Pre-Collections are Growing in Size & Significance

This just in: Gucci will take its Cruise collection on the road this June. The Italian design house, under the direction of newly-minted creative director Alessandro Michele, will show in New York. In doing so, Gucci follows in the footsteps of Dior, which took over Brooklyn's Navy Yard last year to stage its 2015 Resort show (somewhat of a popular locale thanks to Alexander Wang, who staged his Fall/Winter 2014 runway show there). And speaking of Dior, a week prior to the house's Resort show, its menswear devision, headed up by Kris Van Assche, showed its Autumn collection at Dior Homme's Soho, New York space.

Not to be outdone, LVMH-subsidiary, Louis Vuitton staged its own Cruise collection show in Monaco. Under the creative direction of Nicolas Ghesquière, the show, which took place at the Prince's Palace of Monaco, was a first for the Paris-based design house, which had never staged a Resort collection. Of course, Karl Lagerfeld will not be upstaged. Chanel's creative director showed the house's Cruise collection around this same time in Dubai.

Not exceptionally interesting is the increasing press/blogger attention to such presentations, as we all know there is quite a bit of commingling between objective and paid-for endorsements/reviews. What is particularly telling, however, is 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 in-between collections, houses that can afford it 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 more distant each 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 precollection collection, and life was good." According to Selfridges’ director of womenswear, Judd Crane: "In practicalterms, 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?

A few factors and some cold hard facts suggest that pre-collections serve as more than just something to hold luxury shoppers over until they can shop designers' traditional collections. Primarily, this relatively new wave of staging of and emphasis on these collections. Sure, Chanel has globe-trotted showing pre-collections everywhere from Dallas, Texas to Singapore to Versailles and everywhere in between and shows nearly 100 looks in these pre-season collections, and Dior is also no stranger to showing on location. It showed its most recent Pre-Fall collection in Tokyo, after all. But this isn't average. Prada, which shows its women's pre-collections in Milan intertwined with its menswear, is likely not even the norm, but is in on a trend. Additionally, designers'  desires to allow the inter-seasonal collections to stand by themselves much like their traditional collections 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."

Some sources, such as Vogue Australia, suggest these in-between collections are important, as they designers to experiment with new ideas: "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." And while this is true, it seems the most significant strength that comes from pre-collections is how they affect a brand's bottom line.

As Ms. 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." 

Additionally, as these collections are not given the runway treatment for the majority of designers (most find that a small presentation and a lookbook will suffice), they tend to be more commercial in nature. Yes, they are fashion, but they are not meant for show. They are meant to be manufactured and sold. Jennifer Sunwoo, executive vice president and general merchandising manager of women's at Barneys New York, told Fashionista last year that resort or pre-collection purchases "range anywhere from 60-90% of the [retailer's] total order for the season." That's huge.

However, with the rise of pre-collections and the corresponding media attention, and the benefits it provides for designers' bottom lines, also comes criticism that these potentially excessive collections merely add to the already demanding fashion calendar for designers, as well as add yet another event to an already packed schedule for fashion press. Thoughts?