The see-now-buy-now fashion week model is still the fashion industry's most debated topic. Karl Lagerfeld hates it. Christopher Bailey loves it. It's all a bit confusing, non?
Between designers producing special capsules available to buy immediately after their runway debut, and the more dramatic move to present the collection that's due to drop in-store (and online) - instead of showing the line-up that ordinarily wouldn't be ready to purchase for another six months - the fashion industry's traditional production timeline has been truly turned upside down.
We asked Simon P Lock, who's something of a fashion industry veteran given he founded a little thing called Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia - to set the record straight. Lock CEO and founder of ORDRE, an online wholesale buying platform, so we asked him to go back to where it began and explain how we got here, and in particular to what this all means for those who really drive the industry - the consumers.
On the timing of the very first Australian fashion week in 1996:
"We timed our event in May to sit half way between the end of our own spring/summer buying season and the northern hemisphere resort collections in June that were at the time becoming more important. When the first runway report by Harper's BAZAAR Australia (then called Mode) came out in August to coincide with the arrival of the Australian designers' collections instore, it was a major milestone for our industry."
On the influence of digital media:
"In the early 2000’s this crazy thing called the internet had started to be a useful way to promote fashion weeks around the world and “fashion bloggers” started to make their presence felt.
The curtain around fashion week was slowly starting to be lifted as consumers for the first time could get a peek at the new collections - six months before they arrived in store."
And social media:
"Armed with their smart phones the industry took it upon itself to share every aspect of every fashion week around the world.
Industry professionals realised a larger personal social media following added to their status in the industry, and their pecking order on the front row. In the process fashion lovers around the world could now sit front row at every fashion week show, [and] ... simultaneously see every new collection ... six months before they could buy it.
The industry had spent the last 60 years educating customers that when they see something they like in a magazine, they can then go in store and buy it - and that is exactly what is expected now with social media."
On the first signs of change:
"Trying to get a handle on how best to commercialise the demand that social media was creating, the industry initially responded in two ways; First Moda Operandi was born - allowing consumers with a 50% deposit to pre-order new season outfits at the same time as buyers were placing their wholesale orders, and then wait for delivery in six months.
Secondly, to satisfy the see-now-buy-now generation designers started to put some outfits on the catwalk that could be ordered online for immediate delivery. This was basically stock they had pre-produced.
This has become a building trend, and currently about ten percent of all catwalk looks are available for immediately purchase either through capsule collections delivered in-store or online. But is it just the tip of the iceberg."
On Burberry's brave first move:
"Burberry are not suggesting to change the timing of the fashion production supply chain, just simply moving their show for autumn/winter from March (wholesale timing) to September (retail timing).
Buyers will still have to come to the showroom in March to place wholesale orders but now they just won’t have the added value of a fashion show to help showcase the collection.
He [Bailey] is betting, rightly in my opinion*, that the millions of hits that the Burberry shows get on social media will drive an in-store and online shopping frenzy."
On the future of wholesale:
"The future has been cast. Designers will not be able to resist the immediate sales that social media can generate ... They [now] don’t actually need these shows now to sell their wholesale collections.
Our organisation saw these changes coming and nearly six years ago we started work on a new way for the business of fashion to be done. It’s called ORDRE and is a global wholesale market place that allows designers to present their wholesale collections in beautiful online showrooms to an invitation-only audience of the best buyers in the world.
The business of fashion is back again behind closed doors. The public can’t get access apart from the ORDRE.com front-page news feed. Technology will now be used to help buyers “touch and feel” so that important purchasing decisions can be made."
On what this all means for Australian consumers:
"Firstly, after a number of date changes, [MBFWA] has returned to its May timing on the international fashion week schedule - a month before the northern hemisphere buyers are starting making resort purchases.
Secondly, as a regular customer or VIP of an Australian designer you are now more likely to be invited to a show - as the number of buyers in attendance will continue to drop.
This year a number of designers will also be presenting capsule collections on the runway that will be immediately available for sale online or in-store. Most shows will be live streamed with details on where to shop online.
In a nanosecond social media and video feeds will become shoppable and buying that look on the catwalk will only be a click away."
On what's next:
"If enough designers agree we may even see the event move again to August when all the spring/summer clothes from Australian designers arrive in department stores and boutiques around the country. This would mean that basically everything on the catwalk would be available for sale - just like Burberry is doing.
The curtain of the business of fashion is now well and truly drawn all the way back and on behalf of the Australian fashion industry, I’d like to welcome you inside. Enjoy and go shopping!"Read more at:formal dresses 2015