most importantly about putting a stop to the overproduction of cheap, disposable clothing that serves only to make a few billionaires richer at the expense of people and planet.