We’re a day away from the beginning of fashion month, in New York. As I wrote in a recent post, I’m surprisingly excited for this New York Fashion Week despite the awful season we experienced in February. One of the major themes we’ll lie witness to is the rise in see-now, buy-now. See-now, buy-now is no stranger to fashion; Burberry began experimenting with it seasons ago, offering the customers a chance to purchase select items immediately after the show. The catch, however, was that you would have to wait until the industry prescribed designated delivery date of early September, when the fall collections drop. For a heritage brand to engage with an enormous commercial risk set a precedent for other designers who followed suit.
If I remember correctly, that Burberry moment was almost four years ago. See-now, buy-now isn’t exactly an exhilarating and refreshing conversation to have… Many brands have chosen to engage with the format of selling their goods. Months back, Burberry announced some changes. A day after their Fall 2016 collection was showcased on the runway it was stocked in the flagship store on Regent Street, immediately available for purchase. See-now, buy-now, wear-now.
The conversation around see-now, buy-now, and indeed, wear-now, is an interesting one. There are valid debates for and against it. Those in favour of the motion argue that by offering the customer the clothing to buy in quick succession of the show will mean that they won’t be bored waiting five to six months to see it in stores and instead will resort to high street brands H&M, Topshop, etc., for a cheaper, almost-identical alternative. The issue of fast fashion copying designs has forever been an issue that the fashion industry has had to face. (Recently, I was perusing rails in a menswear shop on the high street and saw a duplicate of an Acne Studios top). Fighting fast fashion with fast high fashion? It takes away the mystique.
The Italians and the French have both been opposed to the ideologies. “The difference between creating a desire and satisfying a need is the difference between slow fashion and fast fashion,” says Carlo Capasa, president of Camera Nazionale della Moda. He continues, “New York has always been the land of branding and marketing. We and France, we are more the area of creativity and manufacturing. I think the logic is different.” Head of French luxury goods holding company Kering, François Henri-Pinault astutely remarks, “the notion of see now/wear now, or sell now, is a negation of dreaming, of desire.”
Luxury goods holding companies have educated their customers on the system. They understand brands require five to six months to allow the craftsmanship and production to run smoothly; this in turn presents the customer with, hopefully, the product in the best possible condition. See-now, buy-now, wear-now is a risk that means brands have to produce a certain amount of clothing without over- or under-producing, a dangerous game to play.
I immediately think of young designers whenever this debate is mentioned. How could the likes of Molly Goddard, Faustine Steinmetz, Phoebe English survive in a see-now, buy-now, wear-now climate—they simply couldn’t. They can’t switch production schedules as its too costly. Their customers have to wait for six months and I’m sure it’s worth the wait because they’re buying brilliant designs rooted in a concept and dream, that has necessity but isn’t grounded in it.
Burberry and Tom Ford have both announced a switchover to the see-now, buy-now, wear-now model for the upcoming fashion week. That’s all well and good because they’re not influencing the greater fashion conversation. As much as this topic has definitely piqued the interest of business minds within the industry that’s due to the scale of these brands and the press attention that they’re guaranteed to receive, these brands influence nobody other than themselves. Burberry is a large conglomerate that’s main source of revenue is from the trenches it’s famous for and the regularly revamped handbag line. Tom Ford was once an omnipotent figure in the fashion world during his days at Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent in the late 90s and early 00s, but that has since changed. His label’s beauty and fragrance division is the real winner where his company’s revenue is concerned. Hopefully as we enter this fashion month the press will remember that.
Photo Credit: voguerunway.com