Vogue Global Conversations: A Pandemic Calling for Change in the Future of Fashion

A change in the future of fashion is inevitable as the global pandemic paralyses many sectors to a halt.

The unforeseen occurrence has brought with it a social and economic drawback that will account for huge losses on all fronts. The pause that accompanies it however, can be seen as a chance to re-invent the wheel from a different perspective.

The second week of April 2020, saw Vogue open doors to global conversations that will write history of a very good nature and that will uplift the fashion industry to the next level.

Anna Wintour – Editor in Chief – American Vogue & Artistic Director – Condé Nast

Anna Wintour

Image Source: Fashion Ireland

Anna Wintour, Editor in Chief for Vogue International and Conde Nast, introduced the global conversations by highlighting the main questions at hand on how best to rebuild this industry that we love so much, ways to move forward that are thoughtful and compassionate and how to help each other in redesigning our future.

She assured the listeners that all at Vogue were unified to help the fashion community get through the crisis at hand.

The four-day global conversations via Zoom were as follows:

  • The Future of Creativity / The Future of Creativity and Sustainability
  • The Future of Fashion Shows
  • The Future of eCommerce
  • The Future of Brick and Mortar


The Future of Creativity

Edward Enninful – Editor in Chief – British Vogue

Edward Enninful

Image Source: Vogue Business

Edward Enninful had burning questions on how creativity has been affected by the pandemic and herein searched for answers on ways the designers are intending to integrate into the new space.

The panel’s experiences at this time and what they anticipate for the future, went to give a sense of calm and reminded us, that we are in this together.


Marc Jacobs – Owner and Designer – Marc Jacobs

Marc Jacobs

Image Source: Marie Claire

A creative locked down in a hotel is a pretty depriving situation to say the least. Marc Jacobs has had a cocktail of emotions, from sadness, anger, fear to patience, inspiration and positivity as a result of the crisis.

With fashion shows cancelled and with no sign of when the next is going to take place, designers have been given the pause and Marc sees this a time to learn and re-imagine. He believes that past presentations and shows will never exist as we knew them or even be done as they were previously done.

Marc is a designer who believes that two shows a year would be adequate for the purpose of showcasing and this would also support the burning topic of sustainability going forward.

He urged everyone, not just the creatives, to look inward and ask themselves the question of what they could do to contribute to the benevolence of this world we live in. That way we will be making a big and smart step forward.


Kenneth Ize – Founder & Owner – Kenneth Ize

Kenneth Ize

Image Source: Pulse

Kenneth Ize who is spending his lockdown in Nigeria after a very successful debut at the Paris Autumn/Winter Fashion Week earlier this year, finds the current situation challenging like all the others but is using this challenging time to work towards creativity and enhancing his brand.

He told of how he is working with weavers from the villages and having conversations with them about the creativity on that front. Together with an industrial designer he has reinvented a loom that will go to better weaving methods and help his immediate community.

He agrees that fashion shows are still a very important aspect for the designers to validate their purpose, but also went on to add, that he believed that not every collection had to go on the runway.

His vision for the future, is that of creating content that tells a story. A story that allows transparency to the brand, highlights the history of the product in question and gives a documentary that entails the creative journey.


The Future of Sustainability

Eugenia de la Torriente - Editor in Chief– Vogue Spain

Eugenia de la Torriente

Image Source: IT Fashion

Eugenia de la Torriente could only ask a few of a dazzling four hundred participant questions to the champions in sustainability.

The panel’s definition of sustainability and the changes they thought were necessary were most probably the burning questions that everyone wanted an answer to.

Eugenia went on to deepen the conversation with the very important elements of how the panel’s sustainability efforts have better positioned their businesses and most importantly, how the pandemic has affected both brands.

This was indeed a very informative round to a topic that is current and extremely paramount.


Stella McCartney – Owner & Designer – Stella McCartney

Stella McCartney

Image Source: Veg News

Stella McCartney, who oozes with compassion for mother earth, sees this time in history, as a time where the fashion industry has been given a “reset-button-moment".

She who sees sustainability as a state of mind and a state of balance, finds that this word has been over-used and is literally losing its meaning. Stopping to consider the waste that has been created and measure the damage caused as a result, is something she encourages deeply.

Most of the environmental good at Stella McCartney is derived from looking.... at the sourcing of the material and working years in advance before production. This is where she asks the industry to slow down, ask more questions and reconsider sourcing specifically.

She is taking this self-isolation time in a positive way and …. that more consciousness prevails for all and that more can see the other way now.


