Some of the most noteworthy trends of the Fall/Winter 2016 runway shows, which came to a close earlier this month, had nothing to do with the actual garments and accessories themselves. Sure, there were the slip dresses styled over long sleeve shirts, velvet garments and shoes, big belts and Alessandro Michele for Gucci-inspired looks, but the more longstanding and arguably significant trends came by way of the business of fashion, as opposed to the fashion itself.
The fashion industry has been in something of a bind in recent seasons, with sluggish sales and consumer fatigue plaguing most brands. As a result, brands have opted to disrupt the establishment. However, instead of focusing on the design of the garments and accessories themselves to lure consumers back into a buying-spree, brands have looked to external things. For instance, some brands are aiming to minimize the unauthorized sharing of images – likely in an attempt to exclusivize fashion to an extent. Others are speeding up the cycle in order to close the traditional 6-month window between the runway show and the delivery of the clothes and accessories to stores. Still others are revamping their brands by way of ousting creative directors or bringing various collections under one united roof.
So, forget velvet garments and accessories for a minute. Here is a look at some of the most prominent business of fashion trends from the Fall/Winter 2016 season …
The Runway-to-Retail Revamp
In a charge that is being led by Burberry, brands are recalibrating and upending the traditional fashion calendar. Come September, Burberry has announced that it “plans to show season-less men’s and women’s wear collections together, on the runway, twice a year. In addition, the London-based brand will make all of its collections immediately available online and in-store. Window displays in its stores and media campaigns will change the moment the curtain comes down on the catwalk,” per WWD.
Following Burberry’s early-February announcement, which comes on the heels of widespread talk that the “broken” system of showing high fashion is in need of a fix, a flood of press releases announcing further changes have bombarded the fashion industry.
The very same day that Burberry made its announcement, Paris-based “it” brand, Vetements, known for its Eastern European influence and its popular $1,000 hoodies, announced its plans for change. Starting next January, Vetements will be mixing its women’s and men’s collections together. The label, under the creative direction of Demna Gvasalia, will stage two shows annually – the collections will consist of women’s and menswear offerings together – in June and January, between the men’s shows and women’s couture shows.
Not to be outdone, that same day, Tom Ford revealed plans to switch the presentation of his Fall/Winter 2016 women’s and men’s wear collections to September rather than on Feb. 18, 2016, as originally planned, in order to show closer to when the garments/accessories will be available for purchase.
Cedric Charlier, Marcelo Burlon, Michael Kors, Paco Rabanne, Proenza Schouler, Tommy Hilfiger, and Wes Gordon, among others, have since stepped forward with additional plans to revolutionize the fashion system – in a move that some (including but not limited to A.P.C.’s outspoken founder, Jean Touitou) have called little more than a ploy to increase press for their respective brands.
The Social Media Ban
In addition to the runway show schedule, there have long been other common rules governing the industry, such as a social media ban backstage at shows. "No Photos, No Social Media" signs are routinely hung to prevent the leaking of pre-show images. Givenchy famously took it a step further for its F/W 2014 menswear show, forcing all individuals backstage to place their cell phones in plastic bags to prevent the taking of photos, an attempt that lasted one season only. The extension of such a ban to runway show attendees – during the show itself – is a relatively new development, though.
Céline, the social media-shy Parisian brand, has been observing a show-specific social media ban, at least for its pre-season collections, for several years now. Phoebe Philo's team has forced press and buyers in attendance to agree to refrain from taking/sharing photos or writing reviews in connection with the pre-season collections. You may recall that on the heels of the showing of the LVMH-owned house’s Resort 2014 collection, WWD rather notoriously broke the pact, writing a short, image-less review.
Other brands are following suit in connection with their main collections, a bold move in this truly social media-driven time. Tom Ford, for instance, certainly made headlines when he banned cell phones entirely from his 2010 show, which marked his official return to womenswear, his first such collection since he left his post at Gucci in 2004. He spoke to the desire to take part in the "overexposure," saying: "I don't get the need for this immediacy. In fact, I think it's bad. The way the system works now, you see the clothes, within an hour or so they're online, the world sees them." He has since returned to business as usual in terms of social media usage during shows.
Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana have also enacted such bans in a limited capacity. After sending models down the runway in September 2015 who took selfies all the while, the designers requested that catwalk pictures not be shared on social media in connection with their February S/S 2016 couture collection. According to a columnist for the Telegraph, such “digital bombardment isn’t appropriate when you're designing million pound dresses for client you have a long-standing relationship with."
As for this season, MSGM, the Italian brand, which was founded by Massimo Giorgetti in 2009, led the charge. "Put back your phone and enjoy the show,” read the brand's show invitation. Interestingly, MSGM has largely gained steam as a full-fledged fashion brand, as opposed to merely a knitwear provider, thanks, at least, in part, to its "street style–baiting clothes" (as Vogue put it) and the presence of such wares on Instagram.
Speaking about his decision to shun social, Giorgetti told WWD: "I think it’s the right moment to take a step back from overexposure. It’s the moment to support more retailers, online stores and print publications. If everything is out there immediately, people lose interest and everything looks so old in a second. In addition, I think that asking press and buyers to not post from the show, they might watch the clothes with their eyes not through a screen, which is something good.”
In Paris, young star Simon Porte Jacquemus, who closed his S/S16 show by walking the runway with a real live horse, announced that he would ban the use of social media at his F/W16 show. As Milk noted on the eve of the show, "At 26 years old, Jacquemus is more social media savvy than some of his older counterparts—and it shows. He’s tremendously active on Instagram, and even popularized the triple posting technique (that is, posting three of the same or very similar photos all at once)."
Schiaparelli, the French couture house, similarly banned social media usage during its F/W16 ready-to-wear show.
The Brand Re-Branding
But brands are not merely trying to halt the instantaneous spread of imagery in hopes of holding consumers’ attention – a handful are opting to streamline operations as a means of making it easier for consumers to differentiate between collections. Prior to announcing that it would upend the traditional runway-to-retail schedule, Burberry’s chief executive officer and chief creative officer, Christopher Bailey, announced that he will oversee the consolidation of all Burberry labels under one core Burberry brand. The Prorsum collection, which is the one we see on the runway each season, will reign supreme, albeit without the Prorsum name, and Burberry Brit and Burberry London (the "lower end" alternatives to its main collection) will be folded into it.
Similarly, British-based designer Paul Smith said he will merge his design teams and bring all of his diffusion lines into two collections: Paul Smith, and the more affordable PS by Paul Smith. Smith aims to eventually align the production of his men’s and womenswear collections.
And still, Mugler has also announced that it will follow suit. The Paris-based house, which was launched in 1973 by designer Thierry Mugler and has garnered fans that include Lady Gaga, Rihanna, and Selena Gomez, has revealed plans to unify its various ready-to-wear and fragrance lines under a single brand name and a corresponding brand logo. The brand, which is currently under the creative direction of David Koma, is slated to begin its rebranding with the impending launch of Mugler’s newest women’s fragrance, Angel Muse, this month. Significantly, this fragrance and those to follow bear the same Mugler name and logo as the brand’s ready-to-wear collection.
This is not a completely novel move. While diffusion collections used to be all the rage, times have changed. You may recall that Dolce & Gabbana had its D&G collection – until 2011 when Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana folded it into the main collection. Marc Jacobs had Marc by Marc, but that followed a similar path on the heels of failed attempts at a revamp. Prada had Miu Miu – and still does, but has repositioned it as less of a secondary brand than a more standalone one.
Such brands arguably served an important function in the past, but given consumers’ waning interest in the current retail landscape, brands are streamlining; they are opting to put forth a more united front – one collection per house. And in this way, it seems the runway trend of minimalism is permeating the business and branding aspects of things, as well.
This is all to say that the biggest trends of the moment – rather surprisingly – do not have anything to do with the clothes at all. Given all of the discussion about consumer fatigue in the market place, it seems brands are opting for flashy changes in their business models – which undeniably garner a lot of press – in lieu of going back to the drawing board in terms of innovation and creativity in design. Chances are, unless designers simultaneously focus on the actual garments and accessories themselves, we will be back in a similar situation in a few seasons when the excitement surrounding See Now-Buy Now and co. wears off. Thoughts?