What Even Are Seasons In Fashion Anymore?

by: Rosie Dalton | 5 years ago | Features

Image: by Irving Penn. Images source.

It is the ongoing conundrum in fashion today: what even are fashion seasons anymore and do they still make sense? Even working within the industry I find myself endlessly confused — which probably has a lot to do with how much they have changed over the years. First it was the rise of ready-to-wear knocking haute couture off its perch, then the pre-collections came along and, most recently, brands like Burberry and Tom Ford have decided to buck tradition altogether and present in-season instead. Something you probably know of as ‘the see-now-buy-now model’. But it’s not enough to just focus on any one of these areas, either; instead a lot of brands today are trying to do it all. And that’s just within the luxury space.

The Convertible Overall Dress in Indigo

Elsewhere, there is the even more breakneck speed of fast fashion to contend with — a cycle that has ushered in the ridiculous new standard of delivering 52 micro-seasons per year. Not to mention the fact that our mere geography tends to flip things upside down more often than not. In the Northern Hemisphere, for example, the general rule of thumb goes something like this: January is spring couture; February/March is fall-winter ready-to-wear; May is resort; July is fall couture; September is spring-summer ready-to-wear; and November is pre-fall. Then each of those collections has to be produced, so doesn’t drop into stores until around six months later.

In the Southern Hemisphere, things happen more or less in the reverse, except without couture and sometimes without the pre-collections too. In other words, spring-summer usually drops here in August or September, but probably went into production about six months earlier. Oh and did we mention that there’s just one chance to present those clothes (Mercedes Benz Australian Fashion Week) and that this happens in May these days? Basically, it is totally understandable if you have absolutely no idea how fashion seasons work — I often wonder if the designers themselves can make sense of it all. Which leads us to question whether fashion seasons are really even relevant anymore?

The Bedcoat in Deco Pink

Obviously, proponents of the see-now-buy-now seem to think traditional fashion seasons have become obsolete; deciding instead to present their clothing once it is ready to be sold in stores. And while this probably fits in well with our instant gratification culture of today, it is also problematic because it plays into a fiercely trend-driven cycle largely perpetuated by the fast fashion system.

I do believe that we, as consumers, still tend to shop seasonally — but that’s not necessarily the same thing as shopping based on ‘seasons’ (that essentially now equate to trends). When it’s warm outside, we want to wear short sleeves and denim shorts, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But perhaps the focus on seasonal trends has also made us somewhat impatient. We see images of beautiful new styles and we want to buy them right now, which fast fashion retailers are all too happy to accommodate. And, more often than not, we don’t stop to think twice about whether that’s actually OK.

The Cruise Short in Reminisce

If I am really in love with a particular piece, then I’m usually not averse to securing that garment via pre-order one season in advance, for instance. But it is tempting to fall into the trap of buying a watered down, poor quality version of that style when it’s sitting right in front of us — it’s here that fast fashion has really been allowed to flourish.

The problem, I believe, is that we have become so caught up with ‘trendiness’ — and, as a result, have kind of lost sight of the real reasons why we buy things. Is it because we really need to own that same t-shirt in five different colours, or because we’ve become addicted to buying new things all of the time? In this sense, fast fashion seems to have tricked us with their expensive, splashy marketing ploys and ‘buy it now before it sells out’ mind trickery.

The Holiday Heel in Sloe

The only real solution to this lightning pace, it seems to me, is to slow the hell down. To take a step back and reconsider why we want to buy particular pieces. Is it because those shoes have been handcrafted by skilled artisans and, therefore feel inherently special? Because that dress is crafted from sustainable fibres and therefore helps the environment as well as our wardrobes? Or just because we want it and cant really remember why?

In the face of all this speed and trendiness, then, ethical fashion emerges as a much more attractive alternative. Not just because it feels more authentic, but also because it tends to be designed with timelessness in mind. Ultimately, the speed of fashion seasons these days is only one part of the problem. It has certainly received the most attention — with designers like Alber Elbaz (formerly of Lanvin) and Raf Simons (formerly of Dior) speaking disparagingly about this in interviews. But perhaps what’s even more problematic here is the trend-driven nature of it all. If we could all be more mindful when we’re shopping; taking into consideration things like versatility and longevity, then we would also have much stronger wardrobes overall. And the planet would thank us too.

The Ester in Stone Taupe

So yes, fashion seasons have become obsolete in the sense that they’re just too confusing to keep up with now, but that might just be for the best as well. There’s nothing wrong with shopping to reflect the season — i.e. buying swimwear in summer, for example — but if we can focus less on dressing head-to-toe in the specific trends of any given season, then we will also be far more stylish and conscious shoppers in the long run.


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