Burberry turns catwalk rules on their head


Last Friday British megabrand Burberry announced that it would abandon the traditional biannual and seasonal approach to catwalk shows, with a move that effectively shook up the whole of the fashion world. "The fashion calendar's been around as long as Burberry's iconic black-tan-and-red check, and it's ripe for a shake up," wrote Andrea Feldsted for Bloomerg Gadfly.

Burberry Autumn/Winter 2013 Womenswear collection.

From this September onwards, Burberry's collections will be presented only twice a year following a "seasonless, immediate, and personal" approach, designed "with a global audience in mind", as explained by the brand's chief creative officer Christopher Bailey. Both menswear and womenswear collections will be displayed at the same time in a unified, holistic show, a decision that seems to comply with the predicted movements towards a more genderless fashion, also described by Pantone in their latest Colour of the Year announcement. Moreover, and perhaps the most radical change of all, the collections will be available for purchase instantly, both online and in store, completely disrupting the conventional model which expects the consumers to wait four to six months before being able to buy. The proposition is to set up their stores to reflect the show by the time the event is over.

Burberry Spring/Summer 2016 Menswear collection.

Burberry isn't the only luxury brand that is starting to privilege a "see now, buy now" strategy: Tom Ford will present his Autumn/Winter 2016 collection in September instead of February, and several other brands have resorted to live-streaming the catwalks on social media or even showing the collection on Instagram before the actual show. All of this ties in with an attempt to reboot catwalk sales and close the gap between fashion shows and retail. Bailey has appropriately called it "the latest step in a creative process that will continue to evolve." The production, presentation and selling model centred around catwalk shows is now seen as outdated and designed for a "pre Internet" era, where fashion shows were industry events exclusive for the press. However, with the rise of social media, brands have begun to feel the need to realign catwalk and retail cycles, in order to make their collections more relevant to the consumers, more "immediately shoppable".

“You create a lot of energy when you do the shows, and the broader these have become — whether it’s livestreaming, instagramming, or showing online — you’re creating all this energy around something, and then you close the doors and say, ‘Forget about it now because it won’t be in the stores for five or six months.’ And then you’ve got to create that energy again.”
Christopher Bailey, Burberry CEO

Burberry Spring/Summer 2015 Womenswear collection.

For Burberry, this move created the need for a huge shift in their supply chain process, which Bailey explained has now become "more agile and flexible" in regards to ordering fabrics, predicting demand and manufacturing in advance. "It's fashion rebooting to be in touch with reality," said Sarah Mower, Vogue's chief critic and the British Fashion Council's ambassador for emerging talent.

Whether or not this major move will be successful and will see follow-through by other big brands is yet to be seen. But what is certain is that this is probably a much-needed shift to the existing system, and it will hopefully spark new innovative ideas from other CEO's, as Dutch trend forecaster Li Edelkoort stated just a year ago that "fashion is dead", and that the fashion industry system as it stands now has lost touch with reality and with what people want. This may just be the first big step towards the "resurrection" of fashion.


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