Creativity or Reality?

Exploring the Struggle to Sustain Fashion Amidst Economic Collapse

These days, we are here with one eye on creativity, or the dream as we like to call it in fashion, and one on the tragic reality surrounding us. In other words, we are trying to strike a balance between maintaining the fashion business and witnessing a world that falls apart.

As we are currently reviewing collections, we would love to stay focused only on the creative side of fashion. Therefore, delve into volumes and silhouettes, hand-detailings, materials and colours. Also, N.Y. Fashion Week, London Fashion Week, or lookbooks we receive. Yet, we cannot ignore the sobering reality that surrounds us. With each passing day, we are bombarded with news of industry giants facing closures, layoffs, and financial uncertainty.

creativity or reality

Navigating turbulent times

We explored the issue of the leather goods compartment in Florence, which is stuck. Consequently, 250 manufacturers are at risk of downsizing or closure. Furthermore, the latest news reveals that 26 Galeries Lafayette affiliated stores are at risk of administration under control. Also, Nike is about to fire 2% of its global workforce, so 1.500 people will lose their jobs. The data, beyond depressing, shows the picture of a collapsing system. Piece after piece. Field after field. Indeed, it is also the case of “The Body Shop,” which filed for bankruptcy, so 2.000 will be jobless. And these are just a few examples.

The fashion industry’s battle for survival

While navigating such adversity, the question is: creativity or reality? Dreams or facts? Perhaps we can ignore that the economy is crumbling. And more people are losing their jobs. But ultimately, who do brands make garments for? Who will buy expensive clothes? The truth is, the economic collapse is reshaping consumer behaviour. It might be that consumers’ preferences will shift towards lower prices, ignoring any sustainable and ethical aspects. So, the percentage of those shopping niche products will be thinner.

In light of the failure of the existing system, it becomes imperative for fashion businesses to embrace change. As we navigate the unprecedented turbulent times the fashion industry is facing, it’s important to remember that adversity breeds innovation. In times of crisis, the ability to pivot and adapt becomes essential. Therefore, fashion businesses must be open to reassessing their strategies.

And if adversity breeds innovation, now it’s the time for it!

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Florence Luxury Leather Goods in Stagnation

No Orders, Overproduction Trap Leads to Thousands on Furlough

It is concerning that Florence luxury leather goods compartment is experiencing stagnation.

Specifically, “Il Corriere Fiorentino” titled: “in Florence the luxury district is stuck: no orders from the brands and 4.000 workers on furlough.” The article says that it’s been many weeks that the area of Scandicci is on alert. The fact has been discussed for a few months but hasn’t officially emerged due to the social safety nets. However, the latest data from the syndicates exceeds the level of concern. Moreover, it seems that around Florence, warehouses are packed with unsold goods and can no longer contain them for space reasons.

What caused the leather goods stagnation in Florence?

Apparently, the perfect storm hit the luxury leather goods field: inflation and international crises reversed more on the middle class, the main target of accessible luxury leather goods. As a result, 250 companies that typically produce for luxury and affordable luxury brands are now facing the threat of downsizing or closure. On the contrary, it’s interesting to notice that the fast fashion area in Prato is thriving. There’s no sense of sustainability, but with low prices, people don’t care about being sustainable.
Also, the mechanization of production implemented to churn out more pieces in less time represents another possible cause.
Currently, there is an ongoing negotiation between the representatives of the workers’ unions and the most important international fashion brands that make production in the area.

A brief background

The Florentine leather tradition is renowned worldwide. Upon fully embracing the capitalistic framework, companies planned the relocation to China to maximise profit. Please forget the “made in” labels… Then, COVID-19 dismantled this system by interrupting production chains and long-distance delivery. So, we witnessed the re-shoring: brands repositioned production in Italy. Yet not to reward or develop artisanal production but rather for large quantities and numbers. In other words, the scheme tells a story of mass production and eternal growth. Now, the mechanism has jammed.

In conclusion, the stagnation of Florence leather goods compartment has resulted in a huge surplus of luxury and affordable handbags in storage. Perhaps the fashion industry can put down the mask of sustainability.
So, we wonder, how can brands still plan their fashion business on overproduction? How consciously do brands approach the new Fall/Winter 24-25 sales campaigns releasing numerous new items?

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Fashion Industry: a Dying Patient

Why do Brands Insist on Therapeutic Obstinacy?

