Will Fashion Weeks Become Shoppable, Consumer-Friendly Events?
Maybe—but not in France.
BY MATT MILLER | Feb 25, 2016 | Fashion
Consider the following scenario: It's fashion week. You're online or scrolling through your various social feeds, checking out photos of the new collections. You see a bomber jacket that's so damn good you've got to have it. You go to the designer's website, and it's nowhere to be found.
It sorta ruins the whole compulsive spirit of shopping, doesn't it? It almost makes you not want to buy it the following season when the thing is actually on retail shelves. It's a problem brought on by the increasingly immediate nature of fashion show coverage, and it's something certain trade organisations are trying to address.
In an effort to make events more compelling for consumers, some brands and organisations in fashion capitals like New York and London have started toying with idea of retooling the traditional fashion week formula. In December, the Council of Fashion Designers of America announced it was exploring the idea of converting to a "buy now, see now" fashion week model, which would turn NYFW into a consumer event featuring in-season collections that are already for sale. This would replace the current formula, which has designers revealing clothing that will hit retailers the following season.
"We have designers, retailers, and everybody complaining about the shows. Something's not right anymore because of social media, people are confused," Diane von Furstenberg, chairman of the CFDA, said in December. Brands like Burberry, Tom Ford, Tommy Hilfiger, and Mulberry have already announced a shift towards a more consumer-focused strategy.
In France, though, The Fédération Française de la Couture du Prêt-à-Porter des Couturiers et des Créateurs de Mode (say that one time fast), isn't interested in changing a damn thing.
"We have a common position on this issue. What is Paris? Paris is undisputedly the fashion capital of creation," federation president Ralph Toledano told WWD. "As far as we are concerned, the present system is still valid."
French runway shows will continue to take place a season before retailers are selling collections, which Toledano argues keeps the focus on the clothing, rather than the event.
"It's a promotional tool some companies use," Toledano said of the customer-facing fashion shows. "When I think of those marketing-driven brands, the idea of opening shows to the public and adding entertainment might make those events more interesting from a consumer point of view. The product might not be the centre of the event. I think it makes absolute sense for those brands."
While this would shift the focus of fashion week events to the general public, no one's quite sure of the potential impact on the industry itself. Retailers typically go on market appointments to view and buy upcoming collections, and members of the press often do private viewings to get acquainted with new designs. These sorts of behind-the-curtain showings wouldn't be abandoned—you need some lead time to take orders and produce the actual clothes, for one—but they would have to take on a new air of secrecy.
See, from a brand perspective, it doesn't make much sense to do a big fashion show designed for the general public if images of the collection found their way online months prior. And according to Toledano, waiting for in-season shows to reveal and sell designs could increase the risk of imagery getting leaked. (Though, as Fashionista points out, the film industry does a pretty decent job of keeping things under its hat for months at a time.)
The Fédération Française includes representatives from Dior, Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent, Nina Ricci, Hermès, Chloé, Agnes B., Issey Miyake, Isabel Marant, Balenciaga, Lanvin, Sonia Rykiel, Leonard, Dries Van Noten, Maison Margiela, Paul Smith, and Kenzo. And surprisingly enough, especially considering the number of players in the mix, the decision to nix a consumer-focused fashion week was universal.
What's that mean for other fashion capitals like New York, London, and Milan? Well, next time you see that awesome bomber jacket on the runway, you might be able to buy it right away. Or perhaps not. We'll just have to wait and see.
Published in Esquire US.