Gabriela Hearst – Owner & Designer – Gabriela Hearst

Gabriela Hearst
Image Source: Habitually Chic

Sustainability is a state of mind for Gabriela Hearst who grew up in a six-generation-old ranch in an extremely remote environment in South America. The element of high quality that talks for itself in her work, was learned from a utilitarian perspective, by living with few things that were made well and that could stand the force of nature.

Learning to work with limitations and parameters, her brand has the goal for 2021, where they will be on at least 80% non-virgin material, that is, using materials that were already in existence.

Transparency being an important key for Gabriela, she created ‘the garment journey’ which is launching this Spring. The brand’s garments will have a QR code on their labels that details the fibres used, the production mills, water waste management, the energy used and the human social component.

She says that the path of real true quality brings about passion and behind passion there is always care and pride.

Empathy is the result she would love from this pandemic. “Waste is a design flaw; it does not exist in nature”, she says.


The Future of Fashion Shows

Nicole Phelps – Director - Vogue Runways

Nicole Phelps
Image Source: Pinterest

Nicole asked questions on the importance of fashion shows, the pros and cons of digital viewing, anticipated system changes and the objectives that would shape the future of this spectrum.


Natacha Ramsey – Creative Director - Chloé

Natacha Ramsey
Image Source: Zimbio


Natacha who is known to paint a fantastic picture of who the Chloé woman is, saw the future of fashion shows as a dichotomy in the making. She embraces physical fashion shows with the craftmanship and the many people working together behind the scenes. She intends to carry on this tradition and use the digital side to amplify the whole.

She put attention on the point of raising visibility of what is not visible in the community as far as the voices of the people were concerned. She described the pandemic as being a positive space to start rethinking and catering more for the strongest value, which is that of the consumer’s demand.

She touched on the waste dilemma that engulfs the fashion industry and saw a total rewiring of the whole business a crucial step for the way forward.

The reusing of fabric in stock is an area she believes would enhance new creativity and style, and ultimately support sustainability.

She sees re-evaluating of creativity and engaging of the whole community as important.


Olivier Rousteing – Creative Director – Balmain

Olivier Rousteing
Image Source: Global Fashion Report

Olivier’s strongest aim is that of inclusivity. He envisions taking Balmain’s next physical fashion to the streets, where a larger audience can have accessibility and a first-hand physical experience.

He has a charged enthusiasm of including virtual reality into the shows, which he is convinced would bring an emotional connection and warmth to the whole experience for everyone. He believes that using different kinds of experiences like scenarios on the moon, sky or clouds are all possible in the digital frontier.

To sustainability, he saw the reduction of the collection size as one of the initial ways to start supporting this credible journey.


Cedric Charbit – Chief Executive Officer - Balenciaga

Cedric Charbit
Image Source: Fashion Network

Cedric Charbit sees both physical and virtual fashion shows as platforms that should be strategised to deliver an unforgettable experience for all.

He broke-down figures of 600 guests at a physical fashion show every season at Balenciaga, a live-streaming audience of 8,000 views on YouTube and 60,000 views edited on Instagram. In addition, Twitter had 300,000 interactions and an audience of 10 million visiting viewers. These are striking numbers that he sees as eye-openers and which will curve future strategies.

The show of tomorrow has to be comprehensive in his eyes, with both the physical and digital giving an equal experience.

He sees an age where technology and fashion have to be in sync, where tech being part of the conversation will yield new successes.

Sustainability is a central topic and a priority at Balenciaga. He supports this vision and the consumer’s need, which will build the foundation for the future.


The Future of E-Commerce

Angelika Cheung – Editor in Chief - Vogue China, Vogue Me and Vogue Film

Angelika Cheung

Image Source: Welt

Having experienced the lockdown from Beijing and thereafter see her country get back to normality, Angelika Cheung, was in a position to moderate this highly captivating panel.

With the eCommerce globally taking centre-stage and seeing an increase in the growth index of many in this sector, the question here was whether the same euphoria would expand to the fashion and luxury sector as well.


Remo Ruffini – Chairman and Chief Executive Officer - Moncler

Remo Ruffini
Image Source: FT

As to whether the consumer mood after the pandemic will trigger revenge buying or luxury become less important, Remo Ruffini says it will be hard to predict the future.

With his vast experience in the fashion industry, he emphasized the need of flexibility, changing the tone of communication with the customers and bringing new energy in strategizing and reorganizing the future.

He also put weight on the need for brands to not only set eyes on the short-term, which could later cause damage, but more importantly give equal attention to the long-term goals. His has an impressive two-team strategy in place, with each specifically concentrating on the latter modes, as part of boosting the brand awareness at Moncler.

He encouraged authenticity and the emerging of new brands that can give new energy to the market.


