The emergence of ”see now, buy now” and Brexit nerves were the hot topics at London Fashion Week’s Designer Showrooms at Soho’s Brewer Street car park this season.
Florence Bridge, designer, Florence Bridge
“We’re mainly here to see buyers and our main stockists. It’s a nice atmosphere and everyone is very positive.
“We’re really keen on ‘see now, buy now’. We have a fast lead time, so it works well for us. When people see stuff on social media, why would they want to wait? Everything we do is UK based, so we have quite a fast turnaround from design to production. It makes business sense for our product.”
Gemma Vanson, director, Rein
“This is the first season we’ve been in the showrooms, but it’s been busy already with a mix of buyers and press, mainly international. There are lots of new designers here this year, which is nice to see.
“There’s a lot going on in the industry, and a lot changing at the moment. For small designers it’s exciting because we can pave the way for the changes. Designers are coming together more now, things are far more collective – people pull together for pop-ups, for example – and there’s a real sense of support through social media.
“’See now, buy now’ is a really interesting idea, but very difficult for small designers. We didn’t have a show this season and we’re holding back images of the collections from the public until we actually launch them. Fashion shows used to be quite mysterious – people wouldn’t know what was on the catwalks until quite a long time after it had happened, but with social media now it’s much harder to be exclusive. You have to have the stock ready if you’re going to do ‘see now, buy now’. You really have to invest in your products early on.
“The Brexit result was a bit of a shock for us, but we’ve seen no impact as yet. The British Fashion Council [which organises London Fashion Week] seem to have done a really good job of getting international designers and buyers into the showrooms, which is positive.”
Sabinna Rachimova, CEO and co-founder, Sabinna
“We’ve all worked hard to get to this point, so it’s great to finally be here. At places like this it’s so important to get your name and product out there.
“We are introducing ‘see now, buy now’ next season. It’s not about making fashion faster, which some people say – it’s about bringing the consumer into the story of the brand. As a small, young brand I feel like there is a possibility to reshape things in the fashion world in a way bigger brands might struggle to do. It is a challenge – it means you really have to invest in logistics and production to get the clothes out there immediately. But we are smaller, so we can be flexible with what we do.
“I was devastated by the Brexit vote. Europe presents a huge advantage for young designers, in terms of selling without import duties. You shouldn’t have to choose your path based on location.”
Eva Lai, creative director, I’alave
“We were invited today, so it’s very exciting to be here. London is such a vibrant city. I’m mainly here to raise awareness of the brand. It’s a very interesting show with lots of new brands.
“‘See now, buy now’ is a good idea. Fashion is faster now, so it is needed to appeal to consumers. We’d like to offer it – our customers want to see our latest designs fast. It’s good for the designer and the consumer. It allows real-time feedback for the designer.”
Jamie Wei Huang, designer, Jamie Wei Huang
“This is the biggest the showrooms have ever been. It’s busy and has more interesting designers than it has had before. The top press and buyers come here, and it’s good to see people to raise awareness.
“We’re based in the UK and Europe but the Brexit vote has had no bad effects so far. We produce in the UK and everything is done in pounds, so we’ve not had any import tax increases yet or anything like that. But it is a concern. We have actually had more international buyers thanks to the weak pound.
“Emerging brands struggle with ‘see now, buy now’. Big brands work on pre-orders anyway but we rely on orders placed after fashion week to know what to produce. If you do it as a small brand, it makes it more commercial. Not doing it keeps things exclusive.”
Teija Eilola, designer, Teija
“We’ve always done well in Paris and it felt like the right time to move to London. People drift through the international showrooms and being here means we have more of a chance to chat to people.
“‘See now, buy now’ is a tricky one for us. We only sell to boutiques, and we have plenty of work with that alone, so we couldn’t do direct to consumer. Selling direct is better if you’re a big label, but it’s not really very relevant for us at the moment. We get our products to stores around three months after showing, which gives the buyers time to develop the stories correctly. Maybe it’s good for big businesses but not for us.
“There’s not been a lot of impact from the Brexit vote yet, but I was very against it. We do a lot of international trade and it could be very hard on small brands, with the possible added costs of import and export duties and travel. Europe gives so much more opportunity for young designers but, depending on what happens, it could lead to 30% being added to prices. We’d have to consider a second European Union base if things don’t work out well.”
Matt Allchin and Hayley Caine, creative directors, Caine London
“We get a lot of fantastic support from the British Fashion Council in the run-up to the event – like checklists of people to meet and briefs for what to say to buyers and press. It’s a very good event for helping businesses. Today there has been a lot of press, but also a few buyers, particularly from the UK and Japan.
“‘See now, buy now’ is kind of already in place for us, as all our products are individually made to order. But we’re only a year old and that’s the only way to do things. It’s good because it means the marketing and selling processes can run completely in tandem.
“This year is a bit of a litmus test of post-Brexit matters. The main thing we’ve noticed so far is that there are a lot more international buyers because of the weaker pound.”
Gabriel Vielma, designer, Gabriel Vielma
“There’s a very relaxed atmosphere this year, but we’re getting very good exposure here. We get very quick feedback from buyers and press on what’s working and what isn’t. It’s an immediate reaction and it’s always very honest. People will tell you if they don’t like something.
“‘See now, buy now’ is good if you can do it, but we are a small luxury label, not fast fashion. For us it’s not about being on trend – it’s about creating a beautiful, timeless product and when you can get something as soon as you see it, it doesn’t feel as luxurious. Part of the beauty of it is the wait for the items to drop – that’s part of the process. Not doing it makes us much more exclusive and niche.
“The Brexit vote hasn’t affected us just yet, but the American market has been good recently, as the prices are a big draw. It’s still very early days.”
Injoo Lee, designer, Moon Lee Artwear
“As a young brand it’s really important to be here to raise awareness. Buyers and press are here, and for us it’s all about exposure. It’s an exciting time during London Fashion Week, and we’re optimistic about what we can get out of being in the showrooms.
“‘See now, buy now’ sounds like it has potential. If there’s an opportunity to reach your customers, you should take it. And it really appeals to millennials. However, there’s more and more discrepancy between big and small brands – things change so fast now. Additionally, we try to steer away from consumerism. We create pieces of art instead.
”After the Brexit vote it looks like our wholesale prices will go up eventually, but we’re not too worried yet. There have been a lot of buyers from abroad thanks to the weaker pound.”