Burberry's Ditching of Seasonal Catwalks Signals Fashion Shakeup


by Lauren Cochrane, The Guardian, February 08, 2016

Burberry has announced it is to abandon the traditional seasonal approach to its catwalk collections in a move that could herald a major shakeup for the entire fashion industry.

From September, all of the clothes featured in Burberry’s runway shows will be available to buy immediately, instore and online, a significant departure from the conventional model in which clothes appear on catwalks four months before they go on sale.

The brand will also scale down from four catwalk shows a year to two. Christopher Bailey, the chief creative officer of Burberry, called it “the latest step in a creative process that will continue to evolve”..

The move will enable customers to shop directly from the catwalks, but threatens to undermine a system in which glossy fashion magazines, which typically work three months ahead, had the upper hand.

“It’s fashion rebooting to be in touch with reality,” says Sarah Mower, Vogue’s chief critic and the British Fashion Council’s ambassador for emerging talent. “Currently there’s instant access to shows but constant deferral. If you can’t buy it immediately, you forget about it.”

Damien Paul, the head of menswear at matchesfashion.com, said that for buyers in stores other than Burberry’s own, “it definitely feels like a much-needed shift to the existing system”.

He added: “Ultimately, it services the customers better. We certainly know that our customers are looking for access to the collections as soon as possible.”

Tom Ford also announced a change to his collections. The ex-Gucci designer will show his autumn/winter 2016 collection in September rather than February, as the conventional model dictates. “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,” he said in a statement.

Mower said the new approach would circumnavigate copyists, and catwalk-like designs appearing in high street shops before the real thing was available to buy. “As it stands, there are four months to copywhat is on the runway,” she said. “This stops that, which is a positive thing.”

Along with Ford, Céline, the much-watched Parisian house, conducts a media blackout on images from its pre-fall collection until the clothes are in the stores, for what Mower calls a “see now, buy now” strategy.

The CFDA, the body that organises New York fashion week, has hired business consultants BCG to look at the problem of presenting collections four months in advance of them hitting the shops, and the possibility of switching seasons, Ford-style – spring/summer shown in February, autumn/winter in September – to make these shows more immediately “shoppable”, to use an industry term.

Diane von Furstenberg, the CFDA chairman and a designer, told WWD: “Something’s not right anymore because of social media, people are confused … Everyone seems to feel that the shows being consumer-driven is a very good idea.”

“It’s been the critics reporting, and the buyers responding to that,” added Mower. “Now the consumer is the critic.”

But while this new model makes sense for a global brand such as Burberry, with inhouse manufacturing and a pre-tax profit of £456m in 2015, smaller brands will be in a difficult position, said Mower, because they need that period of time to work on the production that turns the prototypes on the catwalk to the clothes in the shops.

If Burberry’s move signals a wider change in the industry, their place – and that of the next generation of designers – may be compromised.

This article originally appeared on guardian.co.uk


This article was written by Lauren Cochrane from The Guardian and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.