December 1, 2021

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Simon Porte Jacquemus, Francesco Risso, and Kerby Jean-Raymond on Slowing Down and Saving Fashion Week

This morning’s Vogue Global Conversations panel with Vogue Mexico and Latin America’s Karla Martinez de Salas, Simon Porte Jacquemus, Pyer Moss’s Kerby Jean-Raymond, and Marni’s Francesco Risso centered around the idea of reinvention: How can the next generation of designers stay relevant in a crisis? There wasn’t one answer, but all three did agree that slowing down and refocusing on their communities will be crucial in the months (and years) to come. With many of us still in quarantine, these designers are mostly connecting with their communities digitally via Instagram or, in Jean-Raymond’s case, a music video he directed with Wale. Jacquemus shot a campaign with Barbie Ferreira and Bella Hadid via FaceTime, a first for his brand: “It was just a way to say it’s still possible to send a good message and to share positivity, and share fashion,” he said.

The question of relevance led to a discussion about other aspects of the industry—particularly Fashion Week. Jacquemus, Jean-Raymond, and Risso aren’t the first designers to say the pace of the calendar has become too intense. But making Fashion Week relevant again doesn’t mean going entirely virtual or leaving brands to show whenever they feel like it: “None of us would be here without Fashion Week,” Jean-Raymond pointed out. “When the halo brands have a show during a specific [time frame], smaller brands can piggyback off of that because they know everyone is in town. I do think the concept of the show has to change…But it’s an entry point that is so important for young designers.”

Here, read highlights from their chat, and don’t miss our recap of this morning’s other discussion between Pierpaolo Piccioli and Vogue Paris’s Emmanuelle Alt.

Fostering a Connection With Your Community Starts With Authenticity

It’s no secret that Jacquemus’s Instagram account has become a sensation in recent years. The French designer mixes behind-the-scenes photos from his shows with glimpses of his real life, plus snaps of his childhood in Marseilles and plenty of selfies—all for an audience of 2.2 million people. It’s become a key part of his business, but he insists it wasn’t a conscious decision: “It wasn’t a marketing plan to be close [to my community],” he said. “I’m sharing everything I love and what makes me happy, not just fashion. This crisis has created a stronger relationship with my community.”

Jean-Raymond said he’s pivoting toward creating content and films with a focus on issues that matter most to his followers, like racism in America and inclusivity. The video he directed for Wale’s new track, “Sue Me,” proposed what the world might look like if white supremacy and black oppression were actually reversed: One scene is a reimagining of the 2018 arrest of two African American men at a Philadelphia Starbucks, but with white men in their place. “It’s my first music video, but it’s not the last thing I’m directing,” Jean-Raymond said. “[It’s about] thinking empathetically about each other, and right now, that’s super important.”

Risso spoke of his community at Marni and how inspired he was by his team’s creativity in lockdown, but he also stressed the importance of inviting other communities to participate in his brand. His collaboration with the Miao embroidery group in southern China is set to debut in the next few months and will introduce the group’s traditional techniques to many Westerners who might not have seen it otherwise. His work with the embroiderers also served as a reminder of the importance of time: “It’s really a different concept for their culture. For us, [time] is a consequential line, and for them, it’s in layers, almost like a symphony,” he said. “It [speaks to] their history, the way they embroider, and the preservation [of their crafts]. I met women making embroidered jackets, and they took almost six years to finish just one. Our project was put on pause, but we have understood the value of time. I’m very curious to see what it means for the future, and [how I can] apply this philosophy to the brand.”

Jacquemus’s fall 2020 show.

Photo: Getty Images

Fashion Needs to Slow Down, and Designers Can Lead the Way

Risso has been interested in time and craft since his early days at Marni, and it manifested again in his work with traditional Venetian weavers for his fall 2020 collection. They created the gilded tapestries built into many of his garments, a process that is both rare and time-intensive. “They take hours to make, and it’s definitely against the normal flow of fashion [production],” he said. “But it’s fundamental to protect these kinds of crafts, especially in countries where they’re at risk of disappearing.” Of course, that isn’t really possible at the current rate of fashion shows and collection deliveries, which hardly leave room for creativity, let alone time-honored crafts. “We have to reconsider the calendars. It has become so intense, and it would be wise to reduce,” he said. “In a way, Fashion Week has become very cold, and people are on their phone rather than watching the show…We really have to make [the experience] relevant again, and emotional and intimate.”

