Louis Vuitton is on the move. The Paris-based brand announced on Monday that it will stage Nicolas Ghesquiere’s 2020 cruise collection at the newly-revamped TWA Flight Center at New York’s JFK Airport next month. The world’s most valuable luxury brand’s sojourn to New York is the latest in an established practice of far-flung destinations-as-venue for pre-season collections, one that has been adopted with increased frequency over the past several years by Louis Vuitton and its high fashion cohorts.
Louis Vuitton, for one, has been showing on-location with marked vigor since it (and the many fashion industry insiders and big-time clients it had on hand) descended upon the Prince’s Palace in Monaco in 2014 for its first resort spectacle. Other over-the-top efforts have been staged at Fondation Maeght in Saint-Paul de Vence, a village in the South of France; the Miho Museum in Kyoto; the Niteròi Contemporary Art Museum in Rio de Janeiro; and the Bob and Dolores Hope estate in Palm Springs, California.
Similarly, other high fashion houses have been hitting the road. Gucci, under the direction of creative director Alessandro Michele, has decamped to Arles in the South of France and the Palatine gallery of the Palazzo Pitti in Florence, for example, the latter of which came after Gucci’s first choice – the Parthenon in Athens – was vetoed; it seems that Greece’s Central Archaeological Council is not part of the #GucciGang.
Dior’s creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri and Dior Homme’s former director Kris Van Assche are not long out from two shows in Tokyo, a move meant to strengthen the brand’s ties to its Japanese consumer base. Still yet, Prada is known to globe hop to meet consumers where they are. 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
From a retail perspective, Cruise or Pre-Spring collections, which hit stores in November or so, and Pre-Fall, which becomes shoppable in May, are significant. They traditionally found favor as the garments, themselves, serve as simpler, younger – read: commercially viable – siblings of brands’ Fall/Winter and Spring/Summer offerings. Put simply, these are garments meant to be manufactured and sold, unlike the more marketing-focused nature of the F/W and S/S wares, which are, more often than not, shown as part of runway shows for the purpose of selling watered-down versions and a whole lot of accessories.
Pre-season garments and accessories are also meant to be kept in stores longer, thereby leading to higher sales than other seasonal collections. As Cathy Horyn wrote some years ago, dissecting the draw of Cruise and Pre-Fall collections, “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-season 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.”
Beyond the sheer practicality of wearability, these in-between collections are important opportunities for brands to consistently cater to consumers and introduce new products, which is essential in the age of Instagram. As Selfridges’ director of womenswear, Judd Crane, put it, “In practical terms, [these in-between collections] offer a drop of ‘newness’ for fashion-hungry shoppers between seasons,” which is amplified when a brand stages an over-the-top runway show, such as the ones that Louis Vuitton, Gucci, and Chanel, for instance, are known for.
The Telegraph’s Belinda White 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.” For digitally-connected consumers, which have been conditioned to expect consistent communication from brands, in large part due to social media, this is especially relevant.
The 6-month window between shows is arguably infeasible in 2019, as indicated by the increasing numbers of brands seeking to engage with consumers much more regularly, whether that be by way of “drops” of products on a frequent basis or a revamp of the traditional advertising standards swapping the bi-season ad campaign model for less structured, more consistent brand communications and marketing.
As for the ethical implications of the coverage of these collections by the media, which are most commonly flown by the brands, put up in luxury hotels, and treated to no shortage of vacation perks and gifts, something they rarely (if ever) tell their readers, that is another matter entirely.