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BFC, CFDA Issue Joint Call to Reset Post-Pandemic Fashion Industry

Fashion isn’t taking its foot off the gas pedal in championing sustainable change.

The British Fashion Council (BFC) and the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) have joined the chorus of voices calling for a hard fashion industry reset amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The rare joint statement, released Thursday, encourages “brands, designers and retailers, who are used to fashion’s fast, unforgiving pace, to slow down” and to align the delivery of clothes to stores to “closer to the seasons for which it is intended,” meaning summer clothes in the summer and winter clothes in the winter.

The organizations, which have both established financial relief funds for small businesses impacted by the pandemic’s fiscal crunch, also encouraged designers to focus on “no more than two main collections a year,” which they say will “provide our talents with the time they need to reconnect to the creativity and craft.”

Keeping in mind that virtual fashion weeks and digital trade shows will eventually cede to in-person events, the letters asks brands to show in “one of the global fashion capitals in order to avoid the strain on buyers and journalists traveling constantly,” not to mention the sizable carbon footprint back-and-forth flights engender.

Interstitial seasons, like resort, don’t require live shows, either. Though they shouldn’t necessarily go away, they must “return to their original intended purpose, which was to offer the consumer beautiful clothes that carry the ethos of the individual brands but are not necessarily sufficiently fashion forward to warrant a show,” the letter reads.

Sustainability is an “important conversation” for every industry, fashion included, the BFC and CFDA say. But the philosophy should not be seen as a sacrifice but rather a value add.

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“Through the creation of less product, with higher levels of creativity and quality, products will be valued and their shelf life will increase,” they write. “The focus on creativity and quality of products, reduction in travel and focus on sustainability (something we encourage of the entire industry) will increase the consumer’s respect and ultimately their greater enjoyment in the products that we create.”

Ultimately, the groups add, they are united in their “steadfast belief” that the fashion system must change and it must happen “at every level.”

“We are listening to many conversations taking place,” they write. “These changes have been overdue for a while, and the fallout from coronavirus has forced us all to prioritize the process of rethinking how our industry should function.”

The BFC and the CFDA have joined the chorus of voices calling for a sustainable fashion industry reset amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Miu Miu Cruise runway show on June 29, 2019. WWD/Shutterstock

The statement follows similar entreaties from groups led by designers Dries van Noten, Gabriela Hearst and Thom Brown, trade publication Business of Fashion, the Global Fashion Agenda and the United Nations to create a more resilient and more compassionate post-pandemic future.

Anna Wintour, editor of Vogue, says the pandemic’s fallout has been “catastrophic” for all quarters of the fashion industry, whether small or large, luxury or accessible. The BFC has predicted that half of Britain’s apparel and footwear sector could cease to exist by the end of 2020. McKinsey & Company estimates that 75 percent of publicly listed apparel and fashion companies in North America could find themselves with negative earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) or “untenable” net debt-to-EBITDA ratios after three-month store closures.

“I think it’s really giving the industry a pause,” Wintour said on CNBC Wednesday. “I think everybody is rethinking what the fashion industry stands for, what it means, what it should be.”

In the meantime, the BFC and CFDA say they’re working on ways to organize the virtual presentations or other means of spotlighting the spring/summer collections that would typically debut at New York Fashion Week and London Fashion Week in September.