Jean-Raymond has already removed himself from the Fashion Week rigamarole by opting for one show a year instead of two (or, in the case of some houses, upwards of six). “It’s just too fast-paced—you’re chasing your own tail to come up with new ideas,” he said. “We found it a lot more beneficial to create one meaningful body of work and distribute it throughout the year, versus releasing four or six [collections] while people are still catching up with the first. We don’t buy clothes at that alarming rate. You have to give [a collection] an incubation time. You can liken it to music or movies—an artist drops an album, and you have to give that album time to mature in the eyes of the public. In fashion, we never really gave ourselves the luxury of time.” He was candid about the “backlash” he received for his decision—his retailer list went from more than 100 to less than 10, because they didn’t want to place one large order at a time—but it made his brand more nimble to collaborations, pop-ups, and a direct-to-consumer business.

Not too long ago, Jacquemus was creating six collections per year, but recently made the switch to two. “A year ago, I decided to slow down my company and think the way my grandparents do—[collections for] summer and winter, and not more,” he said. “It was really refreshing for my team to have more time. It was an important move for us, and right now in this crisis, we feel, in a way, better [about what we do].” He added that the luxury industry needs to accept some of the blame for fashion’s breakneck cadence and excess as well. “It’s too easy to say that everything [we’re seeing] is because of fast fashion, but fast fashion to me is ‘good fashion’ to someone else,” he said. “The way people consume fast fashion is a problem, but they consume our fashion the same way. We have to reeducate everyone if we want things to change.”

Backstage at Marni’s fall 2020 show.

Photographed by Corey Tenold

We Still Need Runway Shows—But We Also Need to Invest in Digital Experiences

The question hanging in the air throughout this discussion, and most of our Vogue Global Conversations, is what will happen during the spring 2021 season in September: Will it be possible for designers to host fashion shows? Or will everything be virtual? And how realistic is it for a brand to even produce a spring collection right now, with studios and factories still closed? Risso teased the concept of four digital “happenings” in New York, London, Milan, and Paris, “as a sort of puzzle, since people can’t travel,” he explained. “But seeing the clothes [in person], it’s something we can’t avoid. I don’t believe in the virtual show expression. We have to protect [fashion shows], but maybe the size of them has to be reconsidered.”

“I love runway shows,” Jacquemus added. “A show is like a dance; it has emotion—it isn’t only a lookbook. I’ve done shows on the beach, in a field, with horses…It’s a way to express yourself. Some of my shows were the best moments of my life, not because of the applause or the success on Instagram, but the emotion. I’m backstage crying with my family and with my team, and I have so many good emotions [attached to those shows]. I believe in shows and the emotion of them.”

Jean-Raymond’s annual shows in New York have been incredibly moving and emotional too, particularly his spring 2020 show with a live choir at Kings Theatre. He currently doesn’t have plans to show again until 2021, though he’s considering what a show might look like until we have a vaccine for COVID-19. “How does clothing get showcased on a runway if makeup artists are afraid to touch the models? Are there going to be heat sensors at the entrance of fashion events to check our temperature? I think that could be our temporary reality,” he said. “In the meantime, the gift we have now in 2020 is technology. With the opportunities on the internet, it’s not going to be the same [as a show], but maybe we can do a combination of real-life events with smaller crowds and more public-facing digital events simultaneously. In the past, when we livestreamed our shows, it was really passive, but now I think the focus will be on creating that digital content, and spending more money on the digital side. We have to do our part as empathetic human beings to curtail the spread of this virus.”

Backstage at Pyer Moss’s spring 2020 show.

Photographed by Corey Tenold

Watch the full panel here:

Watch Now: Vogue Video.

Originally Appeared on Vogue

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