We know fashion weeks are changing radically around us. Numerous designers have opted to shift from producing shows intended for trade, to ones that actually resonate with the consumers they’re ultimately supposed to reach.
For many, this means creating collections that can be bought in-season: a see now / buy now strategy, as it’s largely being called. But others are doing something different again: some stepping out of the fashion week race altogether, others merely changing the time of year the collections are shown instead.
At this point, the result is a bit of a muddle – a variety of strategies that may or may not work. Safe to say, where leaders including Burberry, Tom Ford and Rebecca Minkoff are stepping, numerous others are waiting in the wings to see what sticks before figuring out if they too will join the (r)evolution. The question is, will the traditional Parisian houses go there?
Here’s a round-up of all the changes so far:
UPDATE FEB 19: Mulberry
Mulberry is the latest to outline its plans to more closely align runway with retail deliveries. Ahead of its return to the London Fashion Week schedule with new creative director Johnny Coca this Sunday, the brand announced it will showcase part of its Fall 2016 pre-collection on the catwalk to tap into the idea of providing product that can be bought much sooner – it will drop in stores in April. CEO Thierry Andretta said the move will short-circuit the production of cheap high-street copies, allow retailers to sell original designs at full price and give customers quicker access to new products.
UPDATE FEB 12: Tommy Hilfiger
Hot on the heels of other big name brands listed below, Tommy Hilfiger has also announced a direct-to-consumer shift. It will kickstart such plans with its TommyXGigi collection, with supermodel Gigi Hadid, in September 2016, before moving to a full in-season and shoppable consumer show in February 2017. As BoF highlights, this is no small undertaking for a brand with over 20,000 points of sale, more than 1,500 stores and distribution in 115-plus countries. In fact, 60% of the company’s sales come from wholesale. It will accommodate those lead times with private appointments for trade in September. “When the collection is on the floor, there is going to be an incredible amount of excitement that normally happens six months earlier,” said chief marketing and brand officer, Avery Baker.
UPDATE FEB 12: Proenza Schouler
Proenza Schouler will make eight of the looks walking in its New York Fashion Week show next week, available to buy in its own store in Manhattan within 24-hours. Clients will also be able to pre-order other pieces. The designers call it an experiment as this point, in that they’ve manufactured limited quantities in advance, but something they’re looking to expand on. “We’ll see how this performs and take it from there,” said one half of the duo, Jack McCollough. “If it’s sold out a week after the show, then we’ll definitely push it further.”
Burberry is shifting its fashion week calendar and supply chain so it shows in-season in both February and September (starting September 2016), and its collections are available to buy “immediately” after they’ve appeared on the catwalk, both online and in-stores. Chief executive and chief creative officer, Christopher Bailey, said: “There’s just something that innately feels wrong when we’re talking about creating a moment in fashion: you do the show in September and it feels really right for that moment, but then you have to wait for five or six months until it’s in the store… You’re creating all this energy around something, and then you close the doors and say, ‘Forget about it now because it won’t be in the stores for five or six months’.”
Tom Ford originally cancelled his fashion week show in favour of one-on-one appointments with press and buyers this season, before opting to shift the entire plan to September when he will present both women’s and menswear for autumn/winter 2016. It will also be available to buy on the same day. “In a world that has become increasingly immediate, the current way of showing a collection four months before it is available to consumers is an antiquated idea and one that no longer makes sense,” Ford said. “Showing the collection as it arrives in stores will remedy this, and allow the excitement that is created by a show or event to drive sales and satisfy our customers’ increasing desire to have their clothes as they are ready to wear them.”
In a bid to capture consumer appetite and enable immediate purchases, Rebecca Minkoff (as pictured) will show her spring/summer 2016 collection during New York Fashion Week this month – that’s the same one (plus a few extra pieces) that she already put out in September. About 30-50% of the audience will be comprised of “everyday” consumers too. This catch-up season will then enable her to continue on a direct-to-consumer model with her autumn 2016 line. “Now all of a sudden, the Super Bowl [of shows] twice a year actually becomes an actual buying and retail celebration and festival, versus just a big tease,” CEO Uri Minkoff said.
Misha Nonoo hit the headlines last season for her “Instashow”. While she has something similarly different up her sleeve for this coming week, she is otherwise also following suit and skipping a traditional show format until September 2016 when she will begin to show in-season for consumers to view and shop.
After just four seasons showing as part of London Fashion Week, Hunter is stepping away from the catwalk entirely this season, and instead focusing wholeheartedly on exploring and amplifying its music festivals opportunity. It will hold multiple global customer-facing moments during 2016, according to a statement. Detail is yet to emerge, but safe to say real integration with festivals, as well as shifting the model in terms of when and how consumers have access to product will be the priority. “Continuing our commitment to innovate, now is the time to push things further. At this time within our industry, the moment is right to change things up and, as a brand, Hunter can do just that,” said creative director Alasdhair Willis.
Matthew Williamson left London Fashion Week earlier in 2015 to move to a new model of six collections a year to suit what it calls the “buy-now-wear-now mentality” of its consumer. It closed its flagship store and opened a showroom in its place to operate as an appointment-only boutique for online shoppers. Business director Rosanna Falconer says it was a move that made enormous sense for shoppers. She was frustrated by the fact she used to be presenting images on social media fit for spring and frequently receiving comments back from fans referring to the fact it was cold outside, for instance. “It was so simple for the shopper; it just didn’t make sense. There’s nothing worse than feeling like you’re pushing something onto a consumer that they’re not ready for.”
One of the latest announcements comes from Vetements. In a slightly different move, it will show (and produce) just two collections a year, and will do so in January and June, rather than in March and October (as Paris Fashion Week falls) to coincide more closely with pre-collections. The intention of doing so is to align with the fact a bigger portion of retailer’s budgets are spent on such lines, and they get more time on the sales floor before being discounted. For now it will still operate on a long lead-time of circa six months but the plan down the road is to swap the seasons over and deliver product by February for instance. “To reach this result, the whole production will have to be pre-produced. It means each piece in the collection will be part of a limited edition. No restock. One delivery. The true definition of luxury is something that is scarce. It would be nice to give luxury back its true meaning,” said CEO Guram Gvasalia.
BONUS: Karl Lagerfeld
In conversation with WWD, Karl Lagerfeld said he’s not against changes to the fashion system “if the future goes in that direction”, but that he would never do it the same way. He said companies that produce complex garments and use special materials would need to “make two collections — one immediate, and one available in six months. It’s a way to do the future and the present. It’ll just mean a little more work, ha ha ha”. He also noted that delivering clothes several months after their unveiling is not necessarily a bad thing. “There’s also the excitement of waiting for something,” he said.
And so the conversation continues…