Alejandra De Coss on Digital Showcases and Sustainability

12 Aug 2021
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Save your Wardrobe is in conversation with Mexican designer Alejandra De Cossto discuss her experience of the Covid-19 pandemic from the vantage point of over a year on. Upon the cancellation of Mexico Fashion Week in March 2020, Alejandra was asked to submit a short film of her collection. The resulting ‘Isolation Diaries’ is a five minute showcase of the collection as an exploration of seven moods that reflected seven days in isolation.

Georgia Taylor-Stidwell: Alejandra, thank you so much for speaking with me today. Could you tell me about what happened around last April – when you had to move your practice online?

Alejandra De Coss: It was actually even earlier than April when we had to change everything. At the beginning of March, we were planning to present at Paris Fashion Week as part of a showroom. We were already aware of the situation with the pandemic, but obviously no one had predicted how big the impact would be.

At that point, we were due to feature our collection at Mexico Fashion week in a few weeks time. As more and more shops were closing, we were unable to source fabrics. We were suddenly very aware that we would not be able to go ahead with a runway. We had to change our plans incredibly quickly. We hugely reduced the collection, and we had to source everything we used locally. We originally tried to make 17 to 20 looks, but with such limited resources and being unable to see each other in person to sample it all, we really had to reconceptualise the entire process of finishing and showcasing a collection.

That being said, good things did come out of this creatively. We managed to create six to seven looks with which we tried to tell a story;  the model or the photographer shot the entire film together in their apartment. The film is authentically seven looks to seven moods, and they were acting out their reality in their own apartment. This definitely grants the film a real authenticity and relatability. The experience of being isolated in your apartment for a long period of time is almost a universal one now: something we have all had to come to terms with.

“The film is authentically seven looks to seven moods, they were acting out their reality in their own apartment”

The concept for the film came completely from our own experiences early in the pandemic. As I said, since we had been expecting to exhibit on a runway at Mexico Fashion Week, we were expecting to showcase the clothes and that be that; we weren’t expecting to have the opportunity to tell a story. We realised by presenting a short film, although we would not be able to show the details of the clothes in the same way, we would have the opportunity to reach a far greater audience in that the film was to debut live on YouTube. 

G: Did you find this way of showcasing your collection creatively freeing?

A: It was a very challenging time, especially as it was such a quick turnaround! That being said, it was fun. It gave us the platform to tell the story of the collection in completely our own way. When you do a runway there are lots of established rules. It has to be done in a certain way, with a certain number of models, and you are given a very specific timeframe to fill. You have ten minutes, and then that is it. So in the film, we wanted to focus more on the mood with the change in presentation style. We recognised that, in the short video we were producing, we would not be able to show all the details. However, we substituted that out with the emphasis on creating a mood in a way that a runway show simply would not have allowed. The film showed a different narrative about the clothes and their place in the tumultuousness of the early pandemic world.

G: We now operate in such a digital world. Zoom is the norm for us all. I wanted to ask how the increased digitisation has impacted your practice?

A: It has actually had a positive impact for us. The increased digitisation has, in many ways, opened our eyes to how well suited the medium is for buying and selling clothes. In Mexico, online shopping was not such a big thing; the pandemic really changed that. Since everything was forced to be digital, and everyone had loads of time suddenly, shopping became a 24/7 activity. Parallel to this, the past year has really been a time to think about how much we all need – and coming to the realisation that we do not need as much as we think. For us as a brand, we realised that we do not need to offer twenty different items per collection. We need to reduce and focus on what we do best and really solidify our distinct brand by specialising. 

G: I think this is going to be a trend going forward. Downsizing on consumption has been a trend for a while now, but the pandemic has definitely accelerated things. What are your visions for the fashion world post-Covid?

A: As a designer, it is really important to be aware of your personal buying habits. This is really important to understand what the customers of our brand want. So I really think about the things I want to buy and subsequently the things I keep for many years. I have been reading about how this is happening in big brands as there are calls to abolish the fashion seasons; to me, this makes a lot of sense. When you are an independent designer, trending pieces are not the most important thing. It is more important to build a coherent brand and foreground your specific creativity whilst promoting quality and longevity for your garments.

Smaller independent designers could really be a force for change – to focus on a smaller number of speciality pieces. Being pushed by the industry into doing seasons and having to showcase a certain number of garments sometimes means losing sight of what the consumer actually wants. I don’t see this trend of scaling down going anywhere any time soon. I think it is likely here to stay. However, I hope that bigger brands and smaller independent brands like myself can work together for a more sustainable post-Covid fashion world.

If you haven’t yet, we are currently challenging you to declutter your wardrobe and make the most out of your clothes! Check out last week’s blog!