Burberry wants to get more out of its London Fashion Week show taking what is traditionally a 15-minute-long runway, and extending it into a weeklong event at London’s Makers House that brings to life the ideas and inspiration behind the collection.
The show, which is the brand’s first straight-to-consumer collection that features men’s and women’s collections together, will include art exhibitions and activities, theatrical performances, as well as a pop-up shop. It’s a move that signals how designers are shifting from a traditional fashion show, and approaching them in more consumer-facing ways.
In collaboration with The New Craftsman, a network representing more than 75 furniture, jewelry and textile makers, among other skills, Burberry’s heritage archive team will present key moments in the brand’s history. Each day, actors will perform short theatrical readings, with a focus on Virginia Woolf’s novel “Orlando,” one of the main themes behind this year’s collection. Sculptors, silk-screen printers, patchworkers and painters will offer demonstrations of their crafts and visitors will also be able to shop Burberry’s more than 250 items, all week.
The runway show will be live streamed on the brand’s website, on Facebook Live, YouTube and WeChat, the Chinese messaging app through which consumers will also be able to shop the collection. The brand is also using Facebook Messenger to offer customers live customer service during the show.
Offering performances, history lessons and tutorials is one step further than other brands have gone, said Tony King, CEO and creative director of King & Partners. “Teaching the consumer about craftsmanship, the skills, the way the collection is made and designed is quite novel.”
King said a weeklong event based on experiencing a brand lends itself well to more established fashion houses like Burberry, Ralph Lauren and Chanel for example, because of their history, but he added Burberry’s CEO and creative director is a key driving force. In terms of digital, the event will provide a week’s worth of social media content for its platforms, from Facebook to Instagram and Snapchat, and Burberry will be hoping visitors will create a social media buzz around the event, in a similar way “Tommy Pier” helped Tommy Hilfiger to be the most mentioned brand on social media during NYFW, according to BrandWatch.
The move by Burberry is part of a wider shift occurring in the fashion industry. Brands are moving away from traditional “out of season” collections to be more streamlined with consumer shopping trends: in-season shopping and purchasing directly off the runway. New York Fashion Week, which wrapped up last week, was one of the most diverse the industry has seen. Designers like Thakoon offered his collection as soon as it was seen, Alexander Wang’s collaboration with Adidas was immediately available after his show, and perhaps the biggest shift from tradition came from Tommy Hilfiger, who transformed Manhattan’s Pier 16 into “Tommy Pier,” a carnival-themed party and fashion show.
However, a change of production schedules and business models is not cheap, or quick, and one of the greatest challenges facing brands moving to consumer-forward shows and schedules is actually getting consumers to shop upfront. Burberry is betting big and investing in social and digital media.
“See-now buy-now offers a solution to a problem that designers have been trying to grapple with since the digital boom, but it remains to be seen if it’s actually a worthy investment for sales or just another flash in the pan for the press,” said Elizabeth Elder, research associate at L2.