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When Burberry announced right after its Autumn/Winter 2016 show it would introduce a radical ‘see now, buy now’ proposition for its next runway event, it caused industry shockwaves.
Many felt that by closing the almost five-month gap between runway showing and store, the Brit brand was deviating from the finest principles of luxury design and merely imitating the fast fashion concepts of the high street.
But to many others, including Tom Ford and Donatella Versace, it made perfect sense. Given the first exit of every catwalk show is plastered on social media before the model’s exited the runway, they quickly argued that radical change was long overdue.
For MSGM’s founder, Massimo Giogetti though, it was another story. When he sent out a polite notice banning social media from MSGM’s AW16 show, not only did he encourage the FROW to be in the moment, but he also controlled how, when and where images of the collection appeared. Whether or not he was successful in staving off his customers’ interest until the clothes were actually available is hard to quantify.
Thirteen top designers give us their candid opinions – and a clue as to whether we can get instant gratification from their Spring/Summer 2017 show this month.
Team YES: CHRISTOPHER BAILEY – Burberry
“In fashion we talk about ‘a moment’ and what feels right for the moment. And I’ve always battled with that because the moment is when you’re showing it, but then you’ve got to kind of say is it the right moment five or six months down the line? You can’t talk to a customer and say, ‘We’re really excited, we’re going to stimulate you and inspire you, but you can’t touch it or feel it for another six months’. So it’s just trying to say to the customers, ‘you’re really important to us. We’re serving you and we need to change our ways’.”
Team NO: Massimo Giorgetti – MSGM
“If everything is out there immediately, people lose interest and everything looks so old in a second. I think that by asking press and buyers to not post from the show, they might watch the clothes with their eyes not through a screen, which is also a good thing. I‘ve also made the decision not to post images of the show until the collection will start hitting stores. It’s been hard to make this decision, but… I think that by posting all those images of fittings, castings, etcetera… we are really making customers feel confused.”
Team MAYBE: John Galliano – Maison Margiela
“We are all creating this desire with social media. It’s wonderful, but it’s kind of taken us over a little bit. Maybe this whole world needs some balance, to know when to stop. We are creating a desire, people want it, they want to wear it now. I think everyone will find their way of dealing with this and at Maison Margiela we will find a way of rising to this challenge. There is not a formula. There’s nothing to say a part of the collection can’t be bought if I could get my hands on the fabrics in time. That’s our life today, and I am connected to that.”
Team YES: ROKSANDA ILLINIC – Roksanda Illinic
“I definitely think the changes that have been happening in the last year in the fashion world. As a designer you need time to come up with the fresh ideas and reflect on what was good and what was bad about the previous ones, and you also need time to develop them. It’s important to adapt to it and to find some sort of solutions. I think that’s what I’m doing – I’m finding the best way to do things in such a short space of time.”
Team NO: Giorgio Armani – Armani
“I think that a revision of calendars is in some ways desirable: the times and not only the digital revolution, require it. However, I think it is premature to be swept away by the enthusiasm over see-now-buy-now; for this revolution to be effective and permanent, it will be necessary to intervene on every step of the pipeline. I am not worried about the fact that everything goes online right away on social media: dailies have been doing this forever.”
Team YES: Michael Cinco – Michael Cinco
“The see now, buy now debate is timely and gives justice to designers often left in the lurch by high street copycats who specialise in Polaroid-fast plagiarism. The concept enables the buyer to purchase the dress right after the model takes it off after a fashion show rather than wait for a lengthy period of time until it reaches the store, whereby high street retailers have already duplicated the dressing an assortment of colours. [It] will eventually stop the copycats from doing further damage to the fashion business.”
Team NO: Demna Gvasalia – Vetements and Balenciaga
“Essentially, all these corporate luxury brands are trying to be like Zara, which is absurd and impossible. To make something that makes sense, you need time. You need the mental space to assess if someone out there actually needs the Nth dress you’re making or it it’s being produced just because some brand manager thinks it needs to be in stress, which in fact it will end up on the sales rack or burned. That pressure is one of the many things we were questioning when we started Vetements.”
Team YES: Donatella Versace – Versace
“Right now in fashion, the future is all anyone can talk about. The Internet and social media have changed everything. The old systems are collapsing. For many people, they find it terrifying. They want everything in fashion to stay the same, as if smartphones had never been invented. I am the opposite. I cannot remember a time when fashion has been as exciting as it is today. The new generation who has grown up with the internet doesn’t understand why it should wait six months before it can buy what it sees online. I think the business model of luxury brands is about to change in a radical way. When people say fashion is moving too fast, I think we have to move faster and plan the future together.”
Team YES: Henry Holland – House of Holland
“This season, the real focus for Fashion Weeks around the world is about making sure they incorporate a consumer experience, because the exploding of social media means that fashion shows are no longer a closed event. The minute the first look goes out, everybody on Instagram can see it, and everyone on Instagram wants it, so somebody needs to work out how we get that product out there at the same time.”
Team NO: Alexis Martial and Adrien Caillaudaud – Carven
“If customers are able to shop a collection straight away, it takes away the time to build up the desire for it. For designers, it’s also important to set the trends and have time to develop a beautiful story for our clients. Fashion week is a moment to show the future, and if the future is available to purchase the day after, then you don’t leave people to think about desiring it. It’s sad. So you need to find the right balance.”
Team YES: TOM FORD – Tom Ford
“In a world that has become increasingly immediate, the current way of showing a collection four months before it is available to customers is an antiquated idea and one that no longer makes sense. We have been living with a fashion calendar and system that is from another era. We spend an enormous amount of money and energy to stage an event that creates excitement too far in advance of when the collection is available to the consumer. Showing the collection as it arrives in stores will remedy this.”
Neither Team: Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osborne – Public School
“The most important thing to realise when you get into your first job – or your second job or your third job or you start your own brand – is that you really set the rules for yourself. Don’t be burdened or don’t succumb to what everyone else wants you do to. We set the paces as the designers to really develop our ideas cohesively throughout the year and subsequently slow the entire process down. We can actually enjoy our collections as opposed to being tied to the traditional fashion calendar.”
Team YES: Diane von Furstenberg – DVF
“It used to be that designers work and then they have all the magazines and the buyers go see the collections, and it was all very discreet. Then social media came and everyone sees everything – instant gratification, instant information, instant everything – so suddenly the consumers are completely confused. So many things are wrong. The seasons are wrong, the shows, the way we present. I think that we’ll end up doing big production shows that are more relevant to the consumer.”
Additional reporting by Rachel Sharp