Saint Laurent, Gucci and Balenciaga are sitting out fashion week again

They’re joined by Alexander McQueen and Bottega Veneta, leaving big, Kering-brand-shaped gaps in the Milan and Paris fashion week schedules.

by Mahoro Seward
22 February 2021, 12:02pm

Saint Laurent AW20. Photography Mitchell Sams.

As you’ll no doubt have noticed from the recent flurry of lookbook shots and stylish short films on your feeds, fashion month is well underway. Things look a little different this season, though -- firstly, it’s all screen-based, with not a single physical show in sight on account of the… well, you know. The formats have changed, too. New York Fashion Week has rebranded as ‘The American Collections’, and London Fashion Week, currently ongoing, has staged it’s first gender-neutral edition, showing menswear and womenswear collections on the same schedule.

Perhaps the most noticeable changes, though, are to be felt on the continent, with the two major European fashion capitals’ schedules missing some of their biggest names. That’s because Kering’s roster of houses have opted to step back from the official fashion week circuit once again -- meaning no Gucci or Bottega Veneta in Milan, and Saint Laurent, Balenciaga and Alexander McQueen-shaped gaps in Paris.

The news isn’t entirely unexpected, with each of the houses notably absent from the official SS21 schedules, choosing to present on their own terms, in their own time. Gucci, for example, has gone entirely seasonless, revealing their latest collection, Ouverture Of Something That Never Ended, in a seven-part series co-directed by Alessandro Michele and Gus Van Sant. Digital shy Bottega Veneta showed their SS21 collection back in October in an intimate salon presentation at Sadler’s Wells in London, while Balenciaga has, in fact, already presented their AW21 collection, which was brought to us in the form of ‘Afterlife’, a fully-fledged video game.

Indeed, in times when direct communications between brands and their audiences is increasingly crucial, these industry titans’ decision to dip out of packed digital schedules and create moments that are entirely their own makes sense. If you’re going to go to the effort of creating a whole video game to show a collection, for example, you’re damn well going to want to be sure that people have the time to engage with it when it drops. Still, against the backdrop of an ever-mounting number of brands big and small deciding to forgo digital fashion weeks and go it alone, the continued absence of some of the world’s most widely adored fashion brands from official schedules only adds to the question marks around the role and purpose of fashion week in a post-pandemic world.

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