The Inside Track: Why Fashion Group Thought Had to Disappear
“If you have a group of people who agree on something, others will agree even if it’s completely contrary to what their own senses are telling them,” Dr. Nemeth told me when I phoned her this month at home, where she was recovering. of a broken hand. “Only three people who all agree that blue is green will make most people agree that it is green.”
So it’s not hard to think that when three executives agree that fashion brands should produce eight collections per year and 60% of the runway collection should be directional and unsaleable, a fourth executive can follow this strategy in the oversight.
“You lose your independence and you actually think in a more restricted way,” Dr Nemeth continued. “This is exactly what you don’t want in good decision making.” She highlighted the Jonestown cult, in which more than 900 people soaked cyanide together.
The presence of open dissent is the cure for group thinking, says Dr. Nemeth. Dissent “frees you from the vice of consensus and conformity,” she said. “It improves decision making.”
This is one of the reasons that racially, socially and gender diverse leadership teams lead to more profitable businesses, according to plenty of data.
In 2020, the pandemic played the role of dissident in the fashion industry. In the absence of consensus-building events like the Fashion Weeks and the never-ending industry cocktails, people have assessed their own interests and stepped forward.
Taking the individual route was not easy. “In the beginning, it was difficult not to be part of the collective,” explains Jamie Gill, managing director of the London label Roksanda. “The tone. What people are feeling. It was hard to read that.
Yet a year later, some seem to appreciate their new determination.
“I prefer to sell less and really special things. I think I’m growing up in some ways, ”Tory Burch told me on a March Zoom call that she used to browse her latest collection – a calming range of loose, highly textured layers without a hint of fashion, trend or time.
And the season is distinguished by divergent catches for the post-pandemic period. Stella McCartney has informed a group of Zoom fashion journalists that she can’t wait to return to music festivals. Her heart was on her all-glitter clutch in a memorably floating collection that seemed to anticipate that festivals would turn disco when they resume.
This was the first season, after nine months of lab experiments, where brands began to fully grasp digital capabilities to tell a track story, starting with all those Zoom calls. Without the limits of a parade and a seated audience, some brands have created collections revealing shows that stand out as entertainment: Kenzo’s free-form dance-a-thon, Dries Van’s contemporary dance film. Noten, Raf Simons’ Drumming Parade, Ralph Lauren’s big band nightclub with Janelle Monáe. Each has introduced a brand philosophy into the minds of consumers without the fray induced by the fashion calendar.
We’re just starting to see how independent thinking will play out as the globe tiptoes towards the emergence of a pandemic (which will likely take a year or more). With the challenges ahead – consumer demands for environmental and governance standards and measures, the reorganization of supply and distribution chains – it seems likely that think-different brands will leap forward.
Fashion weeks play an important role and the forces behind them are strong. They are not going to go away. But the pandemic can be a booster to avoid group thinking as some industry icons have already done. The late Azzedine Alaïa, after all, broke fashion week schedules, ignored seasonal trends, and showed off his collections when he wanted to. Look where it has led.
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