The Change of the Seasons – Is Seasonal Fashion On The Way Out?
Established in 2008, Antiform was never going to be a run-of-the-mill fashion business.
I set up the experimental label to unpick what happens when you make clothes from locally sourced materials with locally available skills. From our first wholesale collection in 2010, we have launched and manufactured our collections ‘in season’, meaning as a boutique you can order any time during the early spring and summer for a delivery of summer clothes (in fact our order time is 28 days from order confirmation to shipping date). It just made sense for us as we are working so locally that we can supply what is in demand when it is needed, but this is a very different way of doing things in the fashion industry, which runs on an annual cycle of 2 fashion weeks per year and up to 12 individual collections from each fashion house.
While we have felt relatively alone in our approach over the years there is change in the air.
We’re fascinated to watch unfold the varying reactions and business solutions to the increasingly uncertain economic and climatic global situation. When the objective for multinational fashion houses has for so long been to produce faster, more frequently and with increasing variety, it’s a big adjustment to imagine a change in this system. After the headline-grabbing resignations of the head designers at the houses of Dior and Lanvin due to the ever-increasing pressure to churn out more and more collections to feed the market, there came a crunch moment where it seemed the strategy had come unstuck – with the creative talent, and the brand, being pushed to breaking point.
Burberry followed this with the announcement that they were streamlining their output by combining their menswear and womenswear into two seasonless annual shows. From September, all of the clothes featured in Burberry’s runway shows will be available to buy immediately, instore and online. This will cut out the time lag between the fashion shows – and social media they generate – and the actual store delivery 6 months later, which some argue is causing product fatigue before those products are even available. Now Diane Von Furstenburg, a stalwart of New York Fashion week, has declared the catwalk ‘dead’ preferring to show her newest season to selected clients in her design studio so that they can get closer to the process and quality.
As key players abandon the traditional seasonal approach to its catwalk collections it could be a move that could herald a major shakeup for the entire fashion industry. While these ideas are big news in the mainstream, they are things we have been thinking about at Antiform since we started. We knew that the fashion system was ‘broken’ when we first started and had no intention of trying to emulate it from our first studio in Leeds.
Instead we sought to innovate and play to our strengths. Our localised production has certainly not been straightforward, but by investing time and energy into developing relationships with makers and suppliers we have built up a strong network. Sourcing all our waste materials so far in advance would have meant high storage costs if we wanted to show our collections in advance as we have to buy textiles when we see them, there is no going back for more! This means trying to fit with the show season schedules was really problematic. On the other hand, because all of our production is done in house or with other local makers we are able to make all year round with minimal lead times.
In 2013, we took the bold move to depart even further from a mainstream approach by renaming our collection from SS12, AW12/13 etc, to simply Collection #7, blending summer and winter pieces into one trans-seasonal collection, available for 12 months. Our motivation was to radically rethink how we promote and sell our collection by taking off the ‘sell by date’, slowing down the cycle of change. Seasons are changing, no longer can we rely upon a warm summer and a cold winter – the result of an increasingly unstable global climate. As customers this means our seasonal clothing needs are also changing. As designers it means being more flexible and imaginative than ever before to anticipate what the buyers and consumers will want and when. Over the seasons we have refined our silhouettes to be based on a trans-seasonal wardrobe of pieces that stand alone and can be layered up depending on the day, creating clothes that can be enjoyed season in, season out. For our stores, the flexibility and short lead times means they have more options when it come to choosing what their customers need.
Positioning ourselves in global fashion market driven by the key show dates has been at best, as I often say, like ‘fitting a round peg into a square hole’. Swimming against the current in such a big industry is risky. One of our biggest challenges is how to show a trans-seasonal collection at a trade show. For our first 7 collections we shied away from Fashion Weeks, but with the support from UKTI and UKFT we decided in 2015 it was time to give it a go.
We currently only one show per year, Ethical Fashion Show as part of Berlin Fashion Week. Out of the 100+ brands showing we were the only label there that has broken free from the seasonal sales model and the only brand taking orders for delivery at whichever point of the season works for the individual stores. The response has been overwhelming – our stockists love the flexibility. It’s perfectly possible to send a shipment of our Line T-shirts in February, in time for Spring, and then receive a top-up order for extra Fisherman Knit Sweaters because “it hasn’t really got cold yet and we’re still waiting for the snap”. Antiform is fortunate to have flexible in-house production that means we are easily able to react to these increasingly disruptive changes in the weather and subsequent sartorial needs. This in turn means we can make only what our stores need when they need it. We hope that this will better meet the needs of their customers and further reduce the need to put clothes into a ‘sale’ because they are out of step with world around them.
While we remain cynical that the motivation of the larger fashion houses for these changes is driven, like we are, to rethink the fashion system in order to move towards more sustainable production and consumption habits, we are hoping that it signals a shift away from one homogenous system to a diverse and exciting industry where greater value being placed on design and the product itself.
So London Fashion Week has been and gone and, as since our beginnings, we have no presence – if you want to buy from us, you won’t find us on the catwalk – instead, check out our lookbook, give us a call, or come for a cup of tea with the team.
Join the conversation and let us know what you think about the potential downfall of seasonal fashion with #ChangingSeasons & @antiformonline