Should Fashion Week Become a Consumer-Facing Event?


On Monday, the CFDA dropped a huge bomb: It will start working with an outside consulting firm in order to reevaluate — and possibly overhaul — the existing format of the biannual New York Fashion Week.

CFDA Chairman Diane von Furstenberg suggested Fashion Week may one day be more of a consumer-focused event — perhaps showing collections just as they're hitting sales floors, as opposed to six months before. Many members of the industry believe that the current system of showing collections so far in advance is not only irrelevant, but also confusing and frustrating to consumers, who want to purchase pieces they see online and on social media right away. A handful of designers have either already begun to rebel against the format as it stands, or have made an effort to include their customers as a crucial part of their Fashion Week audience. 

The CFDA has plans to meet with designers, editors, buyers and the like over the next several weeks to review ideas for overhauling Fashion Week. Since we have plenty of thoughts (and questions) of our own, we decided to do the same — under the assumption that the other fashion capitals will stick with their existing schedules. You can read both sides below, and we invite you to share your ideas in the comments.  

PROS

New York Fashion Week is desperately in need over an overhaul. Imagine, for a moment, if the film industry behaved like the fashion industry — letting all of the spoilers and reviews of a film go public, and then not releasing it until six months later. I bet you ticket sales would go down in a big way, and it would be incredibly challenging to have to build momentum for these films twice, as the fashion industry is forced to do now. Thus, I'm very much in favor of switching the show schedule — i.e. showing spring collections in February, and fall collections in September. Buyers and press could easily see the collections six months in advance, and critics could have their reviews embargoed until the show date. Some are skeptical that the embargoes could be kept, but it works for the film industry. —Lauren Indvik

It would encourage impulse buyingSo often, we see something on the runway and want it desperately, but by the time it has run in half a dozen editorials and hits stores six months later, we're bored. And it's not just editors who feel that way — images of fashion collections are dispersed so widely and immediately now, dedicated fashion consumers are feeling it, too. Revealing collections to the public just before they hit stores is a sound way to encourage those purchases, especially of a collection's most recognizable pieces. Just look at how well it worked for Balmain and H&M.

It will make it easier to market the collections. As I mentioned before, the industry is forced to divide the marketing of a collection into two parts – once when it's shown and once again when it hits stores. Wouldn't it be simpler, and far more effective, to build up momentum in a single time frame? Again, H&M and its design collaborators really have it figured out here.

It will make it harder for the copyists. In WWD, Diane von Furstenberg argued that fast fashion brands are the ones who benefit most from the fashion calendar as it stands: they can see a look or trend on the runway, and are able to reproduce it and get it on sales floors before the designer versions hit stores in six months. Changing the schedule would make it much harder for the Forever 21s and Jeffrey Campbells of the world to plan their inventories. Even those who own their own factories and can churn out a garment in two weeks, like Zara, would be forced to overhaul their manufacturing schedules. However, it's unlikely that fast-fashion machine will disappear completely.

The public ticket section at Givenchy's spring 2016 show in New York. Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

CONS

While I certainly see some positive aspects to the CFDA's reimagined Fashion Week — on the sales side, specifically — I can't help but fixate on the dozens of questions it brings up, too. In the interest of conciseness (and playing a bit of devil's advocate), I've listed three points that make me wonder if abandoning the industry-centric Fashion Week we know would really be the best solution. —Alyssa Vingan Klein

Everyone already complains the fashion calendar is too packed — this could make it worse. The word on everyone's lips in 2015 when it came to the breakneck pace of the fashion industry was "burnout," and the unrelenting schedule seemed to be the number one complaint across the board. However, this reimagined system wouldn't do much to alleviate the problem: Editors would still have to see and review collections six months in advance, while at the same time covering the new consumer-facing shows; buyers still need to place orders six months in advance and travel for market each season; and designers would still be required to maintain the established design schedule and, in addition, plan a blowout runway event for consumers that would hopefully drive them to immediately shop their collections. Putting on the show could become a job for the marketing team, but I don't see designers relinquishing control of their visions that easily. Just thinking about it is exhausting — and to me, pretty confusing.

Designers may show watered-down, more commercial collections. Obviously, the fashion industry is first and foremost a business, and it won't survive if designers and stores aren't bringing in sales. But if Fashion Week shows become purely a marketing tool, it's difficult to imagine the clothing wouldn't start to veer towards the commercial, too. In addition, it could lead designers to spend more time and money on buzzy gimmicks to bring the most consumer attention to their shows than they do on creating the collections. Part of the allure of the fashion industry is the bit of fantasy designers indulge in during their seasonal shows, as well as the mystery about what goes on behind the scenes. If the "magic" is gone a few years down the line, consequences could be dire.

Consumers may not pay attention to shows that aren't celebrity/Kardashian/supermodel affiliated. Balmain for H&M, the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show, Kanye West for Adidas and Givenchy's public New York debut in September were the fashion events that dominated the social media conversation this year, and they all had one thing in common: the celebrity stamp of approval. It doesn't seem likely that lesser-known (or less-funded) designers would be able to garner the public's attention in the same way, begging the question of whether they should put on a show at all. Sure, there are other viable options like an Insta-show or a short film, but there's no way of guaranteeing they will go viral. Moschino and H&M also saw great retail success this year in releasing collections online and in-store shortly after their runway shows, but they were relatively affordable, topping out at $500 or so. Can this sort of shopping fervor extend to luxury labels like Marc Jacobs or Oscar de la Renta outside of their core customer base? I'm inclined to say no.

[By Lauren Indvik and Alyssa Vingan Klein] [Read More] [From Fashionista] [Image from Fashionista]

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