As the fashion industry prepares for the FW24-25 selling campaign amidst a myriad of challenges, it becomes increasingly evident that it is teetering on the brink of irrelevance, reminiscent of a dying patient. Despite being aware, industry operators persist in maintaining the status quo. This begs the question: are they awaiting a miraculous revival or resigned to an inevitable collapse?

The fashion industry operates within its own framework, dictated by seasonal trends and gender divisions. As suite123 boutique, these days, we’re accustomed to receiving updates on fashion brands, showrooms, and exhibitions worldwide for the Fall/Winter 24-25 season. Most, conveniently accessible online, minimising the need for extensive travel and promoting sustainability in our research endeavours.

Yet, it is evident that the fashion industry as a whole is grappling with profound challenges. Clearly, it’s in a state of extreme struggle. Moreover, this realisation permeates the industry, acknowledged by insiders who witness its struggles firsthand.

In such a climate, one might expect brands to conduct their business with a paradigm shift.

However, the status quo remains largely unaltered. In fact, there’s a reluctance to embrace change. No adjustments in how brands assemble, present and sell their collections. Also, no change in garment manufacturing processes, contractual agreements, or collaborative endeavours aimed at mitigating the decline of the fashion industry. No change in policies, no alternative pathways. None of that!

Brands persist in adhering to an outdated model, clinging to a production pattern characterised by overproduction. But, that production model based on overproduction has failed and proven unsustainable. Indeed, it is no longer suitable for our times.

Stagnation or evolution: can the fashion industry thrive by clinging to an outdated model?

So, the question arises: Can the fashion industry evolve while obstinately clinging to a failing paradigm? By insisting on pursuing an outdated failing model?

For genuine progress to occur, the industry must reconsider its approach, presenting a viable path forward. Therefore, move away from the unsustainable cycle of the overproduction model, corporate world, and unending growth. Adopting more sustainable and ethical practices such as producing items in response to demand, implementing made-to-order initiatives, reducing waste, and embracing circular economy principles.
In essence, the call is for a shift towards a more responsible approach to ensure the industry’s long-term viability.

As new FW24-25 season campaigns unfold, the fashion industry resembles a dying patient, teetering on the brink of irrelevance. However, brands persist in their therapeutic obstinacy instead of trying new strategies.

Perhaps it will take the complete demolition of the fashion industry for the voices advocating change to be heard. And for those trying to make a change to be finally seen.

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Moda Povera by Olivier Saillard

A meaningful interpretation of fashion

On February 2nd, we attended “Moda Povera VI: Les Vêtements Des Autres” – a poetic performance by Olivier Saillard. It took place at Triennale Milano in collaboration with Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain

As a matter of fact, considering the latest events associated with fashion, Triennale Milano is emerging as the premier destination to celebrate fashion as culture. Which seems a big challenge lately.

On the occasion of Ron Mueck’s exhibition, open until March 10, Triennale Milano and Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain give carte blanche to the fashion historian Olivier Saillard, who will curate three performances part of the “Nomadic Nights.”

Moda Povera by Olivier Saillard
Moda Povera by Olivier Saillard

Olivier Saillard in his words

To introduce the event, we think it makes sense to share Saillard’s words, as we find them remarkably poignant:

“Fashion weeks serve to present, season after season, a prospective vision of the clothes to be worn in the future. Thanks to fashion shows, a theatre of appearances is created, not only on the catwalks but, above all, among the guests, famous people or unknown. Strangely enoughthe dress presented, of which one can assess with relative comparison the similar creativity from one designer to another, no longer seems to be a priorityThe person who promotes it with a post counts more.

My goal is to propose my idea of Fashion Week against this asphyxiated system. The one with which I want to show the intimate role of everyone’s clothes and give the spectator, the guest, the poetic position in the relationship with her clothesTo the new clothes, I contrast ours from the past, from the life we have lived through.

On the occasion of a participatory fashion show, I want to present a non-prospective collection like those of others, but on the contrary, a retrospective and introspective one.

For this reason, we recommend that every guest participate in the Moda Povera VI fashion show with a garment of their own choice. A beloved dress coming from your own wardrobe or a dress from a loved one. These clothes, left at the entrance, will be the object of a performance by a collective of ten models who will parade in each other’s clothes.

During an event in which the fashion show carves out a space among the spectators-actors, the models show the poetry of everyday life, of the ordinary, and of everyone’s clothing, creating a true ceremony of intimacy.

