See Now, Buy Now Fashion
Technology is changing the the way brands adapt to their consumers – and it’s taking place directly on the catwalk. Brands have been embracing social media to create buzz and post collections, but this year’s fashion weeks in New York and London craved even more immediacy – with a see-now, buy-now model.
Out of more than 152 designers presenting collections at this September’s fashion week, 10% displayed and sold collections right off the runway. These collections were in-season, and showcased both menswear and womenswear simultaneously – and most importantly, were available to consumers instantly.
Historically, fashion week has been a strictly industry and celebrity attended event where collections would only be sold six to nine months following the runway show. Yet this direct-to-consumer model is encouraging the catwalk to be a launch event speaking directly to consumers and giving them immediate access to buy a brand’s collections in the current season.
“If we are instagramming, live streaming, and showing the collections, we can’t expect the customer and consumer to tie in with a traditional calendar,” says Christopher Bailey, Chief Creative Officer and CEO of Burberry.
Luxury brands are also giving fast-fashion companies competition, by making the real thing available before the knock-offs. In Burberry’s show during London Fashion Week, over 250 items of clothing and accessories were created for the current season, a combined number of 83 men’s and women’s looks – and all were available to buy immediately. Not only was it available in stores and online, but also via Facebook (where the show was live streamed), Snapchat, WeChat and Kakao.
“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,” said Bailey in a statement.
While it may be too early to see how successful the see-now, buy-now model will be in the long term, there have already been positive results. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the day after Burberry’s show, its Regent Street boutique sold out of several styles from the collection before noon, and many items were sold out online. What was part of this strategy to success? Every store only received a single-size run of everything, with no plans to restock.
During the the Tommy Hilfiger funfair event during NYFW, the brand showcased a fully shoppable collection of nautical-inspired daywear for the A/W 15/16 season, where guests, including general public who had been invited, could buy pieces from pop-up stands following the runway show. The pieces were also available online. Currently, many items are sold out entirely or only available in limited sizes.
“We had our largest Tom Ford day of the year immediately following his New York show,” revealed Joshua Schulman, president of Bergdorf Goodman and Neiman Marcus Group International. Topshop also sold out of three fresh-off-the-runway items, and Rebecca Minkoff’s weekend sales increased 168 percent compared to it runway show from last year.
By making runway collections shoppable, everyone can get involved in all aspects of the runway experience, taking away the frustration of waiting months to buy. This can build a long-term brand/customer relationship that can be hugely beneficial in terms of loyalty and data intelligence gathering.
One way is by being able to buy online or in store following a runway show, and another is integrating technology to streamline the experience and allow people to make more purchasing decisions. That’s where technology such as augmented reality and virtual reality are stepping in.
Similar to the see-now, buy-now model, augmented reality will have a profound impact on the way brands and designers connect to their consumers, says Matthew Drinkwater, head of the Fashion Innovation Agency. “Even purchasing could be transformed completely by this,” he says. “Imagine if you could have a hologram in your own room of the dress you’re about to buy. That’s quite an astonishing thing to think about.”
Augmented reality and virtual reality have already been tested out by some brands. Danish designer Martine Jarlgaard showcased the first ever mixed reality fashion show by presenting her entire collection using Microsoft’s head mounted HoloLens. In New York, Rebecca Minkoff combined virtual reality video streaming and a see-now, buy-now collection.
Minkoff also added an augmented reality element that allowed women to digitally try on collections online and in store seconds after it had been shown on the runway. “Our goal was really to strip away the stigma of the industry and give our consumers the ability to come and watch in person or see it live in VR 360. We’ve been breaking the rules our customer, and she likes it,” said Minkoff.
During September’s London Fashion Week, online retailer Lyst showcased an augmented reality exhibition using ‘hummanequins’ which viewers could dress with virtual representation of the latest fashion trends using tablets and smartphones. “It really blurs the line between a kind of everyday experience and an online experience,” says Rory Scott, VP communications at Lyst.
— Lyst (@lyst) September 16, 2016
So what does this mean for the future of the fashion industry? Is see-now, buy-now just a marketing hype to lure in consumers, or will it cause an entire shift in the supply chain?
For some, there are concerns it will negate the dream of luxury or hinder upon creativity and quality. Yet, with the use of technologies such as 3D to speed up time to market and create efficiency, it may be possible to adopt this see-now, buy-now model sooner than we think – especially if brands want to follow consumer needs.
“It’s important for designers to think about what they’re designing and when it’s being delivered into stores,” says Ken Downing, Fashion director at Neimen Marcus. “The reality is that the customer does not shop early anymore, they buy now to wear now.”
One thing for sure is that it will take time to see the impact it will have on the consumer, and to see the effects on the supply chain to implement this direct-to-consumer model. While it may not be a digital revolution, it is definitely an evolution.