The Paradox of the New Fashion Calendar
There has been much noise surrounding Burberry and the disruption of the traditional fashion calendar, since Christopher Bailey’s announcement pre fashion week season. But what has changed exactly, and is Burberry the first to challenge the seasons? The rise of digital in the last few years has dramatically altered the fashion week landscape— from its original concept as a designer showcase for buyers and press to preview and dictate a collection, to being blown wide open, giving an all-access pass to the public. Fashion week now gives the essence of inclusivity to the digital audience, moving away from the stigma of snobbery aimed at a privileged elite. Brands are dangling the Buy Now button over live streams to the Millenial, but more notably to the Gen-Z audience. The change in pace has given fashion week a new identity and has the potential to alter the luxury market as we know it.
Fashion shows and the traditional fashion calendar, as we know them, no longer work in the way that they once did… 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. Showing the collection as it arrives in stores will remedy this, and allow the excitement that is created by a show or event to drive sales and satisfy our customers’ increasing desire to have their clothes as they are ready to wear them. — Tom Ford
While Burberry is the largest fashion house to announce its alterations, we have already seen Tom Ford and Vetements shake up the calendar and declare season neutral and gender neutral campaigns. In an effort to drive immediate sales, brands are forced to reflect the needs of a global, digital audience with collections made available to buy directly from the runway. Whether it’s Mischa Noonoo’s shoppable Insta-show, or Rebecca Minkoff’s #SeeBuyWear Cinematique Rebecca Minkoff experience, designers are cleverly seizing the fashion week buzz to monetise on their live stream shows directly with the consumer.
However, with the new calendar, the evolution of the seasons has come full circle. Fashion week shows are broadcast like a TV shopping channel, ‘See Now, Buy Now’ for the mainstream audience, while the fashion elite; the buyers and long-lead press are being re-invited and re-established as the elite in exclusive private viewings of collections before they reach the digital realm.
Speaking to BoF of Burberry’s changing timeline, Christopher Bailey said that the brand’s wholesale buyers would be invited to a private viewing of the collection as it is being created, months in advance; ‘This stuff will be embargoed for a while, but we want you to come in and see it, feel it, try it on’. This is where the paradox comes into play. The timing may have shifted to suit the immediate purchases of an audience buried in imagery and brand content, but the privileged will be restored to their front row seats, despite the best efforts of designers such as Ida Klamborn and her #DemocraticFrontRow, to remove the middle man. Larger design houses who maintain important relationships with long lead press and wholesale buyers are quietly reinstating the power to the fashion elite behind the veiled cloak of the all-access Buy Now fashion week.
Fashion week becomes a luxury shopping channel and the fashion elite are reinstated as the guardians and purveyors of the collections. The fashion channel hotline may run cold when the doors to previews are closed to journalists, bloggers and fashion enthusiasts who have become accustomed to their fashion week privileges. Will the allure of the collection previews for the elite make the now-mainstream fashion week look cheap? Will buyers and editors-at-large attend fashion week at all? Will show standards and creativity suffer?
While chasing the trust of a Millennial and younger Gen-Z audience for a future of brand loyalty, are design houses leading luxury fashion into an abyss? How fast can fashion leap into the digital fray before it becomes a stampede and all we hear is white noise. If the price of luxury has to gradually fall for its young target market, will that bring about a day where Céline becomes COS?
When buyers and editors-at-large report on their exclusive viewings and reveal that there are ‘better’ shows made for the elite, what will the celebrities say?!
And the circle is complete.
Until, of course it starts again!