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A Fashion Cycle in Flux

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 15/03/2016 Sharifa Murdock
RUNWAY © Image Source via Getty Images RUNWAY

As we say goodbye to fashion month, it's safe to say this has been a monumental season for the industry. We saw Kanye West take over Madison Square Garden for a show of epic proportions and watched as Paris saw the exit of several creative directors. New York Fashion Week showcased major announcements from international brands like Burberry, Michael Kors and Tommy Hilfiger attempting to change the fashion cycle.
In the beginning of February, Business of Fashion's Imran Amed sat down with chief executive and chief creative officer of Burberry, Christopher Bailey, to discuss the company's shift to align runway with retail. Traditionally, designers present their collections to buyers, press and influencers twice a year; in February for Fall/Winter, and in September for the following Spring/Summer. However, this antiquated model neglects to consider the impact and influence consumers have on the fashion cycle.
Currently, collections don't hit stores until five to six months after a collection walks down the runway. The lag time between a brand's initial showcase and when customers can purchase the clothing and accessories means the buzz and hype fizzles away. However, this season, mega designers such as Burberry and Tommy Hilfiger made strides to fix fashion's glaring problem.
In theory, the concept of making collections available simultaneously as they walk the runway or shortly thereafter makes sense. You may ask, "Why haven't designers tried this before?" Well, this isn't the first time designers have toyed with the idea of selling product alongside a show. Over the past couple of seasons, Burberry has offered customers the ability to shop select items directly from the runway via e-commerce and select flagship stores. This season, designers Alexander Wang and Prada released select handbags for purchase online immediately after their shows.
While Burberry was the first to announce their plan to sync runway with retail, American powerhouse Tommy Hilfiger has been toying with the idea over the last couple of years. In September 2016, they will release the TommyxGigi capsule collection for sale immediately after the runway show. The collection, created in collaboration with supermodel Gigi Hadid, will be available at Tommy Hilfiger stores, online and at wholesale partners.
Similar to Burberry, Hilfiger also plans on integrating their men's and women's collections into one seasonless showing. Both brands realized there was a disconnect between their seasonal collections and their customer base. Burberry and Tommy Hilfiger do huge business in Central and South America where customers experience warm weather year-round. Selling wool parkas and cashmere sweaters to a beach goer in Rio just doesn't make sense. By transitioning to seasonless collections, they are able to better serve their current customers while appealing to a broader range of consumers around the world.
While Bailey has said there won't be major changes in house, there is sure to be a strain on the supply chain. Traditionally, manufacturers are brought into the process after a collection is shown and buyers express interest. With the new system, supply chain will be brought into and become intimately involved with the design process. Bailey said now more than ever the relationship with Burberry's supply chain "[is] more of a partnership than a handover on one specific date."
This September will be a good determinant of whether or not these attempts to fix fashion's problem will actually work. In theory, these changes make perfect sense to many. However, Francois-Henri Pinault, CEO of Gucci-owner Kering, said Gucci will not align their runway presentations with retail. Pinault believes the six months between a presentation and retail "creates desire" and instant availability "negates the dream" of luxury.
As a consumer and lover of fashion, I disagree with Pinault's thoughts on the shift in the fashion calendar. When I attend runway shows, I can't help wanting to snatch the clothes right off the runway and add them to my own wardrobe. Nowadays, fashion is about instant gratification. It's about putting on that embroidered moto jacket or amazing tulle skirt and feeling good about yourself. If we could have those moments immediately after a show instead of six months later, why wouldn't we?
Our team at Liberty Fairs is always at the forefront of what's happening in the fashion industry. As gatekeepers, it's our job to evolve with the incredible brands we work with every season, even if it means stepping away from a long-standing system. This shift in the calendar isn't a big hurdle to overcome. If everyone is a part of the conversation and shares similar goals, anything is possible. Who knows, at our next show in July, you could be leaving with not only your Liberty tote, but a bag from your favorite brand, too.

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