Louis Vuitton has announced that it will stage its 2019 cruise collection at the Fondation Maeght in Saint-Paul de Vence, a village in the South of France. The move towards more far-flung destinations as the venue of choice for brand's to show their pre-season collections is one that has been adopted with increased frequency over the past several years, with the Paris-based brand and its luxury/high fashion cohorts showing on-location with marked vigor.
Louis Vuitton, for instance, showed its 2018 Cruise collection at the Miho Museum in Kyoto, Japan. Prior to that, creative director Nicolas Ghesquière chose the Niteròi Contemporary Art Museum in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the Bob and Dolores Hope estate in Palm Springs, California, and the Prince's Palace in Monaco as the setting for the brand’s annual resort collection shows.
The Monaco show, which took place at the Prince's Palace (apparently it was her highness, Charlene of Monaco, who first proposed staging a fashion show for Louis Vuitton in front of the Royal Palace), was a first for the Paris-based design house, which had never staged a Resort collection.
Similarly, other high fashion houses have been hitting the road with increasingly frequency. You may recall that Italian design house, Gucci, under the direction of creative director Alessandro Michele, showed its most recent Cruise collection in the Palatine gallery of the Palazzo Pitti in Florence (He wanted the Parthenon in Athens for his Gucci Cruise show to no avail; it seems that Greece’s Central Archaeological Council is not part of the #GucciGang). Before that, it descended upon London and before that in New York. Meanwhile, Dior's creative directors, Maria Grazia Chiuri and Kris Van Assche, are fresh off two shows in Tokyo, a move meant to strengthen the brand's ties to its Japanese consumer base.
And to be outdone by no brand, Chanel has spanned the globe in the past several years, with one of its most recent locales to date being the formerly off-limits, Cuba, which set the stage for its 2017 cruise collection.
No Longer "Just" Pre-Season
The on-location announcement from Louis Vuitton is far from novel, and yet, it is interesting, as it indicative of the growing level of production that is being put into these collections, in terms of the collections themselves, as well as the staging of them.
Once merely treated as in-between collections, houses that can afford to are quite obviously looking to emphasize Resort (aka Cruise aka Pre-Spring, which hits stores in November or so) and Pre-Fall, which becomes shoppable in May - by way of runway shows. While pre-collections are often smaller and generally less extravagant than a house's bi-annual main collections, they have come quite a ways since they were shown in simple presentation-style formats. Those days are becoming increasingly more of a distant memory with each passing season.
Former New York Times fashion critic Cathy Horyn took on the topic, while still at the Times, writing: "A few years ago, you managed to survive without the pre-collection collection, and life was good." And she is right, especially considering that the once nearly non-existent pre-season calendar of shows and presentations has morphed into another full-blown fashion month, which can be hectic, burdensome, and downright tiring – to say the least.
According to the retail side of things, though, the pre-season runway show serves an increasingly important purpose. Selfridges’ director of womenswear, Judd Crane: "In practical terms, they offer a drop of 'newness' for fashion-hungry shoppers between seasons."
The Telegraph similarly explained that the pre-fall collections’ purpose directly relates to the “increasingly impatient" attitude in the fashion world, where "waiting six months between fashion shows is just not an option." Is the fashion world really that impatient? Or is it that we have learned to adapt to the frequent introduction of yet another collection?
Stand-Alone Collections, Money-Makers
A few factors and some cold hard facts suggest that pre-collections serve as more than just something to hold brands' clients over until they can shop designers' traditional collections. In furtherance of this relatively new wave of staging of and emphasis on these collections, designers are increasingly positioning these inter-seasonal collections as stand-alone collections much like their traditional collections, which is is significant. For instance, Kris Van Assche spoke of Dior Homme's Autumn collection, saying: "It is no longer like a pre-collection; it’s a freestanding collection with its own story."
Second (but most importantly), these collections are critical for brands because they are money-makers. As Horyn shared, "They’re brands' biggest sellers (by virtue of being in stores longer [than the main collections])." Michael Kors confirmed this in terms of his own pre-fall business, saying: "It has become the season when you sell the most clothes. And they're clothes that can be whatever season you want them to be."
This is particularly true even for brands whose pre-season collections are not given the runway treatment - aka for the majority of designers, most of whom find that a small presentation and a lookbook will suffice. This is because they tend to be more commercial in nature than the more risk-taking runway collections. Instead, they are garments meant to be manufactured and sold. Jennifer Sunwoo, executive vice president and general merchandising manager of women's at Barneys New York, noted that pre-collection purchases "range anywhere from 60-90 percent of the [retailer's] total order for the season."
Still yet, some suggest that these in-between collections are important opportunities for designers to experiment with new ideas. As Vogue Australia noted not too long ago, "The presentation of pre-collections are usually more conservative and intimate, and designers can gauge interest from critics and buyers for previously untested design concepts and explore burgeoning ideas."
As for the ethical implications of the coverage of these collections by the media, that is another matter entirely.