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What is going on in Paris with this whole #seebuywear strategy?

Models present creations for fashion house Gucci during the women Spring / Summer 2016 Milan's Fashion Week on September 23, 2015 in Milan.  AFP PHOTO / TIZIANA FABI        (Photo credit should read TIZIANA FABI/AFP/Getty Images)
Gucci, spring/summer 2016, Milan Fashion Week (Photo credit: TIZIANA FABI/AFP/Getty Images)

If you don’t already subscribe to FashionREDEF, and Adam Wray’s witty commentary that comes atop its newsletter everyday, you absolutely must.

On news that Francois-Henri Pinault, CEO of Gucci-owner Kering, poo-pooed the see-now, buy-now model because “waiting creates desire”, Wray responded that desire follows from waiting for lunch, or a long-distance relationship, and not in the same way for luxury goods. “Desirable products create desire. Effective marketing creates desire,” he wrote.

“If you build a consistent, legible, aspirational brand image, you don’t need a six month media blitz to warm consumers up to a new collection – they already know what they’re buying into. If Saint Laurent – a Kering brand – hit the runway and the shop racks simultaneously, it would sell briskly, and Pinault knows it. His comments indicate a cautious approach to a complex, risky restructuring more than philosophical position,” Wray continued.

He ended on the idea of Pinault wanting to learn from others’ mistakes, a move all too evident from the luxury industry’s initial lack of willingness to embrace all the challenges (and opportunities) the digital era has brought. I have consistently heard – even with every new social media platform – the desire to first know which competitors are already on board before many of them have also opted to take the leap. It comes as no great shock that Burberry was one of the first major players to announce its move to an in-season consumer calendar; it has long been the first on all of these fronts, from its early uptake of all things digital, to its more agile supply chain system influenced heavily by CRM data.

Unsurprisingly over in Paris however, Pinault is not the only one thinking otherwise. The Fédération Française de la Couture du Prêt-à-Porter des Couturiers et des Créateurs de Mode is sticking by its guns and will shun the consumer-show shift too, reports WWD.

“As far as we are concerned, the present system is still valid,” said federation president Ralph Toledano.

He previously commented: “The fashion industry is a huge success, our companies are growing very healthily and business is excellent… We are not going to be ruled by technology.” Indeed, let’s not forget that for many brands in Paris, while technology is surely a consideration, such steps into embracing digital have, to this day, still fallen short of actually launching e-commerce; and this is in spite of the fact we know that digital today now influences 60% of all luxury purchases.

The thinking around whether or not to adapt Paris Fashion Week was also taken to a board of broader industry players off the back of the CFDA’s announcement in the US that it had hired the Boston Consulting Group to look into whether to make New York Fashion Week a consumer-facing affair. They included Dior CEO Sidney Toledano, Chanel’s president of fashion Bruno Pavlovsky, Saint Laurent CEO Francesca Bellettini, and Hermès executive vice president of manufacturing division and equity investments Guillaume de Seynes.

Sticking with the status quo is now also being backed by brands including Nina Ricci, Chloé, Agnes b., Issey Miyake, Isabel Marant, Balenciaga, Lanvin, Sonia Rykiel, Leonard, Dries Van Noten, Maison Margiela, Paul Smith and Kenzo.

To be fair, Ralph Toledano does go on to list a multitude of reasons why such moves are so complicated (understandably), and thus at this stage deemed unnecessary – from managing the supply chain and its purposeful scheduling, to balancing embargoes with press and buyers (although that latter part seems very do-able frankly, especially if they’re used to it in other cities).

There is no one-size fits all solution, that’s for sure. And truthfully I stand by my earlier thoughts that the industry is ripe for division into new categories, rather than all of ready-to-wear being lumped into one, as those more agile shift to a more “mass luxury” appeal.

But, it must be said, and as Wray essentially pointed out, this does also feel somewhat like another case of Paris lagging behind its counterparts, as it has done with so much of digital. The issue is, the case of waiting for the right “me-too” moment may at some point finally catch up with some of these brands.

