The Future of Fashion
Where we’re going we don’t need runways. I admit it’s not as iconic as Doc’s closing line from Back to Future, but I think you get the gist. In our increasingly digitalised world, the future of the fashion show is up for debate. The traditional format feels a little outdated, and from a business standpoint, totally insane. So much so that last December CFDA president Diane von Furstenberg, admitted that ‘everything needs to be rebooted’. From the merging of menswear and womenswear collections as seen at Burberry to the possibility of buying exclusive pieces straight from the runway at Topshop Unique, it seems this rebooting is already underway. It’s clear the fashion industry is undergoing a massive shake-up - a revolution within an industry renowned for resisting change.
Though this innovation is being heralded as the future, I can’t help but feel it overlooks the meaning and magic of runway shows. A fashion show is not solely concerned with commerciality, it is a spectacle created to bring life to a designer's vision. It’s escapism. Not a business model. Whilst established brands have the ability to ‘shake things up’ and experiment with new ways of connecting with their customers, what of emerging designers yet to find their footing in this evolving industry? Graduate shows are a crucial part of the fashion world, especially here in Britain where our fashion schools and art colleges are globally renowned. These shows not only create a platform for upcoming talent from which to showcase their collections, but also provide a chance for industry experts to gain an insight into what the future of British fashion might look like.
Graduate Fashion Week, which represents 40 of the UK’s leading fashion universities - including Edinburgh College of Art, highlights the importance of runway shows to the fashion industry. Describing itself as ‘a showcase for the imagination and possibilities’, GFW, over the last 25 years, has established itself as one of the key sources of new talent; fuelling innovation and dynamism in all aspects of the global fashion industry. With lifetime patrons such as Christopher Bailey, Vivienne Westwood, Nick Knight and Victoria Beckham, the importance of GFW, and the runway shows it includes, is not something to be overlooked. And it’s not only designers who benefit. Student-run fashion shows, like ECFS, involve a huge amount of backstage production The experience gained from putting on a fashion show, with all the complications and difficulties which go alongside it, is priceless.
If there’s one thing that Back to the Future taught us, it’s that predicting the future is pretty damn difficult. We’re still driving on roads and self-lacing Nikes have yet to become a wardrobe staple! So before we rush to write the runway show’s obituary, we should pause to recognise that it still plays a vital and relevant role in the fashion industry. Graduate fashion shows, like ECFS and countless others around the country, are the driving force behind the discovery of exciting new talent, on and off the runway. Great Scott! It would be a shame to ignore their importance for sake of a more sensible business model.