Fashion Trends

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Buy Now or Buy Later? Retailers Weigh In on Which Show Style Is Better for Business

Aside from who will be the first to wear Balenciaga’s spandex boot-pants and what shoes will get a girl through the inevitable NYFW blizzard―PSA: It’s coming Thursday, February 9―the talk of fashion month will surely be about the effectiveness of see-now-buy-now shows vs. the longer-lead system of showing at Paris’s Couture Week adopted by Vetements, and announced by Proenza Schouler and Rodarte. The rationale for brands choosing either model is that both are reportedly far better for retail sales than the current see in February, stock in August model. In one corner, buy-now turns the runway into a marketing moment, allowing fans to get-the-look instantly. In the other, extreme long-lead presentations allow brands to combine pre-collections with main seasons, giving buyers the opportunity to make larger buys and serve up smaller capsule drops throughout the year. As we noted earlier on Vogue Runway, fashion’s new dictum is that the customer is always right―but how best to serve them?

For answers, we checked in with top retailers from around the globe. The biggest takeaway is that as things currently stand, buyers are always buying. “We joke that over the course of the last few years, we were in market two times a year, then it was four times a year, and now we call it forever market because it never stops!” says Jen Mankins, the owner of Bird, a high-end boutique with locations throughout Brooklyn and a future location opening in Los Angeles.

MatchesFashion.com’s buying director Natalie Kingham echoes that sentiment. “We are constantly buying,” she says, noting that delivery dates are proving more important than season. “As much as the Valentinos, Pradas, Miu Mius, Dolces and people like that are showing things down runways, we’ve actually already done a pre-buy before that buy, so there’s already two pre-buys, and then there’s the main catwalk show,” she adds. “So it really is adjusting to how the consumer wants to shop it and how we want it.”

While a nonstop tour of market appointments might be a short-term solution, sending people around the globe 24/7 is not sustainable. “Eventually, something has to give,” says Mankins. “I think if you’re trying to do something that’s efficient for buyers and editors, that’s a different agenda than trying to do something that is really spectacular and special for the public. It comes back to this: There are two separate goals for a fashion show and they’re becoming more disparate. I think designers are feeling that and I don’t think anyone has figured out how to reconcile both of those yet.”

So what’s the answer? No quorum has been reached, but here’s what the buyers think.

In Mankins’s view the runway remains an important component for buzz that can only aid sales. “I think it makes more sense when designers are moving closer to their selling period because they can really capitalize on the energy and investment that they’re putting into the shows and really direct that into sales, whether they’re selling directly to customers or through retailers like me,” she says. “If you show a collection [to the public] eight months, six months before clothes are available then it’s sort of old news by the time they hit the stores.”

Conversely, Kingham is pro longer-lead shows, which allow for more retail agility. “I feel like designers are moving towards that because they can see the financial gains of working like that, which is why some of them now have a pre-pre [collection]. That newness that’s dropping in stores all the time is exciting for the customer, to come in every few weeks and find that there’s new product coming in,” she says. Big runway moments are key. “There’s always that dress from the Burberry show or the jacket from Balenciaga or the Gucci blouse or the Gucci shoe. Honing in on those It items from the runway is still really important, and I think it’s important as a cultural reference. . . . We need to wardrobe and there are special pieces in all our wardrobes, we wait for those pieces to come in―with bated breath!―and they still work incredibly well.”

So, do you have to have both? Barneys New York’s fashion director Marina Larroudé thinks so. “Pre-collection is a larger part of the business as it sits longer on the floor before markdowns. It makes sense to see one big collection with different drops and with one cohesive fashion message,” she says, adding that, “there is definitely a mix. Our customer is looking for novelty and exclusivity. They visit the store multiple times in a week, looking for something new to buy. Also, our ability to take pre-order transactions [from the runway] has been instrumental in building a client that enjoys receiving the first of a delivery.”

The real solution might lie in creating separate but sort-of equal weeks for the industry and for the public. “I feel like there’s going to be more of a natural move between editors and buyers seeing the collections vs. the public seeing collections,” says Mankins. Brands like Céline and The Row employ a strategy like this, showing pre-seasons to press and retailers months in advance, letting lookbook images be revealed only when items are already in stores. Will everyone join the movement? Who knows, but where Phoebe Philo and the Olsens tread, fashion tends to follow.Read more at:evening dresses | formal dresses online




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