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Comment e-commerce film

Why shoppable videos make sense for a #SeeBuyWear fashion week strategy

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In all the discussion of shifting fashion week strategies to a more retail or consumer driven calendar, one thing less discussed has been actually facilitating and measuring the shoppable element itself.

For many, being direct-to-consumer and “in-season”, means the products are available in-store or online either immediately after the show or within a period of 24-hours. Other than (hopefully) seeing sales naturally increase off the back of such launches, how do you measure which channels are making the most impact?

Are consumers watching your live stream and then heading to your flagship immediately thereafter? Have they picked up on the images from Instagram and then typed in your e-commerce URL? Same old attribution problems, different day. However, this time, the content you’re putting out really does have immediate resonance, and for once there is a way to drive not only traffic but measurable ROI off the back of video particularly.

Take Rebecca Minkoff for instance. The New York designer launched its #seebuywear strategy this week by showing her spring/summer 2016 show once again (albeit with a capsule collection of 17 new pieces also included). Certain valuable customers were invited to attend the runway in person, other VIPs were hosted in-store, and it was of course, also live-streamed online for the public to see. Needless to say, the collection was available to purchase (some items to pre-order) there and then.

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What was particularly nice however, was the literal shoppable element on its videos thereafter too. On its website right now, you can watch the catwalk collection back with “cards” sitting on top of the footage (as shown in the screengrab above) directing you to the specific product pages of the items you might want to click and buy.

Meanwhile, an additional video in partnership with Cinematique introduces a “touchable” element specifically to the accessories shown. Viewers can click on the handbags as they come down the runway to save them into a personal folder. A small symbol on the bottom right of the frame can then be clicked on at any time to open a panel showcasing each piece they saved (as shown in the picture top). From there, they can also access full e-commerce shots and the option to buy.

It’s an interesting evolution for the role of the shoppable video – once something tied to the idea of entertainment, but failing to fully resonate for the fact it clashed with the lean-back and relaxed viewing that goes with such content, rather than the lean-in and fully engaged attitude that comes with fashion week collections. Or that is certainly the hope.

Check out the Cinematique x Rebecca Minkoff experience below. And expect lots more of this sort of work to follow.

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business e-commerce Editor's pick social media

Tom Ford & Vetements’ seasonless fashion: Big change or same old same old?

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A few months ago the CFDA was discussing possible plans to turn New York Fashion Week into a more in-season, consumer-focused event on the back of the social media/live streaming revolution. We’ve not heard so much about that lately but designers seem to be going ahead and making changes anyway.

The only problem is that they’re not all making the same changes.

Tom Ford and label-of-the-moment Vetements were the latest on Friday to follow Burberry and announce a change to their fashion week approach.

Ford will show both men’s and women’s in September, which for the men’s offer is a huge change as it’s several months after the traditional timing for men’s fashion weeks. Both collections will be available straight away and will be season-neutral.

Demna Gvasalia’s Vetements label will instead show in June and January. That’s when most labels show their menswear for the main season and pre-collections for womenswear. Not sure if it has anything to do with giving him a clearer run at main season for his new Balenciaga gig, of course.

However, CEO Guram Gvasalia, told Vogue.com the brothers want to cut out the need for pre-collections, get their product on sale faster so copyists don’t get there first, and stop overproduction. That’s no surprise given how much product is marked down at the end of the season.

He also said current seasonal schedules are “insane” and damage creativity.

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Now, neither Vetements nor Tom Ford have ever fallen in with the crowd and done things traditionally, so perhaps it’s not such a shake-up as it would seem.

Burberry is still the biggest name to make this change and it would maybe take the same decision from Dior, Prada, Marc Jacobs and more, to really suggest that the rule book is being torn up in terms of show timings.

But in terms of instant delivery, that’s definitely been happening more widely. Both Moschino and Versace’s Versus have already gone down the instant availability post-show route, as have number of other labels.

