Established brands have begun experimenting with fully shoppable runways this season, but where does that leave emerging designers? WGSN’s Sam Aldenton and Sarah Owen reports.
Earlier in the week just as NYFW was kicking off, brands began lining up to announce their new seasonless collections and instantly shoppable runways. From Burberry and Tom Ford to Rebecca Minkoff, Vetements, and Paul Smith, each announced a slightly different take on their new business models, lamenting the current system and offering that this next phase would be an experiment. Many in the industry are calling this the change that we’ve been waiting for as the role of the runway show has become murky at best, and the number of different seasons being churned out has begun to wear thin with designers.
Before his show on Wednesday Michael Kors gave a preview of his A/W 16/17 collection to a small group of press at his New York head office. Kors showed 11 pieces included in his first foray onto the shoppable runway calling it “Ready to wear, ready to go.” The designer explained why he decided to adopt the trans-seasonal model as well as the shoppable runway this season.
“My customers don’t pay attention to the season. The weather is crazy – I mean, look at this weekend and then look at today [in New York it went from 3 to 50 degrees in the space of a day]. It’s cold in Florida, it’s like tropical summer in California. So I think that people of today’s world have a seasonless wardrobe,” says Kors. “What’s interesting is that a lot of our customers are leaving now to go skiing but when they walk in the shops there are no sweaters; there’s nothing cozy, nothing warm – so Wednesday at 11am she can buy a beautiful donegal handknit cashmere cardigan, which will walk down the runway.”
He also was quick to say that this model won’t be the right move for all designers since many don’t end up producing a lot of the products they show on the runway.
“We have to remember that fashion might be like music in the way that my mother still buys CDs and she has her old records, and then someone else uses Spotify and they stream it, and others download it. I think designers are going to have to find what’s right for them and how they work and each designer will do things differently and will find new ways of showing fashion.”
Speaking to Christine Centenera, Fashion Director at Vogue Australia, she also shared this same concern. “With ‘buy now, wear now’ that’s great for the big designers, but I think it’s just crippling for the young designers because they just don’t have the money to back up the production,” she says. “I also think it stifles creativity because I know working on shows the most incredible things are made up until the last minute and, when you have to factor in production, you lose that, unfortunately.”
Each of the designers that are experimenting with fully shoppable runways this season are established and well known brands. These are brands with steady revenue and buyer relationships and who have enough cash flow to be able to support the investment needed in producing complete collections ahead of season.
On the other hand, the introduction of seasonless collections shouldn’t be too much of a disruption, as designers in the Southern Hemisphere have been working like that for a while. “I guess being in Australia it’s not so much of a huge thing because we work in that way already, in that our designers need to create transseasonal collections to work in with the Northern Hemispheres,” adds Centenera. “It’s not something I think that’s such a huge thing to wrap your head around; it makes sense for us. So for the rest of the world to be doing that, I don’t see it as such a crazy change.”