If at first you don’t succeed… so much for skydiving. —Henny Youngman
My reading list is full. My to-do list is packed with confirming sources I’m going to need over the next month. There is shopping to be done. We’re low on chocolate and there’s no way we have enough coffee to last through the weekend. The September women’s ready-to-wear fashion season is upon us. While NYFW doesn’t officially start until Thursday, my work begins tomorrow. If I’m going to succeed in providing Pattern with the best possible reviews, I need to be on top of my game right from the beginning.
Why am I starting a day early? Because this season is different. Normally, I’m rather selective in choosing which shows to watch and review. That hasn’t exactly changed, I’ll ignore more than I watch, but the criteria is different. There are players making a shift in the fashion week agenda that could end up dramatically impacting the entire industry. Regardless of how I might feel about some of the styles, I have to pay attention.
What’s happening is that a significant number of designers are moving to a see-now, buy-now model. Instead of consumers having to wait six months before the clothes on the runway are available in stores, many labels are making their clothes available immediately. You see something you like on the runway, swipe your card, and it’s yours. While the concept sounds simple enough, the change is severe and there’s no guarantee it will succeed.
Something Had To Give
Not everyone is on board with this new concept. The Italian Fashion Council outright denied any support of see-now, buy-now and Italian labels have largely followed that philosophy. In New York and London, however, the idea has caught on and is getting a lot of attention. Luxury brands in both countries have been struggling to keep their heads above water the past few years. Everyone acknowledged that something had to be done, but no one was quite sure what.
When Rebecca Minkoff and others first announced that they were shifting to an immediate-purchase model, there was a collective gasp throughout the industry. How could designers source materials and change production schedules to meet the requirements of a current-season collection without risking millions of dollars? After all, everyone knows that not everything that makes its way down a runway is consumer ready. The six-month difference allows for revisions as buyers place their orders. Real-time runway sales eliminate that safety buffer.
Consumers, however, never really understood the reasons for delay, especially since fast-fashion shops such as H&M and Zara churn out whole new collections every few weeks. Demand for current-season shows has been growing the past few years. So, a significant group of designers are giving it a go. The big question on everyone’s mind, though, is will it succeed or be a flaming disaster?
More Than One Path
While several designers are giving see-now, buy-now a try, almost none of them are taking the same approach. At 10:00 AM Wednesday morning, Misha Nonoo will be taking to the streets of New York to show her fall/winter collection. If you want to see it, you’ll need to be watching Refinery29’s Snapchat, though. The event is not streaming anywhere else and will only be available for 24 hours.
Tom Ford, who brought major attention to the movement when he announced in February that he would be waiting until this week to show his fall/winter collection, presents his runway tomorrow as well. However, you’ll be staying up late to watch it. Preshow starts streaming at 9:15 PM EDT. That likely means that the actual presentation won’t start until 10:00 or later. I know we’ll be making sure to get a nap in tomorrow afternoon so we can be alert. You can watch the show on Tom Ford’s website.
Another major US adapter is Tommy Hilfiger. I’m accustomed to Tommy’s show hitting mid-day, normally near the time I’m thinking about lunch. This season is different, though. The runway presentation moves to 7:00 PM EDT and is part of a two-day event that includes games and carnival rides. I don’t even want to think about the price tag on this one. How can this approach possibly succeed?
Tommy Hilfiger’s chief marketing and brand officer Avery Baker tells Business of Fashion:
It’s hard to say, because it’s not an apples to apples comparison. Because of the shopping elements and all of the interactive aspects that go way beyond just that moment of the show and relate to collections that will be for sale for the next several weeks, it’s not easy to make a direct comparison. Yes, it’s an increase from where we were, but in terms of exposure and partnerships and platforms, it actually will go significantly farther.
All We Can Do Now Is Watch
In many ways, consumers are getting what they’ve wanted. There’s more spectacle, fewer industry-only events, and more creative experimentation than we’ve seen around fashion weeks. In my memory, I can’t remember a season that was more eagerly anticipated by the public. There is a tremendous potential lurking in the next several days.
Still, despite all the effort and creativity, there is no guarantee that any of it will succeed. The danger of immediate availability is that if customers don’t like what they see, especially if shopper’s favorite fashion bloggers pan a collection, they won’t buy. There’s no six-month gap to help them forget how much we didn’t like the clothes. Inventories end up sitting in warehouses rather than making their way to retailers or online customers. Millions of dollars are at risk and the whole thing could end up going right down the toilet if customers don’t respond.
So, I’ll be on Snapchat at 10:00 in the morning. I’ll take a nap and be watching at whatever time Tom Ford decides to unleash his presentation. We’ll try to be judicious and fair in our reviews on Pattern. The rest is up to you. Buy. Don’t buy. The entire fashion industry is watching.