One Foot Forward

Luxury brands are gaining back control of their influence with a little innovation



There are many global industries that have seen a decline directly proportionate to the rise of the internet’s influence and a notable example is the fashion industry.

Thanks to live streaming of shows as well as blog and news posts that are disseminated to the public almost in real time, imitations of their collections are already on their way to pattern cutters in warehouses all over the world before the designer takes their obligatory thank you bow.

And with consumers already in the know before editors, luxury clients and industry insiders leave their front row seats, the industry is slowly loosing its lustre, its influence and, in more concrete terms, its ability to generate sales.

With this in mind, Burberry has announced a reinvention of the way they show collections. The iconic British fashion house has decided on two major changes: first, the dismantling of menswear and womenswear collections and the merging of the two and secondly, the elimination of Spring/Summer and Autumn/Winter collections in place of “February” and “September” showings at London Fashion Week. The collections will essentially be “seasonless”, in attempts to cater for a more global market, where clientele may not always be subject to the same seasons.

In this way, the brand is aligning the runway directly with retail, without any breathing room for their consumers – which is exactly what they hope will translate into sales as the buzz of the show is still in the air, as collections will be available to shop instantly following the show.

“This show has historically been shown to essentially an industry audience of press, media, buyers and people that we collaborate with,” Creative Director Christopher Bailey explained to Business of Fashion of the traditional Burberry show model. “We are opening it up to an audience who just do not, and should not, have to think about our industry’s ways and approaches and timings. You can’t force a different audience to understand something that is designed as an industry event.”

Until now, no notable label has made such real attempts to dismantle the traditional way of operating in order to mirror the obvious changes in both consumer demand, reach and consumption of the product.

It’s all too clear that the enormous reach of online channels has had a distinct shrinking effect on the global community. The influenced have slowly transformed into the influencers. There’s increasing demand for brands to represent their consumer’s needs in a much more tangible way.

Iconic luxury designer Tom Ford is also demolishing what he calls the “antiquated idea” of a collection that is available to covet without the option of purchasing. The former Gucci designer announced this week that he’ll be releasing his September collections to coincide with the appearance of his range in stores, as well as making the line available for purchase the same day as the runway show.

“We have been living with a fashion calendar and system that is from another era,” he wrote in a statement. “We spend an enormous amount of money and energy to stage an event that creates excitement too far in advance of when the collection is available to the consumer.”

Another clever innovation was Dolce & Gabbana’s recent foray into fashion specifically targeted at Muslim women. Launching a line of covetable hijabs and abayas wasn’t just a move towards a more inclusive idea of fashion – it was, as Forbes observed, a very clever business strategy.

The recognition of a wider marketplace and more diverse consumer is a sign that the fashion industry is finally awakening to the era it’s now found itself in: one where influence weighs more distinctly with the consumer, not the designer.

Bringing the fashion of Islam into the modern marketplace not only demonstrates their understanding of a general, global move towards diversity but also a clever understanding of how to grow their customer base.

Brands like Burberry and Dolce & Gabbana acknowledged the changes in the industry and have put strategies in place to reflect the changes. Other fashion houses that insist on keeping the ‘old’ ways will inevitably be left behind.


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