VETEMENTS and Tom Ford join Burberry to reject show system

In the age of Instagram-fuelled instant gratification, designers are turning away from an archaic model – but what does it all mean?

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Backstage at VETEMENTS SS16
Backstage at Vetements SS16Photography by Pierre-Ange Carlotti

Big changes are coming to fashion. On Friday morning, Burberry revealed that it is doing away with its current fashion show model in favour of one that focuses more closely on closing the window between the runway and delivery to stores, and other brands are quickly following suit. On Friday alone, VETEMENTS and Tom Ford both revealed that they will follow untraditional runway show/retail models in the seasons to come. Ford, who debuted last season’s womenswear collection in a video, announced that he will stage his Fall/Winter 2016 men’s and womenswear collections in September, closer in time to when the garments would traditionally be available for sale. 

VETEMENTS, one of the hottest young brands to come out of Paris in recent years, has not only shunned pre-season collections but is taking its off-beat approach a step further beginning in January 2017. The label, which is under the creative direction of Demna Gvasalia, will show its women’s and menswear offerings together in June and January, right in between the seasonal men’s shows and women’s couture shows. Gvasalia, who also now holds the title of creative director of Balenciaga, said that showing outside of the traditional main season schedule will solve an array of issues associated with the production cycle. It’s clear there’s change afoot – but why now, and what does it all mean?

“We spend an enormous amount of money and energy to stage an event that creates excitement too far in advance of when the collection is available to the consumer” – Tom Ford

Considering that Burberry and its chief creative and CEO, Christopher Bailey, have been at the forefront of both technological collaborations and business strategy development (think: combining the CEO and creative director role, for instance), we probably should have seen this coming. As of September, Burberry will show two “seasonless” collections per year – one in September and another in February, as opposed to its usual two shows per year for womenswear and another two for menswear. The newly revamped collections will feature both men’s and womenswear, but will lack the specific Autumn/Winter and Spring/Summer seasonal ties. Most importantly, instead of a six-month window between the runway show and delivery to retail stores, the collections will be available for purchase in store and online immediately. Likewise, Tom Ford’s collection will be available online and in stores on the same day the show. As a result of the change, Ford has cancelled his previously scheduled F/W 2016 show, which was slated to take place later this month.

Friday’s announcement comes after widespread reports of discontent in the fashion industry in connection with the “broken” system of showing collections on the runway months before they are actually available to purchase in stores. A number of brands, such as Moschino and Versace, have begun offering for sale capsule collections directly after their runway shows – to immediate success. Moreover, a number of New York-based menswear brands, including Nautica, made their AW16 offerings available for purchase directly after their New York Fashion Week: Men’s shows this week. Still, Burberry is the first to launch a complete overhaul.

Speaking about the Burberry’s decision to shake up its show model, Christopher Bailey said that despite live-streaming the brand’s shows since 2010 and staging large-scale runway events, the company still feels disconnected from shoppers. That is largely because brands’ attempts to reach a broader audience are being lost on consumers as a result of the timing, particularly, the six-month gap between shows and retail deliveries. Tom Ford echoed this sentiment on Friday, saying: “We spend an enormous amount of money and energy to stage an event that creates excitement too far in advance of when the collection is available to the consumer.” Put simply, it’s confusing to customers to see collections on Instagram that aren’t actually available for months. In a world where yesterday’s news is today’s ancient history, who says anyone will still want that dress Gigi Hadid wore half a year ago?

“The once invitation-only fashion show has become something of a form of entertainment... But brands have to close the loophole that is not allowing them to meet many consumers’ need for instant gratification”

As we have seen in recent years, brands are cultivating their runway shows to look and feel more like engaging productions than simple runway shows or presentations. Whether it is the casting of social media’s favorite models or the one-off decampment to a different city (a la Givenchy SS16) or the imaginative sets (Tommy Hilfiger’s SS16 show was complete with a makeshift lagoon, for instance), brands are vying for the attention of more than just the fashion press and buyers. Paired with the rise of social media and of live-stream capabilities, the once invitation-only fashion show has become something of a form of entertainment and brands are hoping that by playing into this, they will walk away with new consumers. But they have to close the loophole that is not allowing them to meet many consumers’ need for instant gratification.

Burberry has certainly gotten the ball rolling, and taken together with the fact that fashion’s most famed creative directors are growing tired of the sped-up cycle and the resulting lack of creative freedom they are able to exercise, this is likely just the beginning of a larger revamp of the industry and its schedule. Fashion consumers (particularly those of the millennial and Gen Z breed) are only human and as a result, they desire instant gratification, which is something that until very recently, only fast fashion retailers were providing. It seems time that the fashion industry catches up in order to make the most of their collections and the often-extravagant runway productions that come right along with them.

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