Closing the gap between runway and retail

An employee arranges women's handbags in the Burberry Group Plc boutique at the Central Universal Department Store, in Moscow, on Jan 31, 2016.
An employee arranges women's handbags in the Burberry Group Plc boutique at the Central Universal Department Store, in Moscow, on Jan 31, 2016. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

LONDON/PARIS • Design houses Burberry and Tom Ford last Friday announced new strategies that will allow them to close the gap between the runway and retail to get clothing and accessories more quickly to customers in different climates around the world.

British heritage brand Burberry said it would no longer present two womenswear and two menswear shows a year, but instead hold February and September shows that would feature both menswear and womenswear collections.

Ford last Friday abruptly cancelled his New York fashion week show later this month for his autumn/winter collection. He will instead debut it in early September and make it available to purchase in stores and online on the same day.

Major luxury brands such as Dior, Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Gucci have increased their number of annual collections in recent years from four to six, adding cruise and resort collections on top of the traditional ready-to-wear and couture collections to raise brand awareness and lure more customers with more options.

The move by Burberry will make it logistically easier to get new fashion more quickly to customers, who increasingly want to order items fresh off the catwalk via their mobile phones rather than wait months for them to appear in store, the brand said.

"From live streams to ordering straight from the runway, to live social media campaigns, this is the latest step in a creative process that will continue to evolve," its chief executive Christopher Bailey said in a statement.

Ford said debuting a collection from his privately held brand on the runway four months before it is available to purchase "is an antiquated idea and one that no longer makes sense".

"Our customers today want a collection that is immediately available," he added.

The designer broke with tradition in February last year when he debuted his collection in Los Angeles ahead of the Oscars, rather than at London Fashion Week, to capitalise on the news spotlight in Hollywood.

Burberry said it would continue to hold small events or fashion shows in some of its important markets.

The changes may help the design houses fight competition from fastfashion retailers such as Inditex's Zara, which can put out new ranges inspired by catwalk trends in a matter of weeks without the expense of celebrity designers and fashion shows.

They also come at a time when designers have become increasingly vocal about the hectic pace of fashion and the demands of communicating online on social networks.

When Raf Simons left Dior and Alber Elbaz was sacked from Lanvin last year, they both complained about the fast pace of the industry.

"Fashion shows have become a way to communicate to the media and the same journalists cover both womenswear and menswear," said Exane BNP Paribas analyst Luca Solca. "It makes a lot of sense to combine the two as you save money and can make a louder bang with your bucks."

The race to wow journalists by showing resort and cruise collections in unusual places has intensified. Last spring, Chanel flew journalists to Seoul, LVMH's Louis Vuitton took them to Palm Springs, California, and Dior whisked them to Europe just days before the Cannes film festival.

This year, Chanel will be showing its cruise collection in Cuba in May, while Kering's Gucci this week said it would present its cruise collection in June in London's Westminster Abbey, where Prince William married Kate Middleton.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 11, 2016, with the headline 'Closing the gap between runway and retail'. Print Edition | Subscribe