Fashion Week Grand Tour – Milano to Paris
Inside the Fashion Business - with a MERCEDES GLS 500
Photography & Text: Marcus Hoffmann
A road trip of 3309km (2056 miles) in the order of: Stuttgart – Munich – Milano – Lyon – Paris – Munich – Stuttgart with the Mercedes Benz GLS 500.
Working in fashion is pretty much like working in any other industry: most of the time you must do the boring business-things. Develop concepts, pitch projects, network and socialize with those who are believed to be important (for whatsoever reason). Subsequently: write many E-Mails so other people can choose to actively ignore you. If you need to get in touch with someone, try approaching them on Fashionweek: People come for free champagne in plastic cups and rarely dare to be as rude to you in person, as they are through Microsoft Outlook. But nowadays something very big and powerful is disturbing the age-old business practices on an existential scope – and I’m not referring to the 5,2m long Mercedes I drove into the middle of Milano.
Fast Fashion brands (which I dare not to call by name… but nearly everyone cheap and still targeting fashion-interested people… yep: the BIG ONES) always got ‘inspired’ by the luxury brands. Due to modern production methods, they shortened their ‘development and production’ time down to three weeks from once 6 months within the last years. Which meant since 2014: If there were some very well received pieces of Burberry, PRADA, Ralph Lauren… shown at Fashionweek, you could buy very similar looking ones from **** or *&* within the following month. Which was a brilliant thing, since you’d had to wait 12 months for the originals to hit the stores. Even better: the very similar ones were significantly cheaper. This did hurt the sales figures quite a lot of the luxury brands. There were even pieces, which no one wanted to buy at all, since their copy had already been a best-selling item for the previous 11 months. Something had to happen. (Spoiler: And it did)
Some Luxury brands decided to make their fashion available immediately after presentation at Fashionweek. Burberry and Ralph Lauren added their new products live to their web-shops instantaneously when they occurred on catwalk. Which – to be honest – makes it a bit unnecessary to attend their fashion shows (from a professional perspective). So naturally, if there’s a limited amount of time, you tend to focus more on meetings and less on runway-shows. Which makes the entire event even more dull, since you're basically just running the whole time from one Hotel Lobby / Restaurant / trade-fair tent /… to the other. Hence, being annoyed by generic business Hotels and with the need of true recreational time, I always try to stay in ‘splendid’ accommodation. If you’re already used to an hour of commute (by normally working in big metropolises) and apply this to Milan, you’re able to stay at Lago Maggiore. Which I did. Obviously in a castle (Castello dal Pozzo).
Changing the concept of how fashion as a product is introduced and brought onto the market is going to change a lot in all different kinds of areas. For everyone. There are solid reasons, why the products were always shown a year ahead before market launch: furthermost to calculate the demand for every single piece and adjust consequently the amount of production. Resellers (big department store chains) used their knowledge of local taste of fashion and ordered accordingly. Journalists (or better: media) and the interested public were also valued sources of feedback. Without these, fashion brands are now forced to assume the demand for their products all by themselves and therefor are going to make more often off beam guesses. This means there’ll be plenty of items sold out immediately but also others of which there are way too many. This also means, that resellers must order blindly from fashion brands. At this point you start to realize that there is actually no need in having a reseller after all. Not from the perspective of the customer (you’ll get the same and even every so often the better deal directly from the fashion brands store or online-shop). Not from the perspective of the fashion brand (they’re now entirely liable for the amount of their production thus having the full financial risk of getting it wrong). So why should there be a third party involved, living from the dealer’s margin? This translates in an ongoing trend of fashion brands opening their own stores in city-centres all over the world. Try to remember how shopping streets looked like 5 years ago and try to imagine how they are going to look like in another 5 years. Welcome to the end of the era of reselling stores and to the dawn of advanced on-sale promotion.
Working as well in fashion advertising as in fashion journalism this feels not just like a big evolutionary step – but more like a giant uncontrolled revolution. Like a massive rock rolling down a mountain. There is few to none concept of how to deal with the consequences of keeping every new piece of fashion secret upon the day of market launch. Which is some sort of a problem, if you need to create editorial pieces for journalistic fashion publications. I decided to take a detour on my way to Paris Fashionweek coming from Milan Fashionweek. Recap all meetings and discussions. Discuss with my assistant ideas and possible solutions… altogether: clear my mind. So, we crossed the highest pass of the Alps: Col de l’Iseran (el 2764 metres (9068 ft.)).
With more and more fashion brands shifting towards the see-now-buy-now-concept it gets harder for fashion media to get their hands on new clothing for editorial photo-/ video productions. Normally there is a production mean time from 6 to 18 months. At this point it’s hard to imagine that current professionals can change anything about that, since the image of ‘being-professional’ is very much linked to ‘being-hard-to-reach’ and insisting on ridiculous long periods of scheduling. There are only few who retain further professional qualities, if you strip them of ‘seeming busy’. Regarding specific forms of media (i.e. print) there is another difficulty due to some deadlines caused by technical reasons. This is going to affect fashion media quite strongly: in the future, you won’t see as much fashion editorials in print magazines as you used to… maybe none and just advertorials (advertising campaigns with much higher production costs, so the needed high security precautions were in the budget). You might have noticed that some magazines tend to spent their print space more and more with boulevard, travel, home decoration, interviews… - this trend is going to continue. It’s not an enjoyable image to see media institutions you once adored (and dreamed of being featured in) losing their appeal. It’s devastating to talk to fashion professionals, mentors, whose spirits are defeated. Also: It feels somehow strange and yet simply logical to not participate in trying to slow down the inevitable changes of the status quo. Being a part of the change makes a lot more sense.
When I arrived at Paris, I felt certain, that Fashionweek wasn’t going to be just annoyingly stressful. Even though most of the important meetings had been scheduled in dull environments. I drove over Champs Elysées directly onto that big roundabout at Arc de Triumph, parked the GLS in front of it, and realised that I probably managed to make the most of the whole trip – by far. Sure, you can use Airplanes and Ubers to get around quicker. But by doing so you lack an incredible amount of enjoyable lifestyle, superiority of travel and excellence of experiences compared to driving a Mercedes Benz from Italy – over the Alps – through France. Efficiency (measured by whom and how?) shouldn’t be the highest priority – but quality of life should. That’s fashion.