For decades, fashion has followed a tried and true formula; a comprehensive system of seduction hugely dependent on the mixture of curiosity and inhibitive envy nurtured outside its immediate world. Beginning from the top, luxury brands detached themselves from reality, shunned the everyman or woman off the streets, selecting instead to speak to the chosen ones and then banking on the halo effect where the product trickles down to the average punter. This deeply elitist culture was made to demand attention and capitalise on a consumer’s imperative need to be included. But in the last decade, fashion has been on the cusp of a reformation, struggling to break free from the clichés of a rarefied world devoid of humanity, that never stops glistening.
In wake of the internet, globalisation had incurred profound, multidimensional changes to the fashion landscape; making luxury fashion seem like the language of primitive grunts, conceived of the most base and generic of value systems. While brands were quick to embrace the far-reaching powers of new technology, these changes were mostly issue-oriented, failing at large to cause any sort of amendment or inclusion on an institutional level. Not only did the internet expedite the trickledown effect, it negated it, slowly but surely eliminating the middle man; editors, buyers and stylists, spurring an industry-sized upheaval to the fashion system, and culminating in the solutions adopted by several brands earlier in the month.
Burberry, along with Tom Ford and Tommy Hilfiger has announced that it is completely altering the way it produces, markets and sells its collections, axing out the 6-month runway-to-retail cycle, enabling consumers to buy them in stores as soon as they see it on the runway. In pursuit of the global consumer with different climatic patterns and who should not have to be too concerned with the idiosyncratic approaches and timings of the industry, the brand will be consolidating its men’s and women’s collections into a single show, designed to be seasonless and branded ‘February’ and ‘September’ instead of Spring Summer and Fall Winter.
Soon after, Tom Ford announced that he too would be embracing the consumer calendar and postponed showing his A/W2016 collection until September in order to fall in step with retail. He asserted that the six month waiting period was “an antiquated idea that no longer makes sense” and that “we have been living with a fashion calendar and system that is from another era.” Meanwhile, Michael Kors, Rebecca Minkoff and Proenza Schouler have jumped on board with the new order, making the changes effective immediately by offering direct-to-consumer runways this season.
However, in variance with this decision is Francois-Henri Pinault, chief executive officer of Kering SA. He avers that it “negates the dream” of luxury and making consumers wait six months to buy a collection “creates desire,” after Gucci reported its strongest revenue in three years. “There are some brands for which a runway show is a communications event,” Pinault further stated. “Burberry has doubtless decided what suits it best. What we will decide will be what suits our brands and our vision of luxury.”
While this all-changing shift to a long-standing order opens up numerous foyers of dissension, new conflicts of ideas and values, it should not be any other way. The attunement to new needs might seem fundamental and a long time coming but should it actually be adopted across the spectrum?
Along with immediacy and the power of the human voice, fostered within the day-to-day discourse of the Insta-age is an increasing sense of individuality – that which also applies to luxury goods-makers. Consumers are looking to brands that share the same values and priorities. Thus, more important is the necessity of finding new ways of being, feeling and making deluxe, than conforming to a standard operating model of luxury which might then take us back to square one.
From the looks of it, the industry is headed in the right direction with designers trading in runways for Instagram-centric presentations to the most unthinkable venue locations to hosting savvy social media blitzes. It’s exciting and wonderfully diverse. No doubt, anything is better than lulling an audience to sleep by being overly dependent on old-world constituents of exclusivity, but nothing is worse than becoming invisible through parroting and familiarity.