High fashion typically has a calendar that debuts seasonal collections approximately 5-6 months in advance of the item’s availability for purchase. This has been a long-held traditional that major fashion houses follow – debut on the runway and shop much later. Recently, some very high-profile brands have decided to shake things up with a runway to retail model, also known as see-now buy-now.
Burberry and Prada led the see-now buy-now revolt, along with Rebecca Minkoff, Banana Republic and Proenza Schuler to name few. Diane von Furstenburg also joined the fray, debuting a capsule see-now buy-now collection on the runway at New York Fashion Week.
Designer Karl Lagerfeld spoke out strongly against this new fashion trend to the Financial Times stating, “The reality is that you have to give people the time to make their choice, to order the clothes or handbags, and to produce them beautifully so that editors can photograph them. If not, that’s the end of everything.” Dior, Chanel and other well-known brands agree.
Behind the trend many say is technology. Once fashion brands and events opened up the runways to broad-based exposure online, the people wanted more. Women’s Wear Daily quotes Burberry chief creative and chief executive officer Christopher Bailey on the trend, “The changes we are making will allow us to build a closer connection between the experience that we create with our runway shows and the moment when people can physically explore the collections for themselves. Our shows have been evolving to close this gap for some time. From livestreams, to ordering straight from the runway to live social media campaigns, this is the latest step in a creative process that will continue to evolve.
Retail analysts liken the trend to opening Pandora’s box — now that it’s out there, there is no way to contain it. And there are many practical concerns for designers when it comes to executing this retail strategy. The time lag has previously allowed them the opportunity to meet with buyers from various retailers, place orders for fabrics based on buyer interest, then make and deliver the garments. The see-now buy-now model may not work as well for designers that don’t own their own retail stores, where the designer is essentially the buyer for their own retail space.
Many consumers on the other hand are thrilled by the see-now buy-now concept which means they can buy seasonally appropriate clothing when it makes sense for them. No more coat shopping when it’s warm outside or bathing suit shopping in the middle of February. We shall see who comes out on top in runway to retail — the designers, the retailers or fashion consumers.