Image: Unsplash
Image: Unsplash

YSL pull out of Paris Fashion Week – the beginning of the end?

Almost every notable designer in the world has probably aspired to show their collections at Paris Fashion Week, since its establishment in 1973. So, it is interesting that in recent weeks Yves Saint Laurent, a house which represents the epitomé of Parisian high-end fashion, decided to pull out. Could this be the end for the established fashion industry calendar as we know it?

With Paris’ menswear and haute couture fashion weeks already cancelled for June 2020, due to the coronavirus pandemic, fashion houses around the world have been forced to amend their schedules and reorganise their collections.

The Parisian house has long been recognised as a symbol of creativity

Adapting to the reality of virtual shows and developing strategies to interact with consumers without the traditional structures has been a challenge, but many large industry players are still clinging on to the hope that collection shows will resume in September 2020. Even if they do, Yves Saint Laurent won’t be there. The Parisian house has long been recognised as a symbol of creativity and bold opinion, but even so, this is an unprecedented move.

The answer as to why is quite clear. “I want to present a collection when I am ready to show it”, explains artistic director Anthony Vaccarello. It seems YSL are voicing much broader concerns about the rigidity of the industry. One of these concerns is undoubtedly about the notoriously gruelling schedule which requires designs to be ready and made for such a tight deadline.

The incredibly rigorous schedule promoted the industry is unnecessary

Saint Laurent is embarking on a new era of high-end fashion, taking ownership of their own calendar indefinitely and launching collections when they deem appropriate. This is a move said to be “driven by creativity”, with Saint Laurent reclaiming autonomy over their work and rejecting the industry norm set out by the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode. Although Vaccarello has insisted this is not an anti-establishment move, it seems reasonable to assume some frustration from the house towards the unyielding fashion year schedule.

A second reason for this move is an attempt to release collections more in line with consumer needs, claims Chief Executive Officer, Francesca Bellettini. This seems to be part of a wider initiative to appeal directly to their customer.

The responses from other leading fashion houses to this move are much anticipated. Giorgio Armani endorsed a similar position earlier in the year, claiming the incredibly rigorous schedule promoted in the industry is unnecessary in light of the current pandemic.

Saint Laurent claims to be committed to maintaining the Parisian dimension of the brand

Gucci and Balmain have subsequently called for changes to the traditional industry calendar. It seems inevitable that other houses will begin to question the status quo, at least in some capacity. Saint Laurent’s Vaccarello has explicitly stated that he hopes “nothing will go back to business as usual.” The real impact of this decision to withdraw from the formal calendar is yet to be observed.

Despite the announcement, Saint Laurent claims to be committed to maintaining the Parisian dimension of the brand, with Vaccarello noting “we are announcing our intention to take control of our time, not to leave Paris.” This is a necessary commitment to ensure the house does not begin to distance from its association with the Parisian consumer, which is absolutely central to the appeal of the quintessentially French brand.

It seems the once-acclaimed fashion week calendar has perhaps become archaic to the extent of limiting creative license. Only time will tell whether this move will be the beginning of an end for the traditional fashion industry calendar and whether Saint Laurent will succeed in being a pioneer in establishing a new trajectory in the post-pandemic world.

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