Glenys Traill-Nash
Glenys Traill-NashFashion writer for The Australian

Increasingly various people involved in the wool industry are writing about the need for change:

Article published in farmonline Mar 21, 2020

Presentation by Giovanni Schneider at IWTO May 2020

Wool must be made essential by Chic Olssen on farmonline

Re-thinking the wool industry business model

The recent article by Glenys Traill-Nash in The Australian titled Coronavirus: “Fashion Learns to walk a new way”, (May 5, 2020) the writer quotes the opinion of many of the iconic names in fashion who are all indicating the need for change. These brand leaders are rethinking their business model in response to the disruption caused by COVID-19.

Two paragraphs taken from the article:

A survey just undertaken by the Australian Fashion Council to ascertain the impact of COVID-19 on the local industry revealed that only 34 per cent of participating brands were confident they could recover; 54 per cent believed it would take more than a year.

But aside from basic economics, what does that recovery look like? For most in the fashion industry it includes a complete overhaul, from supply chains to business models. And disrupting the industry model, built up across decades, will take not only time but also the dexterity and willingness of numerous parties.

So, the question is, in a post COVID recovery environment;

  1. Will consumers change their buying habits forcing the brands to adapt, and
  2. Will the Australian wool supply industry be willing to change to accommodate the needs of the brands to meet post COVID consumer behaviour?

- Peter Vandeleur

Scroll down if you would like to read a full copy. 



Fashion Learns to Walk a New Way

The Australian  May 5, 2020   Glynis Traill-Nash

Edited (shortened version) – the complete unedited original article below.

Brands of every size, style and genre, from luxury to niche, are rethinking what their business model should look like — if they still have a business on the other side of the COVID-19 crisis and the resulting economic downturn. A survey just undertaken by the Australian Fashion Council to ascertain the impact of COVID-19 on the local industry revealed that only 34 per cent of participating brands were confident they could recover; 54 per cent believed it would take more than a year.

But aside from basic economics, what does that recovery look like? For most in the fashion industry it includes a complete overhaul, from supply chains to business models. And disrupting the industry model, built up across decades, will take not only time but also the dexterity and willingness of numerous parties.

“It is up to us as industry people and businesses to not just accept going back to the old norm,” Australian Fashion Council chief executive Leila Naja Hibri tells The Australian. “Maybe it’s wishful thinking that things will change, but I do believe that they will and I believe there’s no coming back. Everyone wanted change, but no one was strong enough on their own to make it happen — and now is the time.”

Naja Hibri is not alone. There has been talk for years of the industry being broken, but nothing has been done to rectify the situation.

Bridget Veals, general manager womenswear for David Jones, says we can look back at the industry model and “not be too nostalgic about the way it was. It was a bit broken. We can afford to look at what the future looks like, albeit in difficult circumstances. This (crisis) has accelerated change and how we do everything”.

Those broken elements are legion:

  • there are too many collections each year,
  • deliveries of those collections not aligning with the actual seasons;
  • there is too much product being produced and too much subsequent wastage.

Those are just for starters. Then there are supply chain issues, including environmental damage and human rights abuses, under the broader umbrellas of sustainability and ethics. There has been a lot of talk about changing the system in recent years, but not enough action. Could it take a pandemic to finally make the industry stop, rethink and reset?

Giorgio Armani wrote an open letter early last month to Women’s Wear Daily, the first such salvo from a leading designer taking aim at the industry and setting out what needed to change.

“The moment we are going through is turbulent, but it also offers us the unique opportunity to fix what is wrong, to regain a more human dimension,” he wrote.

The Italian designer called the industry model “absurd”, citing “the overproduction of garments and a criminal non-alignment between the weather and the commercial season”. This refers to the next season’s collections being released months ahead of the season’s start, a habit pushed inter­nationally by department stores: “I find it absurd that, in the middle of winter, one can only find linen dresses in the shops and alpaca coats in the summer.” He says now he will deliver his collections according to the current seasons.

Next came French house Saint Laurent, which has announced radical changes to its operations and deliveries. In a statement to WWD last week it said: “Now more than ever the brand will lead its own rhythm. With this strategy firmly in place, Saint Laurent will not present its collections in any of the preset schedules of 2020. Saint Laurent will take ownership of its calendar and launch its collections following a plan conceived with an up-to-date perspective, driven by creativity.”

