Amidst the topical ‘broken fashion system’ debate flooding trade news since the end of last year, it appears that the fashion industry is now undergoing a major shift to meet the demands of the digital age – or more specifically: generation Z. Fashion brands are currently trying to work out where they fit into this digital world and how they can meet the expectations of the modern consumer in order to stay relevant (Final Fantasy x Louis Vuitton Spring / Summer ’16 anyone?). During a time where technological advancements are allowing us to download, live stream, and process information as-it-happens, how are fashion brands responding to a world that simply wants everything now?
As Kirsty recently discussed on the blog, Burberry has been quick to jump on the digital bandwagon as a way to raise its profile and introduce the heritage brand to a wider, younger and social media-savvy audience. But Burberry hasn’t stopped there: the British label’s creative director, Christopher Bailey, has most recently announced it’s plans to make all collections immediately available for purchase online and in-store from September, with shop window displays and media campaigns changing the moment the show is finished. Following the news, Tom Ford, Tommy Hilfiger, Proenza Schouler and Rebecca Minkoff have all been quick to reveal plans for a similar shift into direct-to-consumer shows.
If this ‘see-now-buy-now’ experiment wasn’t enough to satisfy consumers, fashion brands worldwide, including Burberry and Tom Ford, have said they will start showing seasonless men and women’s ready-to-wear collections together on the catwalk, twice a year. This new strategy takes place not only to take some pressure off the business, but also as a result of new digital trends evolving around gender fluidity. Paul Smith and Vetements have also confirmed they will begin showing their collections in this format.
The purpose of fashion shows and presentations used to be so that designers could show their collections to the industry’s journalists and buyers – in the hope of good press and placed orders – and were (and still claim to be) trade-only events. But since the introduction and popularity of live streaming, social media, mobile apps, street style, and blogging welcomed a completely new and commercial way to consume fashion, the fashion world has gradually allowed itself to become more widely and instantly accessible to its consumer. Having gradually moved to a more consumer-led approach, the industry now finds itself in a position where it is no longer deemed reasonable for its consumers to preview collections seasons in advance, and then have to wait six months for said collection to be available for purchase.
The British fashion industry is contributing upwards of £26 billion to the UK’s economy alone, yet we still seem to be looking at an industry that is so desperately looking at ways in which it can realign itself with the digital communication cycle. I don’t know about you, but if technological advancements and consumer acknowledgement are pushing brands to change the face of fashion as we know it, be that moving the focus from trade to consumer, then Autumn / Winter 2016 has already established itself as a season like no other. Watch this space.