• Alice Bodkin

Are Small Production Lines and Singularly Curated Product Lines Our Future?

Updated: Aug 3, 2020

Last week, Gucci’s Alessandro Michele announced the fashion house would be abandoning fashion’s ‘ritual of seasonality’. The decision comes following the designer no longer wanting to maintain the hectic pace of four fashion weeks held each year. Instead, Alessandro Michele will be designing at his own pace and present collections accordingly. His desire to slow down the fashion calendar has been expressed by other several big houses. 

Following days in confinement, which the designer described to be suspended time, he expressed he felt an urgency to change many things in the way that he works. In an instagram post, he disclosed concern regarding the rash actions that have taken place that have burnt the house we live in and asks how we evaluate our decisions on our own independent small scales. We owe it to our integrity to creativity and moving beyond racing for performance, but rather, pursuing purpose. 

Michele is not the only designer to shun fashion’s pace whereby the industry exists on overproduction and relying on investments in shows that last ten minutes. Saint Laurent has also addressed the radical changes and questions that have been put forward due to coronavirus. In April. The French fashion house’s director announced that Saint Laurent will announce its own agenda, empathising that this will impact the house positively in terms of creativity. On May 12, designers such as Tory Burch, Proenza Schouler and Dries Van Noten followed suit, declaring that they too will be abandoning the sixth month delay between shows and instead will present seasonal clothing in their collections. This move is both more respectful to the environment but also better suited to the needs of their consumers. 

This slower pace of production means that we will start to see more thoughtful and curated product lines. For instance, sustainable startup Alexander Clementine launched with just one lingerie set, a light blue triangle bra and high waist thong set made from recycled seaweed. By launching with just a single product catalogue, the brand is paving the way for more conscious and considered consumption.There are any benefits to this, including keeping running costs down, the capacity to be fully transparent about production processes and keeping waste to a minimum.

In a bid for purchasing from more sustainable brands, consumers are increasingly driven by quality over quality. In order to connect with these consumers, brands should start to address the pace of production lines and product offering.  At the same time, relationship building and a brand’s community has never been more important. In an article for Beauty Independent, Founders have confessed to delaying product launches due to covid19 in order to prioritise the wellbeing of their consumers.

Just like Gucci, brands should start to question what ‘quality’ they are offering consumers and what their product offering reveals about them. For instance, aforementioned startup Alexander Clementine will become iconic for its association with its light blue underwear offering. This is further enhanced by the brand celebrating and sharing pictures of consumers wearing the product. The brand is as much about a community, valuing consumer opinion and sustainability than it is about a single product. 

Yet these questions surrounding production lines and product launches do not exist just within fashion. If we turn to beauty, anti-consumerist movements are being driven by Youtubers sharing ‘ANTI HAUL’ content. One Youtuber includes Kimberly Clark, who shares a video each month ‘roasting new product launches’ and explains ‘why she won’t be buying from brands’. This content illustrates that consumers are fatigued by an abundance of choice and excess - especially during times of environmental crisis and a global health pandemic. 

An innovative example of a brand respecting smaller scale production is UK perfumery Ffern who shares 4 products a year. Dubbed as ‘setting a new model for perfumery’, Ffern works by enabling consumers to register their interest for a seasonal product. Once the ledger is full, consumers then join a waitlist for the product once a space becomes available. This business model ensures that there is no excess waste and consumers can shop safely in the knowledge that their purchase protects the environment. Yet, we all want what we can’t have, and the allure of the waitlist factor is a great tactic for boosting a brand’s appeal.

As brands begin to navigate a post-covid climate, connecting to consumers with a shared purpose to protect the environment will be key. Ways to achieve this will be to slow down production processes or offer exclusivity for small scale production lines. Alternatively, bold brands are reducing product choice and keeping to the bare minimum in favour of a commitment to degrowth. Now is the time for brands to focus on their purpose and values, and nurture a community that celebrates storytelling surrounding that.

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