20 Sep 2016
Burberry's successful 'see now buy now' runway show on Monday is sending shockwaves down the core of the fashion industry. What had seemed impossible to execute: managing the supply chain lead times, selling the collection via wholesale channels months in advance, shooting the campaign before the show, seamlessly came together to much acclaim. All without so much as a single leaked image.
The disruption of social media to the now old-fashioned catwalk system, of which Instagram especially is a disrupter, means the buzz generated from catwalk shows has never before been capitalised to its maximum, as the collections were simply not available. Brands struggled to turn coverage into sales, instead relying on their pr machines to the extend the buzz when the clothes finally hit the stores four months later.
Burberry mastered the task by starting to design its AW16 collection in January of this year, in fact it changed its entire calendar and way of operating in order to incorporate a see now, buy now model. To begin, it merged its menswear and womenswear collections, reducing its shows from four to two, now simply called the February and September shows. In July the company showed the collections to buyers and press, embargoing any images and forcing attendees to sign non-disclosure agreements.
Burberry declined to say when it received wholesale orders from its customers, as the collection shown on yesterday's runway is now available in stores such as Colette, Barney's New York and online in retailers such as MyTheresa.com and Net-a-Porter.com. Most brands need more than two months lead time to order fabrics, produce collections and ship them to stores, but even if these transactions took place in July, the fashion calendar as we know it is completely obsolete.
Brands and designers who don't have their own boutiques and rely on a wholesale distribution model, will find it near on impossible to employ a 'see now buy now model.' For these companies, sales are made during fashion week, when the showrooms sell collections to buyers. This takes place from February to March and September to October for womenswear, and January and June for menswear.
For a brand like Burberry, buyers will come out of season to see its collection and place orders, as its business is vital to theirs. For smaller brands, international buyers will not make a special trips, so how can they leverage an in-season collection and make it available if it doesn't get seen?
Showrooms that sell collections work on lead times of at least four months when collections are delivered to stores, and luxury brands especially cannot fulfil a model of immediacy. The current model of fashion maybe reveal a discord between marketing, the catwalk calendar and supply chain. The only way to make fashion more immediate is for the selling dates to change, with buyers having to see collections out of season.
Burberry's CEO and Chief Creative Officer Christopher Bailey said in a statement: “The changes we are making will allow us to build a closer connection between the experience that we create with our runway shows and the moment when people can physically explore the collections for themselves."
How other brands can adopt to build a closre connection between experience and sales remains to be seen.
Photo credit: Burberry.com, Burberry Facebook