Fashion / Runway/Collections

The Imminent Rise of Direct to Consumer Shows

Even though the fashion industry is constantly innovative, it has been functioning the same way since its beginning. Collections are presented to its potential clientele. They decide what they want. The pieces go into production and are sold/delivered to the client. It has always been like this but in an era where the consumer wants it all and right at this very minute well… the fashion industry (especially RTW) is falling behind. Fortunately, some designers are taking notice and taking actions on this problem and have decided to cut the number of shows to make them direct to consumer.

“In a world that has become increasingly immediate, the current way of showing a collection four months before it is available to consumers is an antiquated idea and one that no longer makes sense. We have been living with a fashion calendar and system that is from another era.” – Tom Ford (for WWD)

First things first, what is direct to consumer?
Direct to consumer means that once the collection/product is shown, it becomes immediately available for purchase. So when you’re watching the Burberry show and you just need to have that handbag or that amazing coat, you can buy it the second the show’s over. Isn’t great? You don’t have to wait all those months in between the show and the moment the product’s finally online or at your favorite store.

“You can’t talk to a customer and say, ‘We’re really excited, we’re going to stimulate you and inspire you, but you can’t touch it or feel it for another six months.’ In fashion we talk about ‘a moment,’ and what feels right for the moment. And I’ve always battled with that because the moment is when you’re showing it, but then you’ve got to kind of say is it the right moment five or six months down the line? I just struggled with it. So it’s just trying to say to the customers: ‘You’re really important to us. We’re serving you and we need to change our ways rather than expect you to do these things.’” – Christopher Bailey of Burberry (for WWD)

This is good for both the consumer and the brand. It’s good for the consumer because you have that product available immediately so you won’t forget about it (4+ months is a long time in our short attention span minds). You can save up for the show months in advance, which is great for people that can’t afford pieces from certain brands. And because its available immediately there’s no exclusivity. Whether you’re an New York editor or a Dallas’ based doctor, you’ll have that awesome handbag at the same time.

For the brand it’s even better because when they present their womenswear/menswear collections together, they’re already saving a lot of money. They’ll be saving event production money (venues aren’t cheap) and probably some advertising money. If they make the collections available to the consumer once presented, they don’t have to purchase so much media (Or at least so much print media). Once collections are made direct to consumer, there’s no need to constantly remind the consumer that their product exists months before said product is available. They can focus on online media which is cheaper, faster and has a much wider reach than print. This might also bring more budget for brand activation which always help bring new consumers while keeping the old ones happy and faithful to the brand.

I don’t think print media will die but the infamous September/March issues might take a hit. I think big-name magazines should brace themselves for this and start thinking of new (attractive) strategies for selling online media.

It still won’t be a smooth ride for the brand. Direct to consumer means that there’s a lot to lose if the brand doesn’t have an attractive product. They have to make sure that it will bring revenue before it goes into production but I’m pretty sure that trendsetters/influencers/editors will still see the collections before anyone else. The pressure is still on (as if it wasn’t already) for the people in charge of consumer behavior, merchandising and production.

In conclusion, change is a constant and necessary part of life. Fashion changes with the seasons so why shouldn’t the supply line do the same? I’m very excited for what this will bring.

Who will follow the footsteps of Christopher Bailey and Tom Ford? Marc Jacobs? Chanel? Michael Kors? The CFDA and the British Fashion Council are already doing their homework. We’ll just have to wait and see. I think that’s the only thing that might never change.

What do you think of direct to consumer shows? Will it work or will it fail? Let’s talk about it on the comments.

[Featured image from Hannah Morgan via Unsplash]

18 thoughts on “The Imminent Rise of Direct to Consumer Shows

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  9. Hey Sheila,
    great post and I love how you write.

    I think the struggle is real, there are so many factors that influence the definitive risk a brand takes when launching a collection. I’ve been in the clothing industry and private previews with agents/buyers can really change the concept and styling of the final product.

    On the other hand, big luxury brands have the power and appeal to influence the customer decisions, and their power to market products make it possible to sell just like anything. I.e., I’m shocked on how Jeremy Scott x Moschino is launching “successful” collections with his cheap design. I’d never buy a Happy meal bag or a powerpuff dress, but, you know, I still keep a bit of critical sense and, honestly, I believe the consumer choices are going to be more and more shaped with deep marketing and the ( now teenagers) future customers.

    Fashion is, and has always been, a clear indicator of the historical period we’re in and a social indicator of the prevailing culture, economy and social situation, so I believe direct to consumer is a really interesting phenomenon that has to be studied not only in terms of selling capability.

    Thank you for this post!

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