January 10, 2013

It was just announced that Chris Benz, the maximalist designer with the flaming pink hair, will be skipping this coming New York Fashion Week in order to take some time to restructure his business. “We have received great feedback from the marketplace after just one season,” the designer told WWD. “I want ample time to implement all that we have learned.”

The news is disappointing to Benz fans but doubtless he’ll be back in fuller form within a few months. As the space between seasons continues to shrink—Women’s Pre-Fall 2013 is running now at the same time as London Men’s Fall 2013, which will segue to Milan and then Paris Men’s Fall 2013, which will then swing right into Couture, and then, after a two week break, it’s on to New York for Women’s Fall 2013 and then back to London and then Milan and Paris and suddenly it’s March—as this commercial calendar makes it so that it is always fashion week somewhere in the world, I can’t help but wonder: why aren’t more designers dropping out like Chris Benz? We’ve lost Helmut Lang and, for a while there, Tom Ford to the uncompromising rigors of the high fashion schedule. To demand creatives to produce, not just two but now, with Resort and Pre-Fall as new market standard, four collections per brand per year, on top of accessories and whatever else, seems unduly rushed and unsustainable, for both mental health and creative freedom. It means that those who can keep up will succeed.

I’m wondering what great design we are missing out on, the stuff that comes from slow thinking. I worry for the inevitable burn-out of great talents. The big whine, though, is that we don’t need all this material. The market is overloaded; flash sale warehouses are stuffed with designer remains. We are making and making and making so fast we barely have time to enjoy the products of our labour. I’m not sure if this is what Chris Benz is experiencing, but I hope a new generation of designers will recognize their right to slow things down.

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