The autumn/winter 2016-17 season is over and, unsurprisingly, the main subject was the change in the fashion calendar. New York and London are willing to turn the shows into a consumer event and are already counting on Tommy Hilfiger, Rebecca Minkoff, Tom Ford and Burberry, among others, adopting the new format. Milan and Paris, as we could foresee, don’t want changes – which is ironic because they host the biggest brands, the ones that can do whatever they want in terms of production.
Personally, I don’t see the main issue as the precedence of shows but the retail launching dates. For years I’ve been questioning why spring/summer is released in the colder months and autumn/winter in high summer. It’s still freezing cold in most of the Northern Hemisphere, but since early February the windows are dominated by pastel colours, floral prints and soft fabrics. Does it make sense? Of course not! If we think about brands with global distribution, inevitably they will offer products with weather discordance. The most reasonable thing to do is to focus on a mix of products compatible with all seasons because the reality evidences that people buy out of necessity (if it’s cold we want coats, when is hot we’ll buy sun dresses). Who really has time to plan and buy a new season wardrobe in 3 months in advance? I want to meet these people!
Leaving the weather discussion behind, turning runway shows into “see now-buy now” events have serious implications for the industry. First, buyers still need to see a collection beforehand to place their orders. Magazines also need to borrow pieces to shoot editorials, which doesn’t happen overnight. So, the solution is to keep showrooms in the usual dates to buyers and editors/stylists? By the way, they will be forbidden to post a single picture online? How brands are going to do that? Everyone will sign a confidentiality agreement? And when the show takes place, they all are going to be invited to see it again, with the risk of having a completely different impression? Watching a model on a stage, with lightning and soundtrack is an ocean apart from seeing clothes in a rail.
Finally, I wonder if the change will only benefit the big players. I don’t doubt Burberry’s show in September, in which the pieces will be immediately available to purchase, is going to be a commercial success. Besides the newness, the event will be surrounded by meticulous marketing and PR actions. Nevertheless, how small companies will cope as they rely on different suppliers and produce following the wholesale demand – from where the majority of sales come? How they will afford a drastic change in production schedule?
Apart from being an industry based on change, fashion doesn’t like it and usually takes a while to give in. The only sure thing for now is that it is necessary, but not everyone needs to jump in. This whole discussion is revealing many options to be explored and the urgency to focus on building relevant brands, be it releasing before or during a season, be it investing in digital channels to show a collection or even trying new retail formats. Maybe relevance is the key word here as the X factor lies on the excesses and not in the way they are presented to the market. I believe consumers are willing to wait a few months to purchase a memorable piece. The problem is that, nowadays, very few of them are actually memorable.
Photos: Prada and Marc Jacobs autumn 2016 (americanvogue.com)