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fashion : the ever-changing industry

Earlier this week it was announced that Phoebe Philo, of the obscenely popular (and rightly so) Celine label, is skipping the runway this season due to her pregnancy. This means that instead of the whistles-and-bells laden runway presentation that most labels produce, Celine will host a scaled-back private presentation of the newest collection.

While firstly this is very much encouraging in terms of conditions for women in the workforce, this alludes to a host of questions pertaining to foundations and standards of the fashion industry, and whether or not they remain relevant today.

As it stands, most designers who show at various Fashion Weeks are expected to produce two collections per year, and for many, this is in addition to pre-fall, resort and couture collections. This is quite clearly an extraordinary amount of work, even for the industry that doesn’t sleep – there is not a sense of having something “completed”, as labels go from working on one collection to the next literally overnight. In not conforming to this pattern for the coming season – and indeed for Celine’s backers not to have required the standard runway show with or without her – is telling in itself.

This all comes down to question the speed of the fashion industry, which has been quite obviously heightened by the online side of things. On one hand we have brands such as Burberry, where Christopher Bailey has pioneered how fashion and the internet can be interwoven in real-time, and on the other we have brands such as the eponymous Alaia, who has remained as elusive as ever and essentially presents a collection whenever he wants. Both huge brands, huge followings, both with very different philosophies on how to play to the industry’s standards.

Last year Tom Ford hosted a private presentation – going as far as no press coverage – of his Spring collection. This too spurred questions as to how the industry works today. In a world where runway shows are livestreamed online, and where photographs of each look are immediately showcased on fashion websites as they appear in person, does exclusivity have a place in fashion? Ford obviously believes as much, as I’m sure brands catering to a younger audience will take the opposite road.

I think at this stage, there will remain two distinct camps in terms of adhering to or breaking out of traditional notions of the way that the fashion industry works. One embracing new audiences reached online and one retaining a sense of privacy and classism. This is what makes the way forward for fashion so interesting and unique – it is as yet untold how these groups will work together, but we will all be watching.

By Katie Hryce

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