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Can Designers Afford to Ignore the Traditional Fashion Calendar?

by , 03/20/13   filed under: Ask a Designer, Features

Tara St. James, Study NY, eco-fashion, sustainable fashion, green fashion, ethical fashion, sustainable style, Ask a Designer

Photos by Graeme Mitchell

You know you have a good idea when you start telling people about it and they nod their heads giving you the sense they’ve had the same idea. Admittedly, I’ve had my fair share of bad ideas over the years, but 2013 found me learning to trust my instincts more. As a result, I’ve decided to make a major change to Study NY’s business model. I’ve been turning this thought over in my mind for the better part of three years, and after showing my Spring/Summer 2013 collection this past September, the persistent nagging in the back of my mind finally persuaded me to make the change.

Tara St. James, Study NY, eco-fashion, sustainable fashion, green fashion, ethical fashion, sustainable style, Ask a Designer

AGAINST THE GRAIN

Study started, as most fashion brands do, by joining the traditional fashion calendar. Designing one year or more in advance, showing the collection to buyers six months before each season, shipping spring styles when it was still snowing outside and fall styles when everyone just wanted popsicles and sprinklers. The calendar never made sense to me, and while I continually questioned it, I never thought I could challenge it. Until now.

The calendar never made sense to me, and while I continually questioned it, I never thought I could challenge it.

The new plan is to release a capsule of three to four styles every month of the year. Although each lineup will exist independently of the others, they’ll also be cohesive in nature, creating a seamless—and complete—“collection” at the end of the year.

This strategy will allow me more freedom with the design and development of individual pieces, which can stand alone rather than be tethered to a collection. Doing so will also allow me to expand my production outlets, since each capsule can focus on a different theme, say rainwear made from recycled plastic bottles in New York City for the month of March, hand-knit sweaters produced by a women’s cooperative in Peru for October, or custom-printed zero-waste styles for December.

Tara St. James, Study NY, eco-fashion, sustainable fashion, green fashion, ethical fashion, sustainable style, Ask a Designer

SLOW BUT STEADY

Design, development, sales, and production will take place over the course of a two-to-three-month period (depending on specifics of each capsule). Study will continue selling wholesale to boutiques and directly to customers via online outlets, but I’ll also introduce a preorder model so consumers can become part of the production process.

My goals:

  • To create a complete wardrobe at the end of the calendar year, devoid of frivolity or excess, while still producing new clothing (a slight oxymoron, I know).
  • To work closer to shipping dates in order to respond to market demands, store needs, and my own personal instincts
  • To generate more regular cash flow for both myself and the retailers.
  • To offer fresh styles during months when stores are no longer receiving collections.
  • To provide work for sample rooms, factories, and vendors during the “off-season” calendar when they’re less busy.
  • To increase flexibility in my own design schedule.

Ironically, this new model follows the same calendar used by fast-fashion megabrands such as H&M, Zara, and Topshop, companies I deem responsible for the demise of consumer recognition of quality and longevity in clothing.

By following their models and only producing what I believe to be necessary each month, the goal is to reeducate the consumer about consumption—a strange approach by a designer and business owner who depends on the purchasing power of customers.

But these conversations are for another time.

+ Study NY

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One Response to “Can Designers Afford to Ignore the Traditional Fashion Calendar?”

  1. FactoryLA (@FactoryLA) says:

    Tara, in all that you do, you demonstrate that a more efficient and higher quality fashion production is possible in the USA. Thank you for moving us all forward!

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