Saint Laurent designer Anthony Vaccarello told WWD he hoped “nothing goes back to ‘business as usual’. We have known for years that something has to change. The time is now. There is no good reason to follow a calendar developed years ago when everything was completely different. I don’t want to rush a collection just because there is a deadline. This season, I want to present a collection when I am ready to show it.”

KCD is a fashion ser­vices agency that works with some of the leading brands, including Louis Vuitton, Givenchy and Prada. New York-based expat Jarrad Serafine-Clark is partner creative services with the company and is behind innumerable catwalk spectacles. Despite the difficulties of the present situation, he considers it an opportunity for the industry to innovate and to take stock.

“Adapting to change is what fashion is all about,” Serafine-Clark tells The Australian. “Realis­tically, the scale of travel and size of events that last occurred will not be feasible in the near future; however, the dialogue that is under way about how to create new dynamic content will ultimately grow the fashion audience and inspire the industry.”

He says KCD is in discussion with brands about how they can connect with both industry and consumers, which, for the short term, will include “virtual storytelling and scaled-back live experi­ences”. “To keep our glasses half-full,” he says, “it’s about embracing this moment to reset and research, something the past allowed less. I look at this crisis as deeply concerning but also a blessing of time.”

Certainly, there is the possibility that physical fashion shows will be cancelled for the rest of the year. And perhaps a year without fashion shows is exactly what the industry needs to not fall back into business as usual. Without that need to meet those predetermined deadlines, there can be an unravelling of the finely woven traditions of the global fashion industry.

It could force the industry as a whole to reset its schedules, and rethink how it operates and who it benefits. And that — as everyone seems to agree — would be a positive outcome from a tragic set of circumstances.

Below is the full article by Glynis Traill-Nash published in The Australian on May 5, 2020

Coronavirus: Fashion Learns to Walk a New Way

The timing of the last round of international fashion shows all but ushered in the wave of coronavirus cases in Europe. As Milan Fashion Week finished in late February the Lombardy region was beginning to report a huge spike in cases. Then the fashion pack of buyers, media and support crews moved to Paris, and just managed to finish before the French capital went into lockdown two weeks later.

Within days, other international fashion weeks in March, mostly in Asia, were cancelled — or, in Shanghai’s case, swiftly pivoted to a digital iteration, the first fashion week to live-stream all shows.

The cruise collections, with extravagant catwalk shows from the leading luxury brands taking place in cities all over the world, toppled one after the other. The Paris men’s shows next month and the haute couture shows in July have been called off.

In Australia, the Melbourne Fashion Festival, a consumer event, lasted eight of its 10 days in March, with final events cancelled on the day Scott Morrison announced restrictions on large gatherings. Australian Fashion Week, our leading industry event, would have started next Sunday but that was called off in time for designers to take stock of the situation.

And taking stock they are, across the globe. Brands of every size, style and genre, from luxury to niche, are rethinking what their business model should look like — if they still have a business on the other side of the COVID-19 crisis and the resulting economic downturn. A survey just undertaken by the Australian Fashion Council to ascertain the impact of COVID-19 on the local industry revealed that only 34 per cent of participating brands were confident they could recover; 54 per cent believed it would take more than a year.

But aside from basic economics, what does that recovery look like? For most in the fashion industry it includes a complete overhaul, from supply chains to business models. And disrupting the industry model, built up across decades, will take not only time but also the dexterity and willingness of numerous parties.

“It is up to us as industry people and businesses to not just accept going back to the old norm,” Australian Fashion Council chief executive Leila Naja Hibri tells The Australian. “Maybe it’s wishful thinking that things will change, but I do believe that they will and I believe there’s no coming back. Everyone wanted change, but no one was strong enough on their own to make it happen — and now is the time.”

Naja Hibri is not alone. There has been talk for years of the industry being broken, but nothing has been done to rectify the situation.

Bridget Veals, general manager womenswear for David Jones, says we can look back at the industry model and “not be too nostalgic about the way it was. It was a bit broken. We can afford to look at what the future looks like, albeit in difficult circumstances. This (crisis) has accelerated change and how we do everything”.

Those broken elements are legion:

  • there are too many collections each year,
  • deliveries of those collections not aligning with the actual seasons;
  • there is too much product being produced and too much subsequent wastage.

