See Now Buy Now: A Split Decision

If last season introduced the see now, buy now revolution, then this season defined it. While only a handful of designers decided to disrupt the fashion calendar in February – think Burberry, Rebecca Minkoff, and Thakoon – September saw the shifting of gears as more and more brands switched to showing in-season collections. 

 

​Rebecca Minkoff Fashion Show Ready to Wear Collection Spring Summer 2017 in New York

 

The thought leaders of this movement, for example Rebecca Minkoff, were confident that the see now, buy now retail culture would stimulate full-price sales. And that it did, with the brand seeing a 200% increase in sales after the success of their in-season February show. Not too shabby!

Even legacy labels such as Ralph Lauren have taken note and are following suit, understanding this is where they might need to position themselves in order to live up to the consumer's need for instant gratification. “Today, for the first time ever, I am proud to share with you my new women’s collection right off the runway and into your lives,” said Ralph Lauren in a statement. “For me, this is the ultimate expression of luxury – offering you every look, every accessory, every handmade detail immediately in my flagship stores around the world and online.

 

Ralph Lauren Fashion Show Ready to Wear Collection Spring Summer 2017 in New York

 

From the very beginning I’ve always designed with you in mind,” Lauren said, as if talking directly to the consumer. “You are changing the way you live and the way you want to shop, and we are changing with you and for you.

 

​Tommy Hilfiger X Gigi Fashion Show Ready to Wear Collection Fall Winter 2016 in New York

 

Alexander Wang and Tommy Hilfiger were the key players this NYFW, dedicating physical pop-up shops outside their runways so that everyone, from the press to the public, could buy what Adidas (for Wang) and Gigi (for Hilfiger) had co-designed. “The consumer thinks the clothes are old by the time they drop in store,” said an assertive Tommy Hilfiger. “Eventually many of them (other designers) will get with the program but this is what we believe.

For now, however, and despite Lauren’s and Hilfiger’s assertiveness, the industry continues to be split – in part because the powerhouses have both the infrastructure and resources to pull off the see now, buy now stunt, while smaller designers just can’t afford the luxury (or simply don’t have the creative desire) of presenting in-season collections.

 

​Creatures of the Wind Fashion Show Ready to Wear Collection Spring Summer 2017 in New York

 

Such is the case for Creatures of the Wind who told us backstage: “We think it’s really a case by case for each.” Shane Gabier, one half of the design team, further explained: “For us, it doesn’t really make much sense. We’re not doing an e-commerce or pop-up site. There’s a certain amount of planning you’re going to have to do six months out either way, so we’re going to stick to the standard, tried and true model.” Sometimes you shouldn’t fix what ain’t broke, and that rings true when you consider that Creatures of the Wind created a once-off see now, buy now parka (priced at $6000) that sold out in a mere three days.

 

Band of Outsiders Fashion Show Ready to Wear Collection Spring Summer 2017 in New York

 

Niklaus Hodel, Matthias Weber, and Florian Feder, the trio from Band of Outsiders, echoed a similar sentiment. “I guess it’s the future, but maybe not at that speed because to follow up on this idea, there needs to be a whole business that follows up and that would need some readjustment, so it can’t be that easy of a process,” admitted Hodel while in conversation backstage at their NYFW show. “There is also a huge waste involved because you pre-produce and you actually have to know what you’re going to sell, so it’s actually controlled selling; which again, you have to be quite big to control all of your retail chain. And for us, obviously, this was about showing a new aesthetic we're excited about, not so much about selling it right away, or selling it that quickly.

Erin Beatty, one part of the design duo for Suno, vocalized reservations as well but more in terms of her concerns for the potential loss of creativity and originality that comes from these kinds of monumental changes, which is certainly an important part of the debate. “The thing about American fashion especially, is that ultimately when you edit this (Suno collection) down to what’s going to sell, I hope that it will be beautiful and that it will be a representation of the brand. But because of the structure of the way in which we buy, it’s not going to look much different from what department stores will buy from another brand,” she told us while presenting her Spring 2017 collection. “So I think it’s very hard to fully express an idea or concept off simply what you’re selling. I think brands that are able to do that have a lot of their own stores, and more power to them. But I just worry about losing that creative voice.

 

​Alexander Wang Fashion Show Ready to Wear Collection Spring Summer 2017 in New York

 

For now, the industry as whole still seems divided on which path to take, and it will probably take some serious redefining and reorganizing if it ends up going down the see now, buy now path. Either way it goes, buy now, see now is here and it’s happening, and as it often seems to be the case, only sales and time will tell.

 

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