An Opinionated Guide to Fashion’s New Shape and Schedule

Yes, for now. Just to attend the ready-to-wear collections, tens of thousands of professionals fly to four countries in a single month. Simple math indicates that the exercise is a veritable bonanza of carbon emissions, and if, as expected, the schedule of runway shows will be vastly reduced in September, so, too, the carbon footprint will come down.

What will happen to the inventory that has not or cannot be sold?

In the world of fashion retailing, in which stores try to keep inventories closely matched to sales, even a small stack of unsold clothes can be a bad sign. Billions of dollars worth of unsold inventory has piled up in warehouses as a result of the pandemic.

According to McKinsey, the value of excess inventory from spring-summer 2020 collections is estimated at 140 billion euros to 160 billion euros ($159 billion to $182 billion) worldwide, between €45 billion and €60 billion ($51 billion to $68 billion) in Europe alone. That is more than double the level in a normal year.

So what will brands and retailers do with it all? Ideally sell it, either by themselves or through wholesale partners, although many consumers will soon be looking for fall clothing. Unsold items used to be burned, though increasingly that practice is frowned upon (just ask Burberry) — and actually outlawed in France.

If the stock doesn’t sell, most businesses will have to slash prices or pass it onto discounters. After that, it could end up in giant landfill sites in developing countries, adding to a huge and existing environmental issue for the fashion industry.

Are fashion seasons still going to be a thing?

Depends who you ask. Many designers are mulling over how they define “season”: Alessandro Michele of Gucci said he is thinking of his collections like pieces of a symphony; Giorgio Armani has announced his couture will be “seasonless”; and at Carolina Herrera and Dries Van Noten (among others) there are discussions about showing spring clothes, at least to the public, in spring, and fall in fall.

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