Stephanie Phair – Chief Strategy Officer - Farfetch & Chair - British Fashion Council

Stephanie Phair

Image Source: Forbes

Stephanie Phair helped us understand how the crisis has had a huge impact on the demand and pattern of consumption, depending on the different markets, where they are and their lockdown policies.

She defined the crisis as a catalyst, not just to the shape of demand, but as a geared shift to online options, solidifying trends, focus on sustainability and hence buying quality and better.

She notes that companies will have to work harder to earn their wallet share from the customers and ultimately, those with a mission and a purpose will stand a better chance of endorsement.

All in all, she says that the situation has given all a blank page to simulate change that is definitely consumer led. Most of all, she urges businesses to capitalize on the silver-linings that come out of this crisis and consider closer merging of offline and online.

To the participant’s question from Argentina on how a small sustainable company can sell on a big platform, she urged them to gradually build and grow locally first. She also added, that by also putting themselves out there constantly, great chances might just pop-up in a different capacity.


Virgil Abloh – Founder – Off-White & Artistic Director – Louis Vuitton Men

Virgil Abloh

Image Source: Architect Magazine

Virgil Abloh sees this time as a calling to transform the industry to what it can be for the people. He looks at it, as a change for the better where the industry will have to realign to the consumer, knowing that the voice of the people today is critical.

Adopting to the new eco-system is reason for him to work harder and with resilience and he is looking forward to the Autumn/Winter campaign.

To boost diversity and content creation, Abloh hires young people from around the world that are already tuned to social media, as opposed to hiring a media company. That way he channels opportunities and income to fresh content talents and new ideas are brought to the table. Revolutionising the interface web 3.0 (Semantic web) to web 4.0 (Symbiotic Web) is where he sees the answers to the future.

His advice and encouragement to the participants was that of them changing the mood, by creating a new eco-system and doing what the established businesses haven’t done yet.


The Future of Brick & Mortar

Emanuele Farneti – Editor in Chief – Vogue Italia, L’Uomo Vogue

Emanuele Farneti
Image Source: NY Times

To a very informative discussion of the retail reality that has seen many shops close their doors, Emanuele Farnet’s questions to the panel helped shed a light to the dilemmas this sector is currently facing. A drastic rise in unemployment and financial losses have been inevitable to many.


Vittorio Radice – Vice President of La Rinascente and CEO of Central Group Europe

Vittorio Radice

Image Source: Fashion Network

With his vast experience, Vittorio Radice, started by likening the situation in the retailing landscape and the anticipated recovery strategies with that of the Formula 1 safety car. All businesses will have to wait for the green flag from their respective governments and with the laid-out policies, adjust immediately and accordingly.

He predicted a reopening of Italian stores by the end of May.

After the reopening, he envisions the La Rinascente stores taking the form of a “safe place to be”, as opposed to just being the walk-in store people are used to. Placing safety procedures and devising systems for social distancing will be the new and most important short-term language for any retail store worldwide.

Long-term strategies in his opinion, will be based on adopting to the future by reflecting on the cultures. Merging big establishments with new initiatives, locally and internationally.

He sees the crisis as a catalyst that will help change the mode, especially in waste management.

“Showing emotion of what one’s beliefs are, is what the buyer wants to see.” This was his answer to a question from India on his advice to small retail store owners.

He ended with a positive note of continued service to his customers.


Pierre-Yves Roussel – Chief Executive Officer - Tory Burch LLC

Pierre-Yves Roussel
Image Source: DailyMail

Through the Council of Fashion Designers of America CFDA, Tory Burch has been fighting to get direct relief from Washington to the fashion and retail sector. Pierre-Yves Roussel talked of this stimulus fashion package with four asks to the US government, that is intended to help with the unemployment, rent and more within the fashion sector.

He like the others, agrees that technology has to find its way to the physical stores since this would add huge value to the customer when both brick and eCommerce are considered. This would accelerate sales, too.

As the bar will definitely go higher now, he recommends that brands adjust to the situation and stay true to who they are. He also talked of building in credibility.


Pete Nordstrom – President and Chief Brand Officer - Nordstrom

Pete Nordstrom
Image Source: NY Times

As a fourth-generation retailer of the Nordstrom dynasty, Pete Nordstrom, saw the relevance of customer relations as the basis of coming back strong after the crisis.

Being considerate and aligned to the sensibilities of the people, by leveraging online business to connect to the stores and making this engagement a creative endeavour, was a way he believed would evolve Nordstrom’s future in a way that is relevant.

He agreed to the motion of supporting upcoming designers and curating their new products into the system and at the same time, integrate a stronger supply-chain network.

He has derived positivity from his 86-year-old dad, who says that better days lay ahead and added that aspiration and positivity will be part of the solution. 

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