In the increasingly digital world we are now living in, are the traditional Spring / Summer and Autumn / Winter collections still relevant? And with it, are the bi-annual fashion weeks of New York, London, Paris and Milan still needed?
Growing up, I was always excited to pick up the chunky September issue of Vogue and Elle magazine, showcasing the designers’ latest collections to a young, fashion conscious pre-teen who could never afford to pick up such pieces. It was exciting seeing all the new products showcased at the same time, and flicking through it was easy to compare and spot future trends which would be picked up by a more purse-friendly high street brand in the months that followed. However, in an increasingly digital age where everything is showcased on Instagram, Snapchat or Twitter, allowing high street chains such as Zara to have a two week ‘catwalk to shopfloor’ turnaround time, is this the death of the traditional bi-annual season, and fashion week itself?
Image Source: Omaha Fashion Week
With Zara’s policy of a two week turnaround of designer doubles, it could be argued the brand itself is sabotaging the designer collections they base their entire business model on. As Susie Lau of Style Bubble noted in a recent interview with the Business of Fashion “The biggest development of the last decade is conflating the luxury industry with the fast fashion industry, and one trying to replicate the other in a way that makes no sense, because they’re two very different customers“. The digital age has allowed high street and online fashion companies to respond increasingly rapidly to trends that designers’ showcase, whilst engaging consumers’ reactions through comments on Instagram and Twitter. With a ‘fast fashion’ approach, which allows Zara to produce their most in demand items close to its selling location, Zara is able to eliminate the need for shipping by boat which is arguably the longest aspect of a high street lead time (Shipping from China to the UK takes on average six weeks). Zara’s business model of producing most trend led clothing near the selling country, but producing basics in the Far East and developing countries, has allowed the brand to produce on trend clothing whilst ensuring costs are kept low. It could be argued the over saturation of trend focus clothing almost immediately after being seen on the catwalk has resulted in fatigue setting in once the original designer items are on sale six months later. Burberry – arguably the most iconic high end British brand to show at London Fashion week announced last season an end to their traditional Spring / Summer and Autumn / Winter collection, instead focusing on seasonless bi-annual shows, with products up for sale immediately after the showcase.
Image Source: www.everfest.com
The introduction of Burberry’s new model is certainly a great way to avoid the fatigue of seeing a trend but not being able to buy into it for another six months. And with Instagram the fastest growing social media platform of them all (with over 400 million users, 14 million of them in the UK), there shows no sign of the fashion industry slowing down any time soon. “Fashion is dead” announced trend forecaster Li Edelkoort in 2015, as a result of fashion brands not reflecting what is going on in the world, and what people actually want. It could be argued this is the case for traditional designers insisting on showcasing their collections a season ahead of it going on sale.
Do I think fashion week and the traditional bi-annual season is dead? No. However, I think designer brands need to adapt to the increase in technology and decreasing lead times in order to remain relevant to the one third of mobile users who are predicted to have the Instagram app on their phone by the end of 2016. The only way of doing this is re-setting the traditional fashion week formula by showcasing Autumn/Winter Clothing in September and Spring/Summer clothing in February and March. This move has been started by Burberry, and was quickly followed by Tommy Hilfiger and Tom Ford, a trend which I predict will sweep across the entire high end fashion industry.
For more information, please contact Sophie (SophieW@fuelrefuel.com) or Gillian Waddell (Gillian@fuelrefuel.com)