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Fashion week format ‘ripe for change’

The international fashion week format is outdated and “ripe for change”, a report by the organiser of New York Fashion Week has concluded.

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Michael Kors autumn 16

Michael Kors is among the brands changing its approach to fashion week

The report by the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CDFA), Examining the Future of New York Fashion Week, found in-season relevancy is now a vital consideration for designers and brands.

Although brands still have to show their upcoming collections to the press and buyers “in the most inspiring way” several months before deliveries, the CFDA said there is an opportunity to “alleviate the pressure to have large-scale presentations or shows and potentially re-allocate resources and budget to activate sales when collections are delivered to stores and available online”.

It added that multiple formats, locations and timing could be considered for these in-season activities.

The report follows the announcement by several international designers that product would be immediately available to buy at their fashion shows from September. Burberry, Tom Ford and Michael Kors are among those to have shifted their show schedule to align with deliveries.

Advance screenings of their new season collections will be held in private for trade press and buyers.

Gucci, on the other hand, has said it will maintain the traditional show schedule, arguing that showing new season collections to the public ahead of time “creates desire”.

The CFDA identified three main challenges in the traditional fashion week format:

  • Consumers are increasingly looking to buy clothes closer to when they need them, leading retailers to mark down in-season fashion
  • Technology and social media expose consumers to designs months before they are available for purchase
  • The confusion of the fashion cycle, coupled with the increased importance and complexity of pre-collections, puts pressure on designers

Designers and other fashion industry stakeholders interviewed by the CFDA expressed diverse opinions on how to improve the system. Many supported keeping retail and press appointments as the culmination of the design process to allow buyers to place orders and provide trade press with original content early enough – but making these meetings more intimate and exclusive.

Designers and brands could then create biannual, in-season “consumer relevant” presentations during or after fashion week, to be delivered to stores immediately or over the next few months.

This would not have to mean having consumers as guests at a catwalk show: brands could, for example, create digital campaigns or short films, or hold small parties and events to highlight the current collections.

A hybrid model also emerged, whereby designers maintain the current schedule but make capsule collections available immediately after the shows.

Alternative ideas included merging men’s and women’s shows, merging design for the main and pre-collections, and moving retail and press appointments to pre-collection timings (December and June).

The CFDA interviewed more than 50 industry stakeholders, including 20 US designers, eight wholesalers and etailers, a mix of traditional press and “new media influencers” (such as bloggers) and four international brands and organisations.



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