As more and more designers break free from the traditional fashion calendar, major fashion capitals around the world are forming clear stances on whether or not they’ll adopt the idea.
American and British brands seem open to change, with major companies Michael Kors, Alexander Wang, and Burberry moving towards consumer-facing shows, while fashion industry bodies in France and Italy have openly rejected the idea.
“The reality of buying directly from the runway is coming and social innovations are becoming a must in the fashion community,” said Mei Pritchard, senior art director at creative agency Lloyd&Co, whose clients include Calvin Klein, Gucci and Tom Ford. “Yet, high luxury brands have become successful because of the exclusivity and secrecy they embody.”
While there are always exceptions to the rule, here’s a quick rundown of the four approaches:
The American approach
A number of major U.S. fashion brands including Tom Ford, Rebecca Minkoff, Alexander Wang and Michael Kors, are bucking the trend of traditional shows, opting for ones aimed at consumers and in some cases, a see now, buy now model.
Diane von Furstenberg showed her spring collection at NYFW tailored to Instagram and Snapchat. In an interview with Elle, von Furstenberg said she believes more designers and brands will create presentations to show collections, rather than structured fashion shows.
“The impact of digital and social media definitely puts a lot of pressure on brands and designers to create beautiful, ‘buzz-worthy’ shows and garments, and the key is for brands to find the right balance between having an online presence and oversaturation,” said Inii Kim, creative director at luxury e-commerce firm King & Partners, which has designed digital properties for fashion brands, including Elie Tahari, Kenneth Cole and Mulberry.
Kim said New York designers in particular are really embracing change. “We are seeing that New York designers, known for simpler, more straightforward presentations and limited venue choices, are exploring different ways to create buzz and reach wider audiences.”
The British approach
English brands including Burberry and Mulberry — as well as the trade groups representing them — are open to exploring change, too.
The British Fashion Council’s CEO, Caroline Britt, gave a nod of approval to Burberry’s move to see-now-buy-now system, in an interview with the New York Times, saying the council believes more consumer-focused shows can generate more sales.
British designer Paul Smith is also breaking out of the mold, combining his design teams and slimming his collections to two lines only. He will also release both men and women’s wear together, four times a year. He told Business of Fashion his business has the ability to break out of a formula, which some brands are locked into. “We’re completely aware of what we’re doing. It’s not scary, it’s just a readjustment.”
The French approach
Meanwhile in France, fashion industry representatives are saying “non, merci” to giving the fashion calendar a shake up.
A task force made up of heavyweight luxury brand executives from Dior, Yves Saint Laurent and Chanel, has said the country will stay with tradition and the French Federation’s president, Ralph Toledano, told WWD while other countries may be driven by consumer-shows, the present system is still valid and the period between showing collections and their availability to the public is vitally important.
“Many of Europe’s top designers haven’t been quite as open to the idea of see now-buy off the runway,” said Chris Paradysz, founder and CEO of PM Digital. “Kering CEO Francois-Henri Pinault, said ‘it’s a negation of dreaming, of desire’.” But it is shoppers’ habits that Paradysz said need to be kept in mind, “Luxury brands have always been smart at creating a sense of exclusivity, but it needs to align with the psychology of today’s shoppers. Especially for the luxury customer, the mentality is that, ‘if I can get a private plane or jet on demand to anywhere I want to go right now, why can’t I have that incredible dress I just saw in Burberry’s latest Runway collection?”
The Italian approach.
The Italians don’t appear to be saying “ciao” to tradition, either.
“New York has always been the land of branding and marketing,” Carlo Capasa, president of Italian Chamber of Fashion, told the Associated Press. “We and France are more the area of creativity and manufacturing.”
But there are exceptions to the rule. Moschino, who does have a New York based creative director, Jeremy Scott, made a small number of items available both online and in stores following shows. He told the Observer, “We are in this moment where people don’t want to wait, everything is so instantaneous.”
But maybe those sticking to tradition will be re-joined in the not too distance future. Mei Pritchard at Lloyd&Co questions whether shows aimed at consumers will last. “It’s such a cyclical industry in so many respects, and I imagine this open door policy will soon hit its breaking point and return to a more intimate experience, to belonging to the people who really want it to be special.”