You really do have the license during fashion week to wear the things that you wouldn’t necessarily wear to dinner, because it really is a fashion parade. —Brad Goreski
We’re now less than two weeks from the start of New York Fashion Week and I’m not sure at this point whether to bother consulting the schedule or not. Normally, shows would be pretty much locked down by now. We would have a good sense of the schedule and could begin preparing for where we need to be at any given moment. Not this season. At least, not yet. I suspect the calendar will straighten itself out eventually, but there are some big names still missing and some will stay that way.
Fashion week as we knew it a year ago no longer exists. Everything is in a state of flux and it is this season that is seeing a lot of the transition that is likely to become the norm for coming years. Digital media and online buying having taken over. With that comes a complete change of attitude, strategy, and availability. What we once expected from a fashion week just doesn’t happen any more. This is the season we start making that shift and it’s making more than a few people uncomfortable.
What We Know
Without going into any boring detail at this point, here are some of the changes we are aware of:
- Kate Spade is not doing a show this season at all. This is so she can align her collection next season for see-now, buy-now strategies.
- Misha Nonoo is doing her show exclusively on Snapchat. She’s also cutting all her wholesale connections and moving to a direct-to-consumer model.
- Public School isn’t showing until December, on the pre-collection schedule.
- Vivienne Westwood and Gucci are just a few of the designers combining men’s and women’s collections.
The waves of change are all over. Even how sets are constructed and shows are structured is changing. We’re expecting far fewer traditional runway shows this season. Who gets invitations and who doesn’t, who sits where, and what is allowed into a venue is all different than it was last season. Very little of what one expects from fashion week is staying the same.
Consumers Want Current Season
Folks in Italy may have to do some backtracking on their February statements against current-season show strategies. They came our pretty strong against the concept last season and Italian designers seemed to largely agree that shows needed to stay a season ahead of retail. Consumers, however, seem to have other ideas.
A report was released this week by Verdict Retail showing exactly the opposite of what the Italian Fashion Council wants. 85.6% of shoppers say they want to shop current season and support a see-now, buy-now strategy. 85% is a scale-tipping number. Labels can either get with the program or suffer the consequences of continually declining sales.
Unpredictable weather and social media are the primary culprits behind this change in consumer expectations. When everyone around the world can see a collection the instant it walks, the demand to have that collection now increases significantly. With weather often blurring the lines between seasons, a heavy coat is appropriate for summer as much as s short shorts are part of the winter collection.
The other aspect that is spurring changes on fashion runways is the fact that luxury labels are having difficulty keeping up with discounters and outlet stores that are digging into their profits. Large department stores such as Macy’s and Nordstrom are having to run sales 50% and even 75% off in order to compete with the likes of H&M. This leaves designers increasingly narrow margins and effects how they approach fashion week.
Even discounters, though, may soon face declining sales. A Moody’s retail analyst told Bloomberg TV this week that consumers make $80 billion in interest payments on student debt each year, leaving them with increasingly less expendable cash during that time of their lives when they should have the most money available to spend. Gen-X and older Millennial shoppers are having to adopt a more frugal spending plan. Historial studies show that once such a mindset is established, consumers typically don’t change habits even when they do have more money
This leaves luxury labels looking for new ways to entice cash- and credit-strapped shoppers. Traditional runways are not selling the clothes as effectively. Fashion week is, in some cases, too old school to hold the effectiveness it once did. Labels are actively seeking alternatives.
Hang On For A Wild Ride
We’re expecting even more shifts and changes as we get closer to the September 8 start date of the season. We’ll do our best to keep up with the most important. Stay with us.