Representing the creative future

Giacomo Piazza on the end of fashion as we know it

Co-founder of the multi-brand showroom 247 on digitalisation of buying and how to survive as an emerging designer during a pandemic

What will fashion look like without travelling, fashion weeks or 40% of the existing brands? Giacomo Piazza has years of experience in fashion business from managing the portfolios of established brands such as Kenzo and Missoni to consulting and supporting emerging talent like Cecilie Bahnsen, Rokh, Area, Chopova Lowena, Charlotte Knowles and Grace Wales Bonner, helping them to navigate the system with no empty promises and away from the illusion of ephemeral hype. Balanced between the cynicism of commerce and the idealism of fair trade and ethical production, he thinks that the crisis that comes with COVID-19 will be a reset button for the fashion industry, and will create a new, intimate system, with no space for “meaningless” work.

Our editor-in-chief Olya Kuryshchuk had the chance to catch up with Giacomo Piazza over text messages and ask him how he sees the industry from self-isolation, while he is spending time at home recovering from COVID-19.

Giacomo and Fofo, reunited at home after winning a serious battle with Covid-19 💖

OLYA: Hi G! I hope you are feeling rested after a few days at home with Fofo! Let’s start with the questions! Could you explain the most major impacts of the pandemic on the industry so far?

Giacomo: Well, the pandemic has implications on all levels: Production, design, PR, sales, retail. There is not a single part of the fashion chain that will be preserved after this, we will need to rebuild the entire system. 

“We have to keep in mind that there will be 30-40% less brands in the industry, probably less retailers.”

O: Wish we had the time to dissect each issue one by one! Looking at what is closest to you – sales, what do you think might change forever after this?

G: First of all, until a vaccine comes out, or an effective protocol is applied, no one will be able to travel for a while without staying in quarantine after. Any type of gathering until September will be cancelled. We will have to adapt and create a digital experience like streaming. 

We have to keep in mind that there will be 30-40% less brands in the industry, probably less retailers. The fashion world will become more intimate and I doubt that the social media exposure will carry on as we know it.

The concept of a fashion week driven by parties and celebrities won’t exist anymore. We will go back to the 90’s in a sense. Everything will be glocal. Globalisation as we knew it is gone, so sales will have to be conducted in a different way and on a much smaller scale. Brands will be producing way less products, and drops will become more and more rare.  Sales will shift to different timings, allowing full price selling. There will hopefully be a big review of prices, making everything more human. Sustainability and real design will be boosted by this situation. I think after this, the non meaningful consumerism of expensive products will be the first to go. People will start buying in a different way.

O: I actually like the picture that you are painting here

G: I like it too

O: Do you think that platforms like Tmall, digital spaces that Chinese designers are so actively using at the moment, a format that all of us will need to embrace?

G: Honestly, no. I think DTC (direct to consumer) will be important, but I also think that relevant retailers will now have a voice and we will go back to them being considered “selectors”. 

All those social media brands, I think, will be wiped out. It is important for people to go back to buying something because they need it for one reason or another.

This is the first step towards sustainability. Disposable fashion has to end. Discounts and reselling that exist because we are overbuying shit has to end. Hype and consumerism, pushed by celebrities has to stop too. The myth of the fashion lifestyle has to end because it is pathetic and out of touch. 

“All those social media brands, I think, will be wiped out. It is important for people to go back to buying something because they need it for one reason or another.”

O: It would be incredible if we all manage in the next months to think through how the industry should evolve, as it is a unique opportunity to actually rebuild it all from scratch.

But going back to sales; June fashion week is cancelled, but presumably, sales will still happen. Can you walk us through how this will work for you?

G: We are going to launch a 247 app that will work as a digital platform for all our brands. There, buyers will always be updated on the campaigns. They will be able to book streaming appointments and everything will be linked to major order platforms such as Joor, etc. 

O: With social distancing and lockdowns, I can’t wait to see how designers will shoot their new collections for June. That will really test everyone’s creativity. The rule for success will be: If you can’t fit in your own samples, you can’t show them. 

G: Everything will be fluid. Designers won’t have to drop their collections at the same time. They will release their work whenever they are ready within each season. For now, things will move from June to September/ October as stores will be closed until May. If all goes well, stores will still have their S/S stock in full and they will try selling it until August. Postponing sales means postponing deliveries of pre-Fall and Fall. So no stores will be interested in receiving merchandise in October and November as they will be trying to sell F/W until February and avoid crazy discounts like Black Friday. 

My biggest dream is that the horrible concept of Black Friday will disappear, so stores would focus on new stock as late as possible. In general, stores will be forced to bring the seasonal fashion timeline to what it was. 

There won’t be strict budgeting, no assigned budget for pre or main collections, or coming out according to major moments of sales like Fashion Weeks.

O: What would the cons of this altered way of working be? Will this make it easier or harder for showrooms?

G: It will be different. Harder or easier, I don’t know. The reality of the market is harder. Such a new approach, in a moment like this, can lead to an even stronger reduction of orders. But again, is it really important? I don’t think the volume of sales will be important, it will be the quality that will matter – what will end up going into production and in stores. 

I think everyone overbought for seasons and seasons, not caring about the real performance of a brand and about the real margins. All the new designers from the LVMH prize; where are all of them? Most of them got killed by the visibility that the prize gave them. It is clearly an experience that failed and should be rethought. If you are producing several bankruptcies for your designers, maybe you should ask yourself if it makes sense for the prize to exist at all in a same format? Now it seems that we should rethink the whole meaning and objectives of the prize itself.

“Hype is dead. Now it’s time for real designers, with real solutions to make a healthier system.”

O: Will the way 247 Showroom works and supports new designers change?

G: We will try the most for everyone, but at the same time we have to look out for ourselves too. With our own survival at stake, my main duty is to preserve the jobs of my team and not to leave anyone behind. Cash flow will be horrible for many more months. We have to be extremely careful on how we operate. Even a healthy company like ours could die right now. We have to dedicate our energy to 247 and then try to do the most to help others if we can. 

O: What advice will you give to those running their own brands in order to minimise the hit and make sure they survive this period? Especially when talking about young brands. 

G: Do not spend money on too many developments. Make a collection that is compact. Sustainability is something that everyone should introduce in their brand narratives. This will be something that can also save them money, using stock fabrics for example. Be creative and be joyful as people will need reasons to buy. Hype is dead. Now it’s time for real designers, with real solutions to make a healthier system. Try to say something. We need something meaningful. 

O: It is great to have the time to think about stuff and not rush.

G: Exactly! I truly believe that whoever is left in the industry after this, will have 10 years of success and healthy growth.