Those are just for starters. Then there are supply chain issues, including environmental damage and human rights abuses, under the broader umbrellas of sustainability and ethics. There has been a lot of talk about changing the system in recent years, but not enough action. Could it take a pandemic to finally make the industry stop, rethink and reset?

At the end of the most recent Milan Fashion Week Giorgio Armani was one of the few designers to cancel his show for guests because of COVID-19, instead live-streaming the event. He subsequently wrote an open letter early last month to Women’s Wear Daily, the first such salvo from a leading designer taking aim at the industry and setting out what needed to change.

“The moment we are going through is turbulent, but it also offers us the unique opportunity to fix what is wrong, to regain a more human dimension,” he wrote.

The Italian designer called the industry model “absurd”, citing “the overproduction of garments and a criminal non-alignment between the weather and the commercial season”. This refers to the next season’s collections being released months ahead of the season’s start, a habit pushed inter­nationally by department stores: “I find it absurd that, in the middle of winter, one can only find linen dresses in the shops and alpaca coats in the summer.” He says now he will deliver his collections according to the current seasons.

Next came French house Saint Laurent, which has announced radical changes to its operations and deliveries. In a statement to WWD last week it said: “Now more than ever the brand will lead its own rhythm. With this strategy firmly in place, Saint Laurent will not present its collections in any of the preset schedules of 2020. Saint Laurent will take ownership of its calendar and launch its collections following a plan conceived with an up-to-date perspective, driven by creativity.”

Saint Laurent designer Anthony Vaccarello told WWD he hoped “nothing goes back to ‘business as usual’. We have known for years that something has to change. The time is now. There is no good reason to follow a calendar developed years ago when everything was completely different. I don’t want to rush a collection just because there is a deadline. This season, I want to present a collection when I am ready to show it.”

Future of fashion weeks

Those deadlines traditionally are wrapped up tight with the international fashion week cycle. Designers prepare their collections in time for the catwalk presentation, after which buyers can walk through collections in a showroom to place their orders, and the product arrives in shops about six months later. At the moment there is a big question mark hanging over the next round of international shows, the spring-summer collections held in New York, London, Milan and Paris in September and October. Will they take place? If they do, will they include runway shows?

The British Fashion Council has confirmed to The Australian that London Fashion Week will proceed, although how much of that will be in the form of physical shows and what will be on digital platforms remains undecided. Next month it will hold its Gender Neutral Fashion Week (formerly London Fashion Week Men’s) online with multimedia content for industry and consumers.

There have been no confirmations from the fashion week organisers of the three other cities at this point. Everything is still dependent on the course of the pandemic and lockdown restrictions being lifted to a point where potentially hundreds of people can be in proximity.

Simon Lock, founder of online showroom Ordre and of Australian Fashion Week in the mid-1990s, says big names such as Armani and Saint Laurent are likely to be the harbingers of change, hopefully bringing a trickle-down effect throughout the industry. One of the greatest signifiers of that shift is disrupting the traditional show cycle, which has been in place for decades.

“If Saint Laurent’s gone (from the Paris schedule), what is Dior going to do? What are Louis Vuitton and Chanel going to do?” Lock tells The Australian. He says he believes the physical shows won’t happen. “There’s no way they are going to go ahead in New York, and New York kicks off the season. Are people going to come together in tight, squashy venues? You can’t produce a fashion show with social distancing. Well, you could, but would you?”

Vogue Australia editor-in-chief Edwina McCann agrees, especially given that Saint Laurent is part of luxury conglomerate Kering. “If one Kering brand is (dropping out), it stands to reason many more will do it,” she says. “I think it’s unlikely we will see shows that season.”

Also, with revenue for most brands slashed in the downturn, does anyone have the budget to put on a show, which can run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, even millions? And if people still aren’t travelling internationally, who will be attending?

Today, the point of fashion week is as much about creating marketing and hype around the industry from a consumer perspective as it is about industry sales.

There is little doubt that fashion weeks will continue in the long term. The question is more about what their purpose will be, as they remain a celebration of and focus for the industry as a whole that generates excitement, discussion and collaboration.

Lock believes fashion weeks will be more aligned to consumer-facing events, as some Australian festivals have been doing for decades, the Melbourne Fashion Festival in March being by far the biggest and most inclusive event in the country.

