Technology has changed everything we used to know about the fashion industry. Now Fashion Week, or rather Fashion Month, is intensely broadcasted through social media, news publications and blogs. Street style images, interviews with designers, live streaming and Snapchat videos give the public a play-by-play of each show. Readers, industry professionals and media struggle to keep up with the pace for the entire week and are left overwhelmed. Now designers of couture houses are leaving after a few years due to all the stress and burnout. The whole process has sped up so consumer demand is now immediate. With the influx of technological advancement, the industry and consumers are confused. What is happening to fashion? Why are we not maintaining consumer needs? The industry has two problems: how to publicize for their brand and get their product to consumers now.
Decades ago fashion already felt fast paced and consumer-based. Even in the 1970s, designers like Oscar de la Renta and Yves Saint Laurent could tell the future of fashion was in ready to wear. Today, fashion is influenced by street culture and as a result, must cater to the consumer. With the influx of technology, fashion has become faster and more overwhelming, even for the most creative talents. Now designers produce about six shows per year, and if they work for another brand, it can be around ten. Some are finding the media and the financial pressure a burden on their creativity. Designers like Raf Simons and Alexander Wang left their highbrow couture positions after only a few years due to burnout. They also had very little time to get acclimated to their positions, a picture which was painted from Simons’ experience in the documentary Dior and I. “When you do six shows a year, there’s not enough time for the whole process, you have no incubation time for ideas, and incubation time is very important," said Simons to New York Magazine.
Aside from burnout, these shows are presented six months prior to their product’s arrival in stores. Despite all of the planning, money and creativity that was spent developing the perfect show, it loses the consumer’s attention with time. For six months consumers have been bombarded with the same images, that one Gucci dress that everyone likes on Pinterest. Once it arrives in stores, they are tired of it, no matter how much they liked it before. However, they do like it enough to buy a reimagined, knockoff from Zara or Topshop. “With the current system and the way it is, the only people who benefit are the people who copy it,” said Diane von Furstenberg to Women’s Wear Daily.
Last December, the Council of Fashion Designers of America proposed a new idea to fix what they called a “broken system”. They proposed changing the schedule of shows so that designers would present clothes that were already in stores. The old six-month show cycle was confusing for the public. They saw new designs all week and wanted to buy them immediately. With this new method, designers could use shows as an advertising tool. In return, consumers could get excited about new designs and could purchase them right when they needed them.
This solution would account for today’s consumers who are not thinking about the next season, they are wondering what they should wear this week. “In a world that has become increasingly immediate, the current way of showing a collection four months before it is available to consumers is an antiquated idea and one that no longer makes sense,” said Tom Ford to Women’s Wear Daily.
Many designers are beginning to change their cycle to these “consumer shows” that will have high paying clients on the guest list rather than industry professionals. Some brands like Proenza Schouler said that they would not release any images of their Pre-Fall 2016 collection, or allow outside photography until the items arrived in store.
Fashion on Speed
By Allison Oberlin
Illustrations by Alissa Pivaral
Originally appeared in Ink Magazine Volume 8 Issue 2
Brands that produce consumer driven shows are being referred to as “show-now, see-now, buy-now, wear-now” companies. They hope it will fulfill the consumers growing desire for immediacy. Brands that have transitioned to this method include Burberry, Tom Ford, Versus Versace and Thakoon. However, not every design company is changing to this system. Some, like Rebecca Minkoff, are increasing the number of customers invited to shows to 30-50 percent of their audience, reported Women’s Wear Daily.
The old show system has been in place for decades and this new system is a drastic jump for consumers. Burberry devised a way to make the transition easier for customers. In February they showed their Fall 2016 Ready to Wear line in London. After the show, the brand put the entire collection on display at their Regent Street flagship. The line will be displayed in their Paris store next and will be available for pre-order in both cities. This means that their clothes will officially hit shelves in the fall, but as a part of their transition to “see-now, buy-now”, they can still profit off of the initial reveal. Their line also featured some menswear. This is another shift in the cycle, as some designers consider combining menswear and womenswear into one show. Many reporters cover both menswear and womenswear, so it makes sense to combine the two. This will save the company money from producing two different shows and journalists money on travel expenses.
The new proposal is a bit controversial for the industry as well. Despite the burnout, many designers are concerned that the schedule change will further speed up the system. However, the only other option for remedy is limiting media access. This may work for a few shows, however not in the long run. Media is the public’s primary source for information and without any coverage, the brand will be forgotten. Technology may be exhausting but it is vital for maintaining a competitive brand. “Expanding the number of eyes that can see a collection is definitely good for increasing the designer’s message and helping enhance brand awareness and visibility,” said Ralph Lauren to Women’s Wear Daily.
The fashion industry appears to be experiencing an identity crisis amidst the quickening pace of technology. Alber Elbaz, who recently left his position as creative director of Lanvin last October, wonders if fashion is becoming a source of entertainment. This is especially true for newer brands who need to make a statement to attract attention and develop their brand. “Today, I have a feeling that people come to see a show or they see a show on the Internet, and they’re looking for entertainment. Are we turning into an entertainment business? Is that the fashion business … I feel that today in order to have a voice, it has to be loud. You have to be loud, otherwise you cannot exist,” said Elbaz to Women’s Wear Daily.
To many, fashion is considered an art, the way it follows trends and caters to the changes in a culture. However, the fashion industry is also a business, focused on pleasing the consumer. The future of fashion is uncertain but the success of a brand or designer will depend on how well they handle change. Those slower to adapt may fall behind, and those like Versace, who evolve with the consumer, will flourish.