by Brian Brian
April 09, 2017
Depending on how accustom you are with the world of fashion, you may or may not know the original concept behind the elaborate fashion weeks we see all over the media which, are held twice a year in each fashion capital. As much as it has become a feeding ground for celebrities to exhibit their attention-grabbing looks or social media influencers scrambling to get that boost of publicity they need – it actually has little to do with this. Runway shows were a practical business event - giving buyers from suppliers around the world the opportunity to preview the collections they need to buy for their stores in the coming six months. This allows buyers to note emerging trends, plan for their store and put in their orders. Because of this, few people got the inside scoop from these fashion shows, leaving it rather exclusive and somewhat mysterious. Alas – this is all changing! Firstly, through the fast growing digital era we can all get an insider of the latest shows and trends in real time and secondly, thanks to breakthrough efforts from brands such as Burberry who, back in September 2016 implemented their ‘See-Now-Buy-Now’ business plan which, was previously mentioned briefly in last month’s blog (if you haven’t got around to reading – we suggest you do!). This essentially allowed all guests and viewers to buy the current collection right after the show- no waiting for half a year to roll around anymore!
What is so different about this concept? Well. Basically, a lot! This means Burberry had to completely restructure their production, supply chains and marketing which, all goes against the grain of the traditional fashion industry. To them, this was a customer-facing move, responding to the demand and immediacy in the fashion world today. Burberry noticed their business model was no longer aligning with the way people shop today – it’s all about the now. This immediacy, created in recent years, is down to digital media accessibility and the influx of runway shows turning into marketing and PR events rather than buying events. Since we can all partake in this runway experience now, Burberry felt they needed to bridge the gap in the accessibility to the brand not only digitally but also tangibly.
Let’s break it down further so you can get a better idea of how this all worked. Instead of the general six-month preparation time for a new collection, Burberry began working eight to nine months prior. They described designing the collection as ‘seasonless’ but will be showed as the September collection. As they were designing garments they were feeding the production times to all the suppliers to keep them in the loop.
Next, the sample garments were created. Generally these are created in time for the runway show when they make their debut. However, this time around they were finished three months before the show in order to integrate into the marketing and advertising. This campaign was shot and wrapped up months before the September launch, which featured some of the hottest models of the moment.
From here, these sample items were then shown to buyers to allow them to plan for the coming season. Instead of buyers typically going to the runway debut to pick and choose in the classic way, Burberry held a strictly confidential private viewing for buyers in July – two months prior to the launch. This event was so confidential each attendee had to sign a non-disclosure agreement!
Once all the buyers’ orders were in, this was now game for Burberry to send the collection for production. Based on the requests and quantities from the buyers, they worked to fulfill these orders to the suppliers, department stores and other retailers to make sure it was ready to hit the stores right after the runway reveal.
Finally it was time for the main event, the all-new purpose of the runway show. This was publicized through major marketing work with a large focus on social media and digital presence. The collection was debuted in London whilst also live streamed on every outlet imaginable to invite everyone to take part and experience the show. Each item that went down the runway was immediately available to buy after the show or in stores and online.
Tommy Hilfiger, Tom Ford, Ralph Lauren and Moschino are to name a few of the biggest brands to jump on the See-Now-Buy-Now bandwagon after Burberry. Many of these brands noted a huge spike in sales that particular day of the runway and simultaneous launch of collections in stores. This is not necessarily a surprise since these sales were previously just happening over a longer period of time. However, what it did do was create a new sense of urgency for the customer to get their hands on these collections – which, in turn did actually help the sales.
Some brands that did not claim much uplift in sales however, did note their online interest and traffic rose dramatically creating a new intrigue and awareness around the new collection. Classic and traditional brands really became the pioneer for forward thinking giving them a boost into a new, younger generation of interest.
Other pros can definitely be noted on the buyers end. Allowing them to get out of the frenzy of the scheduled runway shows and plan with even more time in advance for their stores. This has proven to break the mold and give a new level of forecasting to some retailers and suppliers.
Although it has said to be a raging success by each company claiming their collections sold out right away – it wasn’t disclosed how many units were actually for sale. Some indication that the strategy may not be as beneficial as it sounds comes from Tom Ford who opted out of Buy-Now-See-Now venture after only one season claiming it ‘wasn’t for him’. It can be costly in preparation as well as meeting that extra harsh time-crunch in which, these companies are already under. As discussed previously, fashion houses generally design a collection 6 months prior to showing. With the new strategy, Burberry had to build in that extra 3 months of preparation for this collection. Over 250 items of clothing and accessories were created for the September collection; a combined number of 83 men’s and women’s look – no scaling back here!
The final key piece to insuring this strategy worked has been the success of the brands social media and marketing strategy. A brand with weak digital presence could not successfully implement this strategy. For example, to launch Tommy Hilfiger’s See-Now-Buy-Now collection, he created the addition of a massive marketing and social media campaign putting the most popular supermodel of the moment, Gigi Hadid as the face of this new era. This, no doubt was a key player in the success story of their collection, not only creating awareness to a whole new generation but also acknowledging they are starting a new chapter that is keeping up with the times.
Is this just a trend? Who knows! Simply put, this new way of shopping is in such an early stage, it’s hard to tell if it will stick around. No matter how well we forecast, there is only one thing certain – the fashion industry is ever changing. Out with the old, in with the new was always the religion of this fast paced industry. In the end, that’s what keeps us hooked, right?! One thing that will be interesting for sure though, is watching how the fashion industry dynamics evolve with this if it does stick around. From seeing how these private buyer events impact the industry to ‘seasonless’ collections, these factors could have a major impact on the traditional runway show and fashion industry in general, long term. But for now, it’s all about the now, right?!
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