16 collections went down the runway last week for the ’14-’15 spring/summer edition of LIF Week If there was one big takeaway from the event it’s that the designs presented are unquestionably ready-to-wear in concept and availability. Specifically: ready to wear in as short a time as two days after they hit the runway.
Andrea Llosa the Peruvian designer par excellence of a refined yet edgy urban jungle uniform quickly announced after her Tuesday LIF Week presentation that her fans would be able to shop the collection that very Thursday.
Similarly, Jessica Butrich’s colorful California poolside ensembles will be for sale starting November 29, just as summer hits full stride.
*What makes LIF Week different from fashion weeks around the world?*
Unlike most fashion weeks around the world, LIF Week was conceived to show in-season collections, instead of six-months (one season) in advance. Many factors contribute to the possibility of this fashion week model to work, and the raison d’être behind it (so says the event’s creator and organizer Efrain Salas) is to boost sales of Peruvian-made fashion.
Without a complex system of fashion press and fashion retail, there is no need to set aside weeks after the shows for fashion critics or buyers to preview the clothes before they are produced and shipped in the ensuing months.
Gone are the so-called market days, where buyers from major retailers look twice at the collections before deciding on what they will order for their stores. Gone, too, are the press days where fashion editors from major magazines visit designer studios, then regroup with their team to brainstorm the concepts behind the fashion stories that will grace the pages of their magazines in six months.
Simply put: the time set aside after a fashion week for fashion insiders to decide what the major trends will be for next season is obliterated, simply because the trends are already ingrained in the clothes. This structure of simultaneously designing and producing a collection can be both a blessing and a curse.
_One of Jessica Butrich’s pieces at LIF Week spring/summer ’14-’15 (Photo: Hillary Ojeda/Peru this Week)_
The garment manufacturing system in Lima is so well established and accessible to any designer that it’s possible for Jessica Butrich to have designed her spring/summer collection five months ago then have it produced during the time leading up to its presentation and ready to be purchased right after, as she explained in an interview.
*LIF Week: A new way of doing fashion?*
For an incipient and fashion-hungry market like Peru’s growing community of _fashionistas_, this in-season model works well because it immediately satisfies all cravings. Similarly, it greatly withers the marketing and public relations efforts that go into promoting a new season’s collection: the presentation is all the promotion the clothes need.
The most important month-long fashion week circuit (as the powers that be have made it) just ended in September. Starting in New York, then moving on to London, Milan, and ending in Paris, the (northern hemispheric) spring/summer ’15 collections left fashion enthusiasts around the world excited and expectant for the season to come.
In the time being, before the clothes that graced the runways of the four major fashion capitals of the world are available to purchase, fashion enthusiasts will be entertained by Instagram snaps taken by photographers who are on-location shooting a fashion editorial for the all-important March 2015 issue of Vogue (for example) or, perhaps, will get clues as to who will be the celebrity who stars in, say, Chanel’s spring/summer ’15 campaign.
This waiting game, as crucial as it may be for manufacturing and distribution purposes of multi-million dollar brands, also serves the purpose of weeding out the good from the not so good. The crucial post-fashion week months allow global fashion experts to digest the collections, understand their place within the cultural zeitgeist, and their ultimate market value.
What happens, then, when the established process is flipped on its head? What to make of the fact that Peruvian fashion becomes fast (immediate) fashion? There’s no question that with talent, designers can produce something unique, thrilling, and out-of-the-box, ready to be presented on the catwalk with enough confidence to know that it will also sell directly afterwards.
However, the big problem, or curse, for LIF Week designers, as I see it, is that the immediacy that they have to work with inhibits them from taking too many risks in their designs. Case in point: every show that was part of LIF Week. There was no innovation, no new anything: all the presentations were a reiteration of global fashion trends that can easily be sold off the racks.
The question, then, becomes: Is Peruvian fashion, as it exists under this platform, a step ahead of everyone else or is this model sidestepping crucial steps that are needed to build a Peruvian fashion industry that is not only relevant in the country but also globally?
_Andrea Llosa’s collection at the fashion week (Photo: Erick Andia/Peru this Week)_
On the one hand, a designer like Andrea Llosa – with her very covetable see-through loafers and biker jacket vests this season – is able to sell her collection because it is well made and unlike much else available in Peru. This is great for sales, and great for the fashion market in Peru. But, can she really compete within a saturated global market? Can the very on-trend designs shown at LIF Week be anything else but ready-to-wear?
The one exception to the collective LIF Week ready-to-wear spirit was the collection presented by Jorge Luis Salinas The designer presented his spring/summer collection for Emporium, his mainstream line, on Tuesday, showing looks that capture the spirit of what the majority of young women in Lima wear.
_(Photo: Percy Ramirez/El Comercio)_
On Thursday, he presented a line of avant-garde wedding dresses inspired by his parents’ 50th wedding anniversary, for his namesake label. The very concept and production of this collection made it the antithesis of ready-to-wear. The looks were draped and folded into grand and voluminous wedding gowns, the paper-like fabric laser-cut into snowflake-esque works of art.
The fact that Jorge Luis Salinas has been able to build a trend-driven brand like Emporium into a moneymaking machine, has allowed him to be more experimental with his own namesake label, to the delight of fashion enthusiasts although not very market-friendly. Noe Bernacelli has opted for a similar route: he shows his made-to-measure line during the fall/winter season while opting for a ready-to-wear line for spring/summer. The more accessible line, NB, is filled with references to global trends: boxy crop tops, silk pajama tops, iterations of the Celine winged handbag, pinstripe coordinates, and designer sweatshirts.
Peruvian fashionistas are in love with the NB collection (as Instagram can prove): it allows women to feel stylish while also being able to promote Peruvian-made fashion. What remains to be seen, however, is whether the LIF Week collections will attract consumers away from what the fast fashion chains like Zara or Forever 21 can offer. The big problem with the in-season model is whether the designers are able to find the right balance between retail-friendly and creative design, without falling into the trend-driven mindset. LIF Week does fashion differently from other fashion weeks around the world. But, is this a good thing?
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