Burberry and Tom Ford Both Announce See-Now-Buy-Immediately Collections for September
What a day of drama!
February 5, 2016 might go down in history as the day it sank in that the whole fashion system is about to reconfigure. Hot on the heels of Burberry’s announcement that it will be launching a see-now-buy-immediately women’s and men’s show in September, Tom Ford has declared the same thing.
Ford has called off press previews of his Fall 2016 collection, which were scheduled in New York for next week, and will show and sell the offering, all in one go, in September. “In a world that has become increasingly immediate, the current way of showing a collection four months before it is available to customers is an antiquated idea and one that no longer makes sense,” Ford said in a release. “Our customers today want a collection that is immediately available . . . Showing the collection as it arrives in stores will remedy this, and allow the excitement that is created by a show or event to drive sales and satisfy our customers’ increasing desire to have their clothes as they are ready to wear them.”
The chink that was opened by the live-streaming of shows has precipitated a cascading revolution. Digital technology and handheld gadgets have blown open the previously enclosed world in which collections were chiefly for the eyes of editors, buyers, and journalists. Tech-minded Christopher Bailey, Burberry’s CEO and chief creative officer, has spent the last decade pushing and experimenting with every possible new form of connecting and communicating with potential consumers during shows in real time.
All this has landed fashion in a strange halfway house over the past couple of years—opening a window on shows that has turned the performance of fashion into something more like open-access entertainment. That is not enough for Bailey, or for Ford. And surely, where these two titans of fashion lead, more competitors will follow.
It remains to be seen what this will mean for all kinds of people who are involved in the back end of producing clothes, not to mention the tiered hierarchy of buyers, editors, and journalists whose ways are predicated on the ins and outs of the old system. From the outside, though, it makes a sort of sense. It has never been easy to explain fashion’s labyrinthine processes to an outsider, anyway, and it’s bound to strike consumers as a completely obvious thing to do. Burberry has its own global network of stores and the power to buy fabrics and create stock in readiness for a simultaneous showing and selling bonanza on release day. Not everyone in fashion can gear up to do that.
But one thing’s certain: As of September, this new Burberry reality will be one down for the runaway fortunes of fast fashion, which has profited on the gift of the traditional gap between designers’ shows and deliveries. When Tom Ford came back to the runway with his first womenswear show, his thought was to ban press and Internet coverage altogether; he hated the idea of the clothes being seen everywhere, visually consumed before he even had a chance to sell a single piece. Now the copyists’ opportunity to get designers’ collection ideas into their stores months ahead of the original designs is about to be wiped out. It feels like the whole of the landscape of fashion—top to bottom—is finally shifting.