It’s no longer about the designer, the brand, or the logo. Here, it is a question of traces, of wear and tear, of caresses of clothes, carbon paper of each of us.

All types of clothes are accepted and searched for: used, everyday, banal or ordinary clothes, fashion clothes, work uniforms, formal dresses, etc…”

Olivier Saillard

Moda Povera: the performance

At the entrance, the staff collects the garments and pins a beige grosgrain ribbon on which they write in black the name of the guest. Once tagged, the garments become an integral part of the performance. Each performer, wearing a black gown, calls a garment by name. Then, delicate touches, almost like caresses, communicate sensations, attention, memories. A subtle ambience of intimacy and care quietly unfolds and involves the spectators by creating an experience of participatory theatre.

Can clothes regain and convey a profound meaning? In the hands of Olivier Saillard, yes. An intense performance also thanks to the ten models who embody effortless elegance and grace, qualities now on the brink of disappearing.

Inspired by Arte Povera – an avant-garde movement of the 1960’s making use of simple, often natural or recycled material – Moda Povera by Olivier Saillard is a poetic interpretation of clothes. But it goes beyond that. In fact, it restores dignity to a fashion field that has lost any trace of culture.

Fashion that becomes art; fashion that is culture.

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An Earthquake in the Fashion Industry

What Happens to Luxury E-Commerce?

An earthquake is going on in the fashion industry, invisible to most. It’s about luxury e-commerce. Specifically, Farfetch, which was about to collapse.

The platform represents the e-tailer everyone talked about. For mainstream fashion shoppers, dazzled by the lights plus an excessive selection, being absent from it meant not belonging to the right circle. For retailers, it was a possibility to make a lot of money. However, the supermarket setting did not intrigue niche fashion enthusiasts at all.

What is Farfetch?

Farfetch is a marketplace that connects brick-and-mortar fashion boutiques. Therefore, people from anywhere in the world can buy their favourite items from a boutique on the other side of the globe and get them delivered to their doorstep. Afterwards, since focusing on the luxury segment, they have started offering services directly to fashion brands. Also, they bought the London boutique Browns.

Who’s behind the group?
Investors gather the Chinese Alibaba; Artemis, the holding company of the Pinault family, owners of Kering; and the Swiss luxury group Richemont.

How does the business work for Farfetch?

They take a 30% cut from all the retailers as they can connect to a worldwide audience. However, born in 2007, the company became profitable in 2014. But, they could hardly maintain the profit. The company shares, valued at about 20 billion dollars at its peak, lost about a third of their value, dropping to a record low of 60 cents. Now, the firm has a market value of $250 million. In fact, the platform was close to bankruptcy.

What happened?

In 2019, Farfetch acquired the Italian New Guards Group, license-owner of Off White and others, reporting unexpected losses of about 2 billion dollars. In other words, by abandoning its inventory-free marketplace strategy, Farfetch lost its original, cost-effective pattern. Yet, their business peaked during the pandemic. But, as the company pursued growth, costs increased simultaneously.
Indeed, the New Guards acquisition reported a 40% drop in sales.

Two more factors contributed to the downfall: brands wanted more control over their products and the discount policy. Moreover, a slowdown in the luxury market had an impact on sales.

Farfetch was supposed to buy a 47.5% stake in Yoox-Net-a-Porter Group, but perhaps we won’t see this deal.
After the share price plummeted, a white knight came to save the e.tailer: the Korean group Coupang, Inc.

What to expect from this earthquake in the fashion industry

For those who see fashion as creative expression and not a giant supermarket, Farfetch isn’t fascinating. Indeed, many call it the ‘Amazon of fashion’ – a destination thriving on relentless discounts.
A few freethinkers might wonder where on earth those exaggerated quantities of garments would be sold. Though it is good to witness brands talking about sustainability while partnering with a company that made overproduction in the fashion industry its business model!

Eventually, an invisible earthquake is happening in the fashion industry, which may result in a tsunami. All the brick-and-mortar retailers connected to the platform have lost their lucrative toy. But, planning to sell through Farfetch, they still have ordered immense quantities of fashion garments. Since local customers were just a tiny percentage of their business, where would they sell their huge stock? Where will they sell the unrealistic budgets pushed by the marketplace?

Now, what should we expect? Will brick-and-mortar ‘Farfetchers’ survive? Or will they fall under the tsunami?

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