Back stage at Burberry Prorsum Spring 2016
By Anh Nguyen
For decades the fashion industry has been working in a Fall/Winter and Spring/Summer calendar. Every February and August in New York, Paris, London, Milan and other fashion capitals around the world, the fashion weeks showcase new collections that are set out to be in stores four to six months later. This custom allows sufficient time for designers and buyers to work together and make necessary changes to the collections before sending them to production. However in the recent years with the surge of fast fashion and consumers being more tech-savvy, the new demand is to have products available to customers in the shortest time possible.
Knowing that being first in fashion is the key, Burberry took a leap in what could possibly change the face of the entire industry. Early February 2016, the brand announced its new See Now-Buy Now system where there Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter collections will be replaced by the February and September shows, respectively. In addition, Men’s and Women’s will be combined in one show; and the collection will be available in stores and online immediately after the show ends. In other words, for Burberry, starting September 2016 the six-month lead time between show and sales will be hours.
In an interview with Women’s Wear Daily, Christopher Bailey, chief creative and executive director of Burberry, said: “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.” This major adaptation is sure to have started with a deep concern for consumer’s demand, but it is also a sign that high-end brands are strongly reacting to fast fashion. Companies like Zara are threatening luxury brands with their ability to quickly adopt designs from the runway, put into production and ship to stores within four to six weeks, before the designer brands even start production. With See Now- Buy Now, Burberry is catching up with the speed of Zara and H&M, hence preserving the collection from “copy cats,” and at the same time get closer to their customers. Drastic change across the industry is not happening overnight, but with other brands such as Mulberry and Tom Ford joining the movement, new habits are promised to take shape.
While immediate availability makes perfect sense in the current discourse of the industry, making it happen is not going to be easy. Brands that either have in-house production or work with factories in close proximity are much more likely to follow this step than those that outsource their products. Additionally, the big question for brands that wholesale to department stores and retail outlets besides having their own stores, is that how do they avoid discouraging buyers because of the risk and hastiness of See Now-Buy Now.
In the end, it is up to the consumer to decide the fate of this movement. We are eager to see what comes next, who will follow Burberry’s lead and what impact this change will make on the fashion industry as well as the shopping habit of men and women.