It seems just a short time since fashion industry insiders gathered together to watch the Fall 2020 collections walk the runway in early winter. So much has changed in the past few months and many of those same industry leaders have stepped into action to help.

LVMH, the luxury goods company that owns global brands like Christian Dior and Louis Vuitton, have re-purposed their ateliers to manufacture “alternative non-surgical face masks” and hospital gowns. And, according to Forbes, “is using its supply chain to source 40 million face masks from China.”

Kering, whose brands include Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent, committed to “sourcing three million Chinese face masks” for France’s health services and have rallied its brands to produce face masks and medical overalls.

Here in the United States, the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) launched a new project with Vogue’s Fashion Fund called “A Common Thread” to raise funds and greater awareness for the American fashion community members who have been affected by COVID-19. And fashion houses, like Christian Siriano, Nordstrom and Vince, have shifted their workshop to much-needed mask-making initiatives.

There are many other examples of brands, large and small, donating funds to relief efforts as well. Too many to list here, but the message is clear. The fashion industry has heeded the call to help.

It seems almost trite to look back at the Fall 2020 collections as our world has changed so much, but there are some interesting lessons to be learned when looking at the shows in the context of what we know now.

Mr. Siriano as mentioned before is now in the business of mask making to protect frontline workers. Based in New York City, he was one of the first designers to publicly announce the stopping of his clothing production to shift focus to medical supplies needed for COVID-19 efforts. Just a few months ago, in early February, the designer showcased his Fall 2020 collection to a packed crowd in the Big Apple.


Christian Siriano is a well-established designer in the American fashion industry and his creations are seen very often on red carpets here and abroad. He is known for his glamorous gowns and over-the-top yet always spot-on elegant aesthetic. His runways shows have become a celebration for body inclusiveness where models of all sizes walk the runway in his latest pieces. This show was no different on that point.

It was a standard runway show for the designer with one major twist – it was sponsored by the movie “Birds of Prey” – the Harley Quinn-helmed action movie starring Margot Robbie. The theme mainly took shape in the form of the strong hair/makeup looks on the models and in the décor as set pieces were specifically brought in from the movie production. Plus the first half of the show featured many a model wearing chokers clearly inspired by Ms. Quinn.

While Mr. Siriano has a knack for infusing his collections with color, Fall 2020 seemed a bit different. While his past few seasons played on pastels and jewel tones, some of this season’s color choices were electric especially when seen in contrast to his gunmetal gray looks. Perhaps these were homages to the movie heroine more so than a new direction for him. We will have to wait to know for sure.

And, as this collection moved into its finale-caliber runway looks, the feeling went from high-end red- carpet to sculptural works of art. Mr. Siriano created three stunning architecturally cut gowns which, when modeled by the likes of the fashion house’s muse Coco Rocha, turned the runway into a walking art exhibit. As beautiful as they were, and they were certainly stunning, one can’t help be reminded of French designers who have shown similar aesthetics on the runway in the past.

Overall, the collection was interesting and, under normal circumstances, would set the stage of what we may be seeing at movie premieres and awards shows going into the fall season. However, these are not normal times and it’s an opportunity to look more at the major plot point mentioned earlier. The show was actually sponsored by a movie.

With some research, it’s still not clear if a runway show had ever been sponsored by a major motion picture and perhaps there may be a reason for that. Should fashion as an art form be influenced by commercial endeavors?

I’m not sure. Looking at the collection without the “Birds of Prey” theme in mind, some pieces seemed out of place and not in Mr. Siriano’s aesthetic. Harley Quinn is the princess of punk rock and Christian Siriano is not who one would consider as a punk rock designer. Did he change his design philosophy to fit a movie theme or did he use it as an opportunity to step outside his proverbial design box? Only he knows for sure.

Fashion, like every major industry on the internal stage, has been greatly affected by the events of the past few months. From retail stores closing – temporarily or perhaps permanently – to designers furloughing workers, the industry as we knew it during the Fall 2020 runway season will never be the same.

Will sponsorships like the one seen here be a way for designers to be financially able to put on runway shows in the future? Will fashion need to become even more commercialized to stay viable in these unsteady times?

Anna Wintour, the editor of fashion tome “Vogue” has a different thought. When speaking on Naomi Campbell’s YouTube show, “No Filter with Naomi,” she said,

“We are all in agreement that we need to show less, that we need to have more of an emphasis on sustainability and we need to have more emphasis on luxury and creativity and craft. We needed this terrible event to make us understand that it’s not about needing to change, we have to change, we are going to change. I think it is an opportunity for all of us to look at our industry and look at our lives and rethink our values, and to really think about the waste and amount of money and consumption and excess, and I obviously include myself in this, that we’ve all indulged in and we really need to rethink what this industry stands for.

 So maybe commercial approaches to the industry are not the new wave of fashion. Maybe it’s taking a mindful and precise look at what this industry stands for and how creating sustainable fashion is better for, not just the industry itself, but our world as a whole. We’ve as a species have been wearing clothing for longer than fashion weeks have existed. Perhaps now is the time to redefine the industry’s role in this rapidly-changing world.

–Jennifer Perusek

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