The “See Now Buy Now” model — in which the clothes hit the catwalk at the time they land in shops — was first spruiked at industry fashion weeks by brands including Burberry, Tom Ford and Tommy Hilfiger four years ago. While some brands have managed to rebuild their business models along these lines, it never really gained the traction required to affect the broader industry.

“It’s evident that fashion weeks are not designed any more as trade shows,” says Lock. “They were very good trade shows six decades ago, but the world has changed. Because of the advent of smartphones and social media, they play a much more relevant role now in connecting brands directly to consumers. There has been a lot of discussion over the last three to four weeks about when fashion weeks can resurrect themselves. Many will be resurrected with a far greater focus on See Now Buy Now.”

London already had started integrating consumer activities, and this year Australian Fashion Week had been set to increase consumer participation.

Digital drive

While the excitement around fashion shows is a given, and traditionally has been one of the best ways for a brand to show their whole vision for a collection, the buying part of the industry machine could continue without them.

Lock’s online platform, Ordre, launched in 2015, inviting the leading retailers and brands to come together in a virtual showroom, where brands could showcase their latest collections using 360-degree photography, video, virtual reality and more. He says that in the past eight weeks there has been an enormous spike in new business.

“We’ve got 110 new designers in the pipeline looking at digitising their B2B (business-to-business) practices. It is going to be part of the new norm.”

The Australian Fashion Council is collaborating with Lock and Ordre to offer Australian designers left high and dry without this month’s fashion week to connect with retailers around the globe for their all-important resort collections. Veals and her teams at David Jones normally travel to the northern hemisphere four to six times a year, depending on their focus, to do their buying.

“They won’t be travelling,” she says of how the rest of this year is looking. She says they are well prepared from a digital point of view and easily able to work with virtual showrooms or via videoconferencing with European showrooms to see next season’s collections.

Some European brands, she adds, also are in the process of setting up physical showrooms in Hong Kong to make the time difference better for the Asia-Pacific markets. Veals agrees that it is unlikely brands will do runway shows for the coming spring season. “But what does that mean? We just don’t know what that looks like.”

It seems few people can envisage what the alternatives to fashion weeks with fashion shows look like, as the recent Vogue Global Conversations on the Future of Fashion Weeks highlighted last month. An online conversation between Vogue Runway’s Nicole Phelps, creative directors Natacha Ramsay-Levi of Chloe and Olivier Rousteing of Balmain, and Balenciaga chief executive Cedric Charbit, spoke with gusto about the industry model being broken and needing to be changed. But as to what the alternatives to fashion shows and weeks may look like?

There certainly was agreement that the physical and digital should coexist, which they already do to a point. Charbit pointed out that for a Balenciaga runway show with 600 guests, the ultimate digital interaction was about 10 million viewers: “Our audience has to be reconsidered. One needs to understand: Do we have guests or viewers? Or are they becoming one?”

Still, no one had a very clear vision of what these events or executions could look like and what innovations could be introduced.

KCD is a fashion ser­vices agency that works with some of the leading brands, including Louis Vuitton, Givenchy and Prada. New York-based expat Jarrad Serafine-Clark is partner creative services with the company and is behind innumerable catwalk spectacles. Despite the difficulties of the present situation, he considers it an opportunity for the industry to innovate and to take stock.

“Adapting to change is what fashion is all about,” Serafine-Clark tells The Australian. “Realis­tically, the scale of travel and size of events that last occurred will not be feasible in the near future; however, the dialogue that is under way about how to create new dynamic content will ultimately grow the fashion audience and inspire the industry.”

He says KCD is in discussion with brands about how they can connect with both industry and consumers, which, for the short term, will include “virtual storytelling and scaled-back live experi­ences”. “To keep our glasses half-full,” he says, “it’s about embracing this moment to reset and research, something the past allowed less. I look at this crisis as deeply concerning but also a blessing of time.”

Certainly, there is the possibility that physical fashion shows will be cancelled for the rest of the year. And perhaps a year without fashion shows is exactly what the industry needs to not fall back into business as usual. Without that need to meet those predetermined deadlines, there can be an unravelling of the finely woven traditions of the global fashion industry.

It could force the industry as a whole to reset its schedules, and rethink how it operates and who it benefits. And that — as everyone seems to agree — would be a positive outcome from a tragic set of circumstances.