Early Adopters – the Brands That Are Changing Their Business Model

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Tommy Hilfiger was one of the first brands to announce a big change to its runway show model | Photo: Courtesy of Getty Images

It started with a wave of surprising designer departures, as fashion stars like Alber Elbaz, Raf Simons, and Alexander Wang left posts at illustrious labels with a chip on their shoulder. Their respective stints at Lanvin, Dior, and Balenciaga, respectively, had left them shaken up, stressed out, and overwhelmed. “Since I left [Lanvin], I can’t sketch anymore. I still have a huge scar on me,” Elbaz confessed to a crowded room of fans at Parsons in early May of this year.

The fashion revolution, it seemed, was officially underway.

Meanwhile, Simons told The Telegraph in April, “[Dior] is a very beautiful house and it was incredible to be able to take part in that heritage, but in the end it was just too much for me. Do I think now it was a mistake to go there? No, no. It was a fantastic experience and a fantastic time. I wasn’t planning to go there for such a short period, but I was also not willing to sign up there for a long period. So it became complicated and I decided to get out. That is partly due to the system that fashion has adopted. It is speeding up and up. Every season I see so many things evolving at such a speed that I think certain creative people, including myself, are just not willing to do it any more. I don’t want to. If you work on that level, you miss out on a lot of things.”

Ever the industry pioneer, Tom Ford was already thinking outside the box. He cut to the core of the problem concisely, stating, “In a world that has become increasingly immediate, the current way of showing a collection four months before it is available to customers is an antiquated idea and one that no longer makes sense. We have been living with a fashion calendar and system that is from another era. Our customers today want a collection that is immediately available. Fashion shows and the traditional fashion calendar, as we know them, no longer work in the way that they once did. Showing the collection as it arrives in stores will remedy this and allow the excitement that is created by a show or event to drive sales and satisfy our customers’ increasing desire to have their clothes as they are ready to wear them.”

As the fashion industry ramped up production to meet growing consumer demands, Diane von Furstenberg, President of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA), addressed concerns stateside by hiring the Boston Consulting Group to report on fashion’s failings. When the report came out, it seemed to state the obvious: there is no one-size-fits-all solution to fashion’s problems. Each brand will have to adapt in ways that benefit its size, resources, and client base.

In the meantime, consummate early adopter and digital innovator Burberry stepped up with the first experimental solution: “see now, buy now”. In an interview with Business of Fashion, Burberry’s CEO Christopher Bailey was candid about the difficulties of pioneering this new method while the rest of the industry looked on, stating, “This is not something that we’ve done before and it’s not something where we can follow a best practice.” Tommy Hilfiger also announced the adoption of “direct to consumer” shows, starting in September of 2016. Soon, Gucci had announced the blending of menswear and womenswear on its calendar, a move that Demna Gvasalia had already established at Vetements.

The fashion revolution, it seemed, was officially underway.

There have been many vocal critics of fashion’s urgent leap to a new retail strategy.

There have been many vocal critics of fashion’s urgent leap to a new retail strategy. The President of the Fédération Française de la Couture, du Prêt-à-Porter des Couturiers et des Créateurs de Mode, Ralph Toledano, on behalf of the federation’s executive board, made a statement to WWD rejecting the implementation of direct-to-consumer in Paris, saying, “As far as we are concerned, the present system is still valid.” However, the benefit of presenting a runway show and then making it immediately available to the consumer (rather than four months down the road) seemed obvious to most. Not only does it diminish the possibility of fast fashion ripping designs from the runway for its own gain, but it also diminishes early markdowns, which translates to increased profitability for brands.

Tom Ford was on the cutting edge of the movement before anyone else | Photo: Courtesy of Imaxtree

In order to get a clear sense of who is marching to the new fashion order, Savoir Flair has compiled a list of all the brands offering direct-to-consumer retail strategies or who are combining shows on their calendar.

Antonio Marras is dropping off the Milan Fashion Week men’s schedule in September 2017. Going forward, the brand will show menswear and womenswear together during a bi-annual show.

According to Creative Director Olivier Rousteing, Balmain will adopt a form of “see now, buy now” for forthcoming collections, but will establish key pieces that will go on sale later in the retail cycle.

Bottega Veneta will showcase its men’s and women’s collections beginning in September of 2016. This will coincide in celebration with the brand’s 50th anniversary and designer Tomas Maier’s 15th anniversary at the house.

Brioni will cancel its usual menswear show in June in Milan and instead host its spring/summer show in Paris during Paris Haute Couture Week in July. After the show, Brioni will offer a capsule collection for sale directly through private appointments at its flagship stores.

As mentioned before, Burberry was the first brand to announce a significant change to the runway-to-retail model. Not only is it combining menswear and womenswear into a single show during London Fashion Week, but it will also end the fall/winter and spring/summer cycle altogether, instead choosing a season-less model that will be available directly to the consumer.

Cedric Charlier has announced that it is cutting shows down to two per year, showing in January and June.

Calvin Klein is making strides to bring its fragmented brand under “one creative vision” and will also be combining menswear and womenswear, as well as bringing in a new Creative Director to replace Francisco Costa.

Karen Walker has announced that she will cancel her upcoming New York Fashion Week show in September. No other plans have been issued for future collection showcases thus far.

Following in the footsteps of Tom Ford, Marcelo Burlon, who founded the County of Milan label, is ditching the runway show and will instead distribute lookbooks and campaign videos to journalists and fans on social media.

Michael Kors joined the fray by announcing that his Fall/Winter 2016 collection will be available in capsule form immediately following the show both online and at his Madison Avenue flagship store.

Nonoo, the new brand founded by Misha Nonoo, has opted into an Instagram-only show. She is showing Fall/Winter 2016 in September, which brings her label into alignment with the retail calendar.

Fans of Paco Rabanne can immediately purchase four looks from the brand’s Fall/Winter 2016 collection via its 12, Rue Cambon boutique or online at www.pacorabanne.com.

Like fellow British brand Burberry, Paul Smith will merge its diffusion lines into two collections: Paul Smith and the more affordable PS by Paul Smith. The brand has also announced goals to align the production of menswear and womenswear going forward.

Proenza Schouler will launch ‘Early Edition’, a capsule collection of eight looks that will go straight from the runway to the consumer, via its boutiques and online store.

Public School will merge menswear and womenswear into two annual shows staged in December and June and will call its season-less collections ‘Collection One’ and ‘Collection Two’.

Tom Ford, who always marches to the beat of his own drum, has already been experimenting with new ways of approaching the fashion calendar. In the future, he will be presenting his menswear and womenswear collections in alignment with the retail calendar (fall shows in the fall, spring shows in the spring, etc.).

As previously mentioned, Tommy Hilfiger will also coordinate runway shows and retail deliveries. The first collection following the direct-to-consumer model will be the ‘Tommy x Gigi Hadid’ capsule collection, which is due to be released in September 2016.

Wes Gordon stepped away from traditional runway showings to release his Fall/Winter 2016 collectiovia Instagram in a short series of videos during his scheduled slot on the New York Fashion Week Calendar.

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