On Sunday, Versace was scheduled to show its couture collection at Paris Haute Couture Week, which kicked off the same day. But following an announcement from the atelier, the slot was left vacant.
Versace has pulled out of Couture Week, citing one reason that’s been ringing true in the luxury fashion industry for more than a year now: It’s simply too much.
“At the moment, we do six shows a year, and my feeling is: That’s a lot of shows,” Versace CEO Jonathan Akeroyd told the New York Times. “Eight, if you count couture, seems excessive. And we all know the model is changing quite a lot, so why not take the opportunity to try something new?”
Instead of showing its couture collection during the traditional setup — as part of the official Couture Week of runway shows — Versace will schedule “client events” throughout the year in major cities like Hong Kong and New York. It will be sitting out of July’s Couture Week, too.
Couture is the latest fashion week to get nixed by a designer brand dealing with the crush of a fashion calendar schedule that never really lets up. Versace showed its men’s collection this week in Milan, and before that, its pre-fall collection debuted in December. Next, it will show its women’s fall collection in February during Milan Fashion Week.
As designers have begun to rethink their fashion show schedules, the role that each show plays has been brought to question. Seasons like spring and fall ready-to-wear tentpole the year, and designers like Burberry, Tommy Hilfiger and Tom Ford are realigning their schedules to show collections during the season in which the clothes were designed to be worn, which has become known as the see-now-buy-now model. Others like Gucci are consolidating men’s and women’s ready-to-wear shows into one show. Other seasons, like pre-fall and resort, which are less celebrated but drive a large portion of commercial sales, have fallen on a spectrum of repositioning: Some designers have begun using pre-fall as the time to experiment with new fashion show formats, while others have rolled resort season (typically shown in June) into other collections.
Couture, however, is a different type of fashion calendar beast. Only designer houses who hand-sew a collection of dresses qualify to show their items during Couture Week, and the intricate million-dollar dresses are never meant to be sold in traditional retail outlets. The designs, if ever worn, are reserved for celebrities making high-profile appearances. Instead, couture is meant to serve as the highest form of creativity for designers, whose garments will then serve as guidance for ready-to-wear iterations and interpretations down the line.
Thanks to the revolving door of designers at these fashion houses, and the pressure to create more and present it in different ways, however, the creative freedom needed to create such a lofty line like couture is in jeopardy.
“When high fashion is trying to follow the cadence of fast fashion, and when you can buy and see everything online so quickly, that changes the entire system,” said Rony Zeidan, founder of luxury agency RO NY. “There’s no time for the designer.”
Couture, and the hours of labor that are associated with its prestigious status, is currently being cramped into a fashion calendar that increasingly revolves around the customer, and how she shops. Couture, however, is never meant to be shopped.
“Creativity is getting affected by it undoubtedly,” said Zeidan. “Designers are realizing that business has to be thought out differently, but there will likely be a moment when they go, ‘Enough. Back to two seasons.’”
At Versace, the solution was to cut the production of a Couture Week fashion show, not the collection itself. Akeroyd told the Times that the investment in couture has not changed, simply the time and intensity of producing a show. According to Zeidan, the overarching mindset in fashion is that no one knows what they’re doing.
“We’ll see designers fit into two camps: ones that steer toward more collections and more products, and those that pull back to two shows,” he said. “Companies’ dollars are being spent on a more direct-to-consumer approach, and the future is being figured out based on the consumer.”