Since Burberry announced in February that it would adjust its runway-to-retail model to get a hold on the sped-up seasonal cycle and to better meet the demands of consumers, no shortage of other brands have adopted similar changes – many of which will put variations of See Now-Buy Now into action this season, thereby allowing consumers to shop runway looks directly after the runway shows and not up to six months after the fact.
Alexander Wang, for instance, announced that it will incorporate the See Now-Buy Now concept into its shows. Olivier Rousteing announced that Balmain will adopt a form of See Now-Buy Now for upcoming collections. Tommy Hilfiger, Michael Kors, Vetements, and Tom Ford, among other brands, have announced similar plans. As of this week, Tom Ford, Tommy Hilfiger and Thakoon have already introduced See Now-But Now collections.
Topshop, which appears to be the most aggressive adopters yet, will offer select pieces from its "September 2016 collection" for sale immediately after the presentation during London Fashion Week on September 18 right at the show venue, as well as at select Topshop stores around the world and online. The rest of the collection will become available in November.
Interestingly, even Prada and Louis Vuitton have introduced this sped-up selling strategy to an extent, with Louis Vuitton introducing Resort-specific bags on the heels of its show in Rio in May. In February, Prada joined in on the trendy new retail model – which Versace and Moschino have been experimenting with for several seasons now – by offering two new styles of bags at selected stores shortly after showing them on the runway.
Others have resisted. Designer Ermanno Scervino said in March that his clothes take time to make and he has no plans to follow other labels selling their items straight off the catwalk, effectively bridging the traditional six-month runway-to-retail gap. "It is not for me, it is not for (products of) excellence," Scervino told Reuters. "We have long (designing) time frames. I am not interested." He joins New York-based Jason Wu and Paris-based Rick Owens, who are also shunning the push towards faster fashion, as well as Francois-Henri Pinault, chief executive officer of Gucci-owner Kering SA, who has said the See Now-Buy Now notion “negates the dream” of luxury.
Amidst all of the changes – they are not limited to See Now-Buy Now, as they also include moves to include both womenswear and menswear on the same runway and move away from runway shows altogether in some cases – and the distinct camps of “those in favor” and “those who are opposed,” it seems apt to ponder whether See Now-Buy Now is really the solution that the fashion industry is so desperately craving in light of much talk to the topic of the “broken fashion system.”
On the heels of its announcement that it would be the first house to alter the runway-to-retail timetable in an effort to close the 6-month window between the runway show and when consumers can actually shop those looks, Burberry showed its Fall/Winter 2016 collection in London in February. As promised, directly following the show, the iconic British brand began offering looks from the runway for sale. The only problem was: While you could technically shop the looks right away, your purchases would not be shipped for 12 to 18 weeks, making the change little different from a Moda Operandi pre-order type service.
As for the other brands that have adopted See Now-Buy Now to date, such as Prada and Moschino, only very small selections of goods – 2 purses in Prada’s case – were offered as part of the See Now-Buy Now collection. If this makes you – the skeptics among us – think that the See Now-Buy Now tactic might amount to little more than a bunch of hype aimed at achieving press (and thus, the attention of consumers), you are not alone. On the heels of the Burberry announcement in February, A.P.C.'s notoriously outspoken and unapologetic founder, Jean Touitou, sounded off on See Now-Buy Now, calling it "a trick for press." He elaborated saying: "The big houses, they are totally disorganized, they don't know how to take risk, they are too big. It will happen one season, two seasons, they will have a lot of leftover stock and then they will switch to another idea. I swear. Believe me."
Touitou might not be too far off base. It seems that the fashion industry is happy to jump on board with fast fixes, at least as of late – whether by tapping into “Insta stars” to help with falling magazine sales or staging over-the-top runway shows to attract the most media and consumer attention, or promoting runway-to-retail changes in hopes of reaching new, younger consumers – in order to avoid really going back to the drawing board and upping the ante in terms of the quality of output.
It is worth noting, after all, that while See Now-Buy Now might be a fast fix for consumers, it certainly isn’t that for brands and retailers, which will have to take major steps to accommodate such a change. Production processes, timelines, and funding structures will have to be altered, as will the process and timeline for buying. Retail buyers will have to take in the collection long before the runway show in order to enable retailers to stock the garments and accessories as soon as the runway show is over. These are just some of the changes. Tom Ford, for instance, which showed its F/W 2016 collection on Wednesday evening had to start planning even earlier than usual to ensure that the garments and accessories were ready to be shown to buyers so they could see (and order) the collection far enough in advance that it could be manufactured, shipped and merchandised in time for the brand's runway show this week.
So, while such “fashion disruption” tactics have certainly proven buzzworthy, judging by how many articles were devoted to See Now-Buy Now announcements (instead of the collections themselves), for instance, it will be interesting to see how these tactics affect brands’ bottom lines, which we will very likely be able to gauge from how long brands stick to the See Now-Buy Now schedule, assuming they can get their heads (and hands) around it and pull it off in the first place.