Earlier this week, the hardest working guy in fashion announced that, on doctor’s orders, he is taking three months off from fashion, and will miss the Off-White women’s show in Paris as he remains in Chicago for the next few months. “Ultimately,” he told Vogue.com, “everything is fine, but the doctor told me ‘this pace that you’ve sort of pushed your body—to fly all these miles, do all these different projects—is not good for your health.’”
Around the same time as Abloh’s announcement, Kith showed a collection that celebrated the never-stop-working mentality that Abloh perfected, going so far as to arrange the show around a series of fantasy jet rides around the world. (Abloh, Vogue noted, takes eight international flights a week.) While men’s fashion has glamorized that lifestyle—truly, what is cooler than being flown around the world to share your talents?—it’s notable that the godfather of the movement is now saying it’s too much.
For nearly a decade, designers have complained about the pace of producing multiple new fashion collections a year; Raf Simons cited it as a reason for his departure from Dior, and John Galliano told Ingrid Sischy that his infamous Paris rant was spurred in part by substance abuse, itself fueled by the pressure of juggling multiple brands with multiple collections and pre-collections. It’s possible that the fashion industry can make marginal changes to ease this concern: Abloh said that he was essentially canceling all his “marketing events,” and that his Paris design team was more than equipped to handle the Off-White collection. Other designers, like Kerby Jean-Raymond of Pyer Moss, are experimenting with showing less, producing less clothing, while Noah has long encouraged its customers to buy less. But largely, that conversation had centered around women’s fashion, which has a more relentless pace than men’s.
For better and/or for worse, women’s growing interest over the past few years in health—more specifically wellness and mental health—has overlapped with fashion; e-commerce sites often sell Rachel Comey skirts and Ulla Johnson dresses side-by-side with powders and pills meant to make customers feel less tired, more energized, or just plain calmer. In part this is because women are more comfortable buying stuff to fix our problems, whereas men are taught to work them out (often, literally, at the gym).
Abloh is one of the most directional designers on the planet—meaning everything he does, from the stuff he sends down the runway to the way he lives his life, tends to get imitated. How will the trend complex take up his admission that the pace of fashion is too demanding, and a higher premium should be placed on mental health and wellness? It’s a cynical question. But fashion, especially over the past year, has gotten serious about adopting social and political concerns as brand values, with results that have ranged from questionably slick to believably earnest. The planet is burning up? Let’s tout our environmental bonafides. Runways aren’t diverse enough? Fill them with designers and models who look more like the real world. Burnout is real? Maybe menswear will try to solve this one, too: Take some time off.