Waste Not: How Designers Are Making Their Spring 2021 Collections With Renewed Clarity
Original article written by Emily Farra for Vogue
Resort has always been a weird season, an incongruous mash-up of “takeaway clothes” for the St. Tropez set and cozy sweaters for the rest of us. This year, the collections we saw in June and July were particularly dissonant: Designers who make party dresses tried their hand at jeans and T-shirts; tailored suits were replaced by their quarantine counterparts—sweatshirts and joggers. There was still the odd gown or nipped trouser, items likely completed in the ignorant bliss of “pre-quar.”
Marina Moscone weaves new garments using leftover cashmere, wool, and silk yarns on a loom in her apartment. Photo: Matteo Mobilio
As a result, resort 2021 became less about trends and holiday dressing and more a study of what we’ll wear after lockdown—though with COVID-19 cases rising in parts of Europe and the U.S., that timeline feels hazier by the day. Still, most of our conversations with designers weren’t about the clothes at all. Instead, we heard about the highs and lows of creating a collection remotely: conducting fittings via Zoom, sending fabric swatches to buyers, and the logistical headaches of lost shipments and furloughed employees.
Suffice it to say, finishing a collection at all was a feat. Consider the number of resort reviews on Vogue Runway: 98, compared to around 250 last year. Beyond the creative challenges, cash flow came to a grinding halt for many designers. Retailers canceled their pre-fall orders, saddling labels with mountains of unsold inventory, and clothing sales hit record lows in the spring. For those who wanted to show something new, the only option was to get resourceful: They used leftover materials from seasons past, revived old patterns, and relied on working with their hands, sewing, draping, embellishing, and dyeing garments at home. “I realized through it that I’ve never wanted to make things more, to be more creative,” Jonathan Anderson said at the time. That’s one silver lining of such restraints and limitations: They simultaneously narrow your focus and unlock ideas you may not have had in the #BeforeTimes, when any fabric or silhouette or trim was at your disposal.
The other silver lining, of course, is that all of these methods are more sustainable: making do with what you have, repurposing materials, and designing only what feels truly necessary. As Gabriela Hearst puts it, designers “skimmed the fat,” the fat being superfluous items made to appease retailers or fill a look book. It’s difficult to concisely express just how significant a change this is; for decades, the mantra from retailers and press was that “more” is always better: more collections, more SKUs, more colors, more exclusives, more collaborations, and ultimately more waste. In comparison, what seems like common sense—producing smaller collections of items people will actually buy, wear, and keep forever—sounds radical.
It also feels like déjà vu for most of us. For years, designers, retailers, and editors have complained about the pace, the excess, and the toll it takes on creativity, not to mention the environment. It took a global pandemic to turn the conversation into action. Similar to the lifestyle changes we adopted in March—social distancing, working from home, wearing a mask—the shifts fashion needs sound insurmountable at first, but they aren’t mind-bendingly difficult. They’re changes that, taken together, would have a massive impact.
Some designers are sitting out the spring 2021 season to figure out their next steps, and there’s nothing wrong with taking a breather (and choosing not to make stuff just for the sake of it). But others are wasting no time in mapping out a more sustainable, thoughtful future. They’re cutting their lists of wholesale partners, desperate to avoid future cancellations and charge-backs; they’re committing to producing fewer collections a year, with fewer deliveries and fewer inventory problems; and they’re designing spring 2021 in the spirit of what fashion should be in the next decade: consciously made with limited resources, on a smaller scale, and with no shortage of creativity. Here, two of them—Hearst and Marina Moscone—share a behind-the-scenes look at how they’re making it happen with Vogue Runway.
“The pandemic made the mentality we are working in feel more relevant,” explains Hearst, who is known for her uncompromising commitment to sustainability.
“We were always thinking 10 years ahead, about when we have water shortages and climate disasters. The pandemic isn’t what’s going to wipe us out as a species, but the environmental crisis will. We have to change [our behaviors and systems] drastically, and the pandemic taught us that we can do that—we can change in the blink of an eye. We have the technology to make those changes in the fashion industry, but it just takes a new consciousness.”
If restraint and resourcefulness conjure images of spare minimalism, Hearst says her spring 2021 collection is actually “extremely intricate,” even more so than her past efforts. She designed it alongside her men’s collection, which was made entirely of preexisting patterns and fabric, and resort, 60% of which was produced with preexisting and recycled materials. (Hearst and her sister, Magdalena, also worked overtime as models for the shoot.) Spring will boast a similar percentage; in these photos, Hearst collages leftover materials and trims with new garments made from fabrics her team purchased pre-pandemic.
Working with deadstock wasn’t a new challenge for Hearst; her north star goal is to eventually reach 80% non-virgin materials, and her team has been “working backwards” for a few seasons by purchasing rolls of preexisting fabric before the collection is even designed. That means there is a predetermined number of garments they can make, and by choosing not to develop all-new materials, the carbon footprint is significantly lower. One problem that was entirely new for Hearst was tackling a sudden excess of inventory: With her London and New York stores closed for months, unsold merchandise piled up, and she wasn’t willing to put it on deep discount. Instead, Hearst is doing something bolder: She’s creating a “retrofit collection” of past-season garments that are tweaked or redesigned to feel like new. The collection will be sold exclusively in a top London retailer. “The key is to make sure it still feels desirable,” she says. “No one is going to buy something for its good intentions. They’re going to buy it because they truly desire the product.”
The retrofit line will be among the first examples of true luxury upcycling and could elevate the concept in a post-pandemic, climate-conscious world. Hearst has long been adamant about designing garments that will be sold and cherished, avoiding excess altogether. “The most sustainable thing you can do is to pay attention at the design table. A lot of waste happens there,” she says. “If you control your instinct to over-design, you really become sharper and more focused. That’s what I like about these restrictions—your creativity flows in a really focused way. And if you prioritize sustainability, that’s the answer. If we’re making a linen dress with trims, and we have the choice between a herringbone lace trim from last season or a new one, we’re going to use the one we already have. If that’s your mentality—that new is not always better, and that you can make this [leftover fabric] beautiful—you’ll make a lot of headway.”
Continue reading the full article HERE
Original article published on Vogue.com - 4 September 2020 Written by Emily Farra