Is This The End Of Fashion Week As We Know It?

The British brand's collections will now be available to purchase online immediately after the runway show

Burberry SS16 Fashion Show
Burberry SS16 Fashion Show
(Image credit: Alessandro Lucioni)

The British brand's collections will now be available to purchase online immediately after the runway show

Picture this: you're sat front row during a spring/summer fashion show that's held in September. The models are wearing lots of floaty florals and spaghetti strapped things. It's freezing outside so you probably wouldn't want to wear any of this now, even if you could, which you can't. Because the collection isn't available to buy for another six months. By which time the high street will have produced countless, similar, cheaper versions and the original designer will be about to show a new collection, so the spring/summer stuff that's finally in-store won't feel current.

There seems to be something very wrong with this system. Right?

Burberry thinks so. And as of February 2016, the digitally-innovative brand, which has pioneered instant purchases from catwalk shows (select items have been available to purchase instantly for years), has announced a big overhaul of the way it creates, presents and sells its runway collections.

Going forward Burberry's February show and the September show will feature both womenswear and menswear collections. In addition, the full collections will be available to purchase in-store and online immediately following the show.

Burberry Chief Creative and Chief Executive Officer Christopher Bailey 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. Our shows have been evolving to close this gap for some time. From livestreams, to ordering straight from the runway to live social media campaigns, this is the latest step in a creative process that will continue to evolve.'

Will other brands follow suit? What is the future of fashion shows?

In December 2015 these questions were being pondered by a consulting group employed by the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA). And early signs indicate that Burberry is setting a precedent which that brands will likely follow.

WWD reported that the CDFA is keen to turn designer's biannual catwalk shows into events for the public: impressive showcases of in-season clothes that are available to buy immediately. This makes sense to consumers, and fashion is ultimately a consumer driven industry. Therefore, a commerical reboot that puts the experience of the people who buy the clothes front and centre is valuable for everyone.

‘We have designers, retailers and everybody complaining about the shows. Something’s not right anymore because of social media, people are confused,’ said Diane von Furstenberg, chairman of the CFDA.

Here’s the thing: none of us are very good at waiting anymore, increasingly there’s just no need. We can download new music the moment it hits itunes, watch our favourite TV shows on demand, have dinner delivered to our door, and streamline every aspect of our lives at a click. The internet has revolutionised the way we consume everything. Instant satisfaction is normailised.

So it seems increasingly baffling that fashion (globally, a trillion dollar industry) seems painstaikingly slow to deliver its products. Plus, social media has transformed our access to fashion (we see much more, much faster) – currently we’re bombarded with a lot of appealing images of things we have to wait ages to buy, that feel outdated once they're delivered. Burberry's transformation of its collection presentation and delivery tackles this problem head on.

If a new system like the one the CFDA is proposing, and Burberry is pioneering is introduced industry-wide (showing the public in-season clothes you can buy immediately) then Von Furstenberg has suggested that industry insiders could familiarise themselves with next-season collections and place buying orders via intimate showroom presentations - industry-only runway shows would become redundant.

Small shifts are already underway in other forward-thinking brands too. London based designer Thomas Tait is scheduling one-on-one appointments with press and buyers in March, instead of hosting a traditional runway show.

US label Rebecca Minkoff is leading change too. She announced she will present her spring/summer 16 collection (again) in February to an audience that includes 30-50% consumers (retailers and their best customers) who will be able to shop directly from the show. No waiting required.

Sounds like fashion month is going to undergo some big changes in the not too distant future.

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