How long until another major label decides that it will go off-piste?

I’m writing this on the road. It seems like you’re always on the road in fashion, these days. Over the last month or so, I’ve been to New York, Milan, Paris (twice) and now Rome. I skipped the regular trip to Florence, for the Italian menswear leg known as Pitti Uomo, in the middle.

This Rome trip is unexpected, though. Valentino has finished renovating its vast atelier on the Piazza Mignanelli, and thought it’d give us all a look. They cordoned off the square and presented their latest haute couture collection under the dying rays of the Roman sun. It was all rather spectacular.

It was also, I suspect, a portent of things to come. Because Valentino hadn’t gone off-piste alone.  They were following the likes of Chanel, Dior, Louis Vuitton, and now Gucci – who have all chosen to fly the press and a cadre of loyal clients out to shows for their pre-collections, off the beaten track of the traditional fashion calendar.

 

Pre-collections are a strange, amorphous lot, a no-man’s land with no rhyme, reason, or official schedule. Still, these jaunts work because we’ve nothing else to do (at least, in the mind of the designers). But when Tom Ford chose to take his autumn/winter 2015 collection to Los Angeles, adding another pitstop on the international calendar and sending a bunch of fashion editors skittering from east coast to west – rather than across the Atlantic to the London shows, which commenced on the same day – the system got its first great buck in about two decades. Because people abandoned a day or more of an established week in favour of seeing Ford’s renegade show. And, without realising, they’ve thus invited other designers to do the same. The collection Valentino showed in Rome was haute couture – the stuff we’ve seen since Sunday in Paris, where the label traditionally presents its wares. Why bother? Because its different – a way to mark yourself out.

That’s fine. The scarier thing, for me, is the implied breakdown of the entire system of fashion cities, of shows coordinated for convenience – and logistics, honestly. It’s about ensuring everyone can attend the damn things and see your clothes. How long before another major label decides that, rather than showing in one of fashion’s Big Four, they’ll take a break, drag everyone off-piste and out of their way to see a collection that could have been shown alongside all the others?

Give it a season.

I understand the wanderlust. But when fashion’s renegades pull away from traditional show weeks, what they also pull away from is a sense of community, and of comparison. They want to be considered as sole entities. But they’re not. They’re part of a fashion conversation, and that’s far more interesting than a monologue.

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