I find it paradoxical that fashion, an industry that thrives on newness, is also known for its rather traditional ways of thinking. So, when Burberry announced its game-changing in-season fashion calendar model, it made me take notice. The industry giant wasn't the first - but surely it was the most influential - brand to make the declaration that it would offer collections in-store immediately after runway shows, combine women's and men's shows, and move towards season-less collections called "February" and "September". My chief criticism is that I wished I had devised this strategy myself.
The fashion industry is in need of change. Technology and consumer savviness have morphed our habits and changed us into Instaglammers and Periscopers, and addressing ways of connecting more closely with the consumer is an inevitable step in our evolution.
Naysayers believe that these new business models would further 'democratise' and make accessible luxury fashion in a way that would erode its mystique. Perhaps. Or perhaps, instead, they would capture momentum coming off the runway (or other show) and translate this into quicker and higher sales. Also, call me a purist, but I believe a collection should speak for itself. Mystique is not something one necessarily needs to build - you either have it or you don't.
I understand why there are doubts in some minds, as there will be unintended consequences from these changes: the resulting multiple calendars may further confuse the customer; buyers and press may need to rethink their long-lead time buys and issues; Kim and Kanye (I prefer to give them each an individual identity than conveniently combine them into a mono-name) might have to mix and match Spring/Summer and Autumn/Winter outfits for sitting in the front row. All legitimately pressing concerns.
Then, there is the issue of global discord. Other key London-based brands such as Tom Ford and Mulberry, have joined the fold with Burberry. Paris' governing fashion body has unequivocally voted "no" to allowing such changes. The CFDA in New York has just declared that each brand should decide on its own. Perhaps the divide across the 4 long-standing fashion week cities (including Milan) may mean nothing, or more perhaps it opens up opportunities for Beijing or Seoul to steal some thunder whilst the stalwarts weigh in.
The question I've been pondering for some time now, is how these changes will affect new brands into the luxury market. As someone who runs an emerging brand, Tricouni, I feel privileged to have launched during a time of tremendous change in the industry. I welcome the open legitimisation of new business approaches in a way that didn't exist before. It means that amongst the chaos, there will be room for newer, nimbler companies to insert themselves into an otherwise established landscape. It will change the conversation, not just with other designers and with the press, but with manufacturers, the mills, and yes - the consumer.
Fundamentally, I think each brand should make its own decision, as I am an avid proponent of free choice. I also believe that there will always be a place for tradition in fashion, but as with all great houses, atop the foundation, there are necessary layers of modernisation. It is now time to shore up the house, maison, or casa.Suggest a correction