Lots of fashion’s talking heads are discussing this at length but it’s still not clear how it will play out.

Maybe we shouldn’t be so concerned. After all, the oh-so-traditional haute couture has been around for over a century and has always been the ultimate in instant availability as it shows spring/summer in January and autumn/winter in July. The only waiting involved is the several weeks while the million-plus beads are hands-stitched onto your £100,000 dress.

This post first appeared on Trendwalk.net, a style-meets-business blog by journalist, trends specialist and business analyst, Sandra Halliday

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Comment e-commerce Editor's pick

Why Matthew Williamson’s new in-season e-commerce-only business plan makes sense

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Matthew Williamson is to close its flagship store in London and refocus on a direct-to-consumer e-commerce business based on instantly-shoppable collection releases.

The announcement from the 18-year-old British company might mean a big shift in strategy (presumably resulting in job losses alongside), but it’s a restructuring that makes sense. The new business model will see six collections presented a year to suit what the label calls the “buy-now-wear-now mentality” of today’s consumer. A showroom will be opened in central London in place of the store, operating as an appointment-only boutique for online shoppers.

The ready-to-wear industry today is debilitated by fast fashion retailers, but also by the ever increasing speed of our digital communications cycle. Where a six-month time lag between the reveal of the new season’s line and its arrival in stores once made sense, now it doesn’t. The social media hype of fashion week season – whether it’s a live-stream, a sneak peek on Snapchat, or a highly perfected Instagram shot – is all very well, but by the time that collection comes around, consumers have all but forgotten the excitement they once felt. Numerous businesses are trying to figure out how to address that challenge.

As highlighted by Fashionista today, Williamson isn’t the only brand to be downsizing and restrategising accordingly, nor will it likely be the last. Over the years Tibi has shifted towards an “advanced contemporary” label releasing new collections in store now about once a month; both Marc Jacobs and Kate Spade have recently announced the closure of their lower-priced contemporary lines; and Jean Paul Gaultier and Viktor & Rolf have stepped out of ready-to-wear altogether to refocus on couture and fragrances. Elsewhere we’ve seen the likes of Tamara Mellon also launch an eponymous line based on monthly deliveries and a similar buy-now-wear-now concept.

“Over the years, the industry and consumers have changed and we’re keen to address and respond to that. The aim is to refresh what’s there, and to create a lifestyle brand that we’re truly proud of both creatively and commercially,” said Williamson and the company’s chairman Joseph Velosa in a joint statement.

It’s a big opportunity for the company. While the closing of the store suggests it wasn’t performing, and the overall shift in strategy makes it clear the business is struggling, e-commerce sales at Williamson are reportedly up 290% year-on-year since 2014, only serving to highlight the fact this is a shopper increasingly willing to buy online. The idea that luxury products – Williamson’s colourful dresses typically retail upwards of £1,000 – don’t sell on the internet is of course now a giant myth.

Williamson also has a strong social media following for a small brand, with just shy of 100,000 followers on Instagram, followed by 43,000 on Facebook and 30,000 on Twitter. Its greatest success story has been on Pinterest, gaining a huge 963,000 followers in less than four months since launch.

Rosanna Falconer*, newly-promoted business director at the company, formerly communications director and the one responsible for the brand’s digital strategy, is heavily focused on channels that drive referrals and conversions on the website. Of the new plans, she added the company would continue to focus on bringing a “personal, offline experience” to its e-commerce customers. The showroom will be accompanied by the launch of a new website in early 2016 that will offer free shipping worldwide and same-day delivery in London.

At a time when established brands in the fashion industry are facing an ever-competitive landscape ripe with start-ups who have the ability to adapt at a far faster pace, those willing to demonstrate the fact they too are relevant by being brave enough to make such strategic decisions, might just be the ones who have the staying power.

This post first appeared on WGSN.com/blogs

*Falconer is also co-founder of the #fashmash events series associated with Fashion & Mash