It seems now that every end of fashion month is met with a collective, yet dismal sigh of relief. The style spectacle is not what it used to be. With see-now-buy-now transcending seasons and labels dropping like flies from the fashion calendar, the times are a’ changin’. Alexander Wang made headlines last month when he announced to depart from the September/February schedules in favor of off-season December/June showings that better line up with sales timings, yet the designer is just one from a long list of brands seeming disillusioned with strenuous Fashion Week traditions.
Also on this list are Anya Hindmarch, Acne Studios, Rodarte, Vetements, Public School, and Kenzo, some electing to show their ready-to-wear collections during the biannual Paris Couture Weeks in January and July. Public School has already thrown in the towel on Fashion Week, opting for a direct-to-consumer approach, and similarly, Anya Hindmarch has decided to stop with presentations and instead put forth “consumer happenings,” which the brand described to WWD as an opportunity for shoppers to “engage with the brand’s creativity on and offline when the product is available in store.” During London Fashion Week, the brand exhibited its first consumer happening, which entailed large, red heart-shaped balloons placed throughout the city, calling it a “love letter to London.”
The eventful multi-city Fashion Weeks every September and February have become expected spectacles, drawing the attention of fashion insiders and curious clothes-wearers alike. A fashion brand hosting a showy runway presentation puts the same care and attention into their 15-minute demonstration as a musical artist would for a two-hour set, considering lighting, music, staging, even choreography. Runway presentations have become dramatic performances, no longer just about the clothing. The phenomenon has evolved a long way from the small, early 20th century presentations hosted in a designer’s salon. Even by the 1940s and 50s, when star couturiers like Christian Dior and Cristóbal Balenciaga attracted media attention, the publicized fashion shows were simple events to present collections department store buyers and a few members of the press. Runway shows as we know them only developed in the 70s and 80s, becoming theatrical displays even more recently.
Clearly, times have changed. Anyone can watch any designer’s collection as soon as the press does, right from the comfort of their own laptop or smartphone. Runway shows are as much of publicity stunts that entice consumer audiences as they are presentations to prospective buyers. The exclusivity is long gone, and in its place is a focus on the consumer — the biggest example being see-now-buy-now. The multi-brand decision to begin aligning collections with their respective seasons two years ago was an entirely consumer-oriented decision. It’s all about getting the products to the shoppers as soon as possible.
The same goes for the shift in showing months. Alexander Wang, Bonnie Young, and that litany of brands opting to share a schedule with Paris Couture collections, chose to show collections in December/June and January/July respectively because these months better coordinate with the schedule of when collections hit store shelves. Rather than a six- or seven-month waiting period between the showing of a collection and its actual sale, consumers will only need to wait three or four months from the time of the reveal. As Lisa Gersh of Alexander Wang explained to WWD, “Our customer will be better served through the new system. The innovative approach reframes product on the month that it ships, rather than the outdated labels of ‘resort’ or ‘pre-fall,’ giving our customers more relevant and consistent merchandise throughout the year.”
Gersh’s statement brings attention to another evolution in fashion presentations. With off-season ready-to-wear lines like pre-fall on top of traditional Fall and Spring lines, brands could be creating four to six annual collections when designing separate menswear and womenswear lines. All of the collections take a lot of time in preparations, plus multiple presentations can end up being quite costly. This was a deciding factor for quite a few labels that have integrated their lines into unisex collections. And the number of brands going co-ed has been steadily rising. This season alone, J.W. Anderson, Salvatore Ferragamo, Balenciaga, and Roberto Cavalli joined the co-ed trend that Alessandro Michele of Gucci popularized a couple of years ago, along with his comment, “Why spend the money on two runway presentations if you can show everything in one?”
The fashion industry is constantly growing and evolving, always affected by socioeconomic motives. However, the many adaptations of the past few years have two things in common: 1) they indicate that the typical Fashion Week schedule isn’t working and 2) their goal is to better connect brands and consumers. So shoppers, rejoice — you’re in control here.