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Does it still make sense to separate Men's and Women's fashion weeks?

Halve fashion weeks, halve waste

Does it still make sense to separate Men's and Women's fashion weeks? Halve fashion weeks, halve waste

Six years ago the fashion industry underwent a micro-movement towards mixed gendered fashion shows with some of the industry’s major houses taking the necessary steps towards fusing their menswear and womenswear shows. The announcements began with Burberry, continued with Tom Ford, Vetements and Gucci, all in one year. In the ensuing years, several other brands have joined the list of co-ed fashion shows including Balenciaga, Bottega Veneta, Versace , Givenchy among others. Fast forward to 2022 , and many of these brands are  showing either off roster during the year or only during womenswear seasons (February & September), yet the industry still insists on continuing the tradition of having the menswear and womenswear calendars separate. With the added factors of the changes that have transpired in and outside of the fashion industry, be it the global pandemic or climate change, it begs the question, is it still necessary to show mens and women’s wear separately? Or is the industry merely clinging to an unnecessary piece of tradition?

It’s January 2022 and we are readying ourselves for what is meant to be the first fashion season of the year, menswear fall winter collections which are typically shown in January, except this time around things are a bit different. As a result of the lingering worry of the pandemic and its new variant , men’s fashion week in New York has been cancelled, London has also been cancelled, Milan’s calendar is hanging on by a thread as many fashion houses have decided to go digital, while Paris is the only city that has opted to go full force with most of their shows on schedule. The expectation is for things to go more smoothly during womenswear season next month. Of course this isn’t the first time fashion houses have faced such challenges. For the past few years, with the uncertainty of life, the industry has played it by ear as to whether each season’s shows will remain digital or be in person , however it is notable that in most instances, one calendar suffers more than the other, and that is usually menswear. 

The argument around fusing gendered fashion weeks is a conversation that we have been having since before the pandemic. It is no secret that for the respective cities these events are not useful in promoting the city’s attraction but are also big sources of income. In a 2012 analysis by the New York City Economic Development Corporation, womenswear seasons alone were found to have a total economic impact of $887 million; fashion weeks and trade fairs in Paris have accounted for a total of 1,2 billion euros in income and in Milan the annual economic impact reaches up to 160 million euros, so of course in a normal situation one could argue that cutting 2 out of 4 of each city’s events would potentially cut this income in half. However, the undeniable reality is that we are no longer in a situation that can be considered as normal, and since the beginning of the pandemic this seasonal income has been near non-existent, which makes it easier to consider the prospects of where to go next. 

With the prospects of the overbearing dark clouds of the ongoing pandemic aside, it should also be considered that as an industry and a society we have entered into a new era in regards to the way we perceive gender . The New York Times described last SS22 season as The End of Gender, because of the vast amount of designers who showed both women’s and men’s wear during the SS22 shows. It was not only about treating clothing as gender fluid, but more so an approach that acted as if gender did not exist at all. Fashion critic Vanessa Friedman explained: 

«It seems to me that this is an interesting and potentially significant systemic change — one responding to cultural and social shifts, especially among younger generations. At Raf Simons: skirt suit on her; skirt suit on him. At Valentino: washed taffeta in chocolate, violet and bright green on her; the same on him. At Marni, we saw giant shreddy sweaters with big flowers on both men and women. By the end of season, it had become so common, it barely registered with me. I just saw clothes». 

Inevitably this idea of non-gendered fashion weeks is also in line with the narrative of creating a more sustainable industry. According to a report by Zero to Market, around 241,000 tons of CO2 (enough to power Times Square for 58 years)  is emitted during the four weeks of fashion weeks in the major cities of Milan, London, Paris and New York. Combining womenswear and menswear seasons would mean cutting this number in half, and albeit still excessive , it would surely be a start towards change.

With this being a more clever and feasible option to slowly restart the fashion weeks post pandemic , and also being what many brands are already doing with their approach to gendered clothing, while also being a sustainable option for the environment, everything seems to be pointing in the direction of joint fashion seasons, and although it is a piece of tradition that many are still holding on to, it is impossible to ignore that this is where the future is headed. As more and more brands continue to abandon the menswear calendar to show co-ed collections during womenswear season, menswear season will soon become a myth, so why not kill it and let it die peacefully as opposed to having it drag on in the struggle to survive?