A little more than a week ago, an article was published by WWD on how the Council of Fashion Designers of America has hired Boston Consulting Group to re-think the calendar and dynamics of the fashion industry, in particular the fashion shows. It’s an excellent read, which we tweeted on Twitter (follow us here) with many insights from industry professionals. What has changed everything is social media, as you can see images and videos of collections up to six months before they hit the stores, and buy cheaper copies from fast fashion brands, while the originals are being produced. By the time these original items hit the stores, most consumers are so tired of looking at them, that they aren’t interested in buying anymore. Winners: fast-fashion brands. Losers: Ready-to-Wear/Pret-a-Porter brands. What will happen, and will it be the end of fashion shows?
If we look at history, small in-house presentations were made for an exclusive circle of clients in the days, when Pret-a-Porter (PAP) wasn’t born yet, and only haute couture was around. This was for the clients to order, and they were rightly the first to see. Then in the 1960s PAP was born, when Pierre Cardin made the first PAP collection for the Printemps department store in 1959, and Yves Saint Laurent opened his first PAP store with clothes in different sizes in 1966. As PAP took over and almost entirely replaced Haute Couture, and fashion became something for the Middle Class and the working woman, the system was entirely changed.
Inserting the retailer into the equation, and separating the direct link between fashion house and final consumer meant that the buyer of the retail outlet would need to see the collections before the final consumer in order to chose what to buy for their store. The way this was done was with fashion shows followed by a buying season, where you visited the brand’s showroom – just as we know it today. After the buying season, the brand would collect its order and go off to produce, and the goods would land in the stores about six months later, and just in time for a new season to begin.
All this worked well, until the World Wide Web (WWW), fast Internet connections, social media, and accessible smart phones came around, or – in essence – technology. To put in short, as also written in the first paragraph, this means that we’re no longer excited, when the final designer pieces arrive in the stores, as we will have looked at it online for six months, and potentially bought a copy by a fast-fashion brand. That calls for action, and it’s a moment for reflection, and innovation of how we adapt to the new situation, and create a system that’s still exciting for the consumers and fair to the businesses.
In the WWD article, a lot of prominent designers are mentioned on how they try to adjust to the new situation, but it’s not only the big fashion houses that are aware of the need to change. Also smaller brands are experimenting with showing to the public instead of only the industry, having installations instead of shows etc., and often having a smaller budget, as many new brands do, will automatically spark the need for innovation. Most likely, we will soon see a variety of new formats and how big established brands and upcoming designers co-exist without all trying to have the biggest show with the most celebrities. It may not be the end of fashion shows, but changes are definitely on their way.
Fashion is the epitome of change, something new and reinterpretation, but we should not limit this creativity and focus on the actual product. Much rather should we consider the product and system in a holistic way, and remember that fashion is rooted in values, intuitions, creativity, and expression. What is interesting, and I’m prone to say much more than the actual product itself, is the surrounding universe of formats.
It’s starting to be hard to get really excited about a new designer bag, as we have seen millions of them, but getting excited about a brand, who has values such as eco-coolness, and transparency, translated into light-weight clothes with a slim silhouette and presented on new-face models in a non-fashion-show, now that’s exciting. That is not because, we have too much clothes, have seen it all, and because fashion is dead, but rather because we start to genuinely care about the values and experience of the company, and because we desire something unique with a distinct personality and way of doing things. For the sophisticated consumer, buying into the fashion industry as it is today, is just not so fun or cool anymore. It’s time for us to re-think and translate the uniqueness of brands into a full-circle experience of the consumer – as well as making it the USP of the brand itself.
Images are from HAN Kjobenhavn fashion show.