On 4th February, Burberry announced they were deploying what appears to be a real revolution in the world of fashion (see here the announcement on Business Of Fashion): the alignment of the dates of the fashion shows and those when any new collection would be available in their boutiques.
From September 2016 onwards the collections will be reduced to two each year, women's-wear and menswear shows will be merged and products will be available in boutiques at the same time. In the wake of this change, other brands announced their wish to align themselves on Burberry: Tommy Hilfiger, Tom Ford, Rebecca Minkoff, Vetements, Mulberry, etc. On 24th February, Ralph Toledano, chairman of the French Ready-to-wear Couture and Fashion Designers Federation announced that it would change nothing in their current schedule, followed very quickly by Gucci and all the Kering brands.
Christopher Bailey, Managing and Creative Director of Burberry, legitimates this choice by a desire to bring the brand closer to its clients: he does not see why products should not be immediately available or why fashion should continue to distinguish between autumn/winter and spring/summer when fashion is global (and relates to both hemispheres). Ultimately, according to him, all this requires only an optimization of the supply chain: "When you break it all down, it's just a shift in your supply chain - that's the crunch". I also think that he could have cited the lower costs that such a decision implies, especially at a time when Burberry's results are lagging (in the first 6 months of 2015: Sales and earnings stable / decline in licenses 13%).
But in reality, it is something else altogether: we are witnessing the great comeback of luxury and a redefinition of the conflict Italy & France v. the Anglo-Saxons.
"We have designers, retailers, and everybody complaining about the shows. Something's not right anymore because of social media, people are confused," said Diane Furstenberg, president of the CFDA (Council of Fashion Designers of America) announcing they were considering the eventuality of a "See Now, Buy Now" Fashion Week. It is indeed an American initiative, presented as one being made under the pressure of social media and consumers. This is a crucial point: one has only to recall, for example, that during the last fashion show Tommy Hilfiger set up an "Instapit": In addition to the space reserved for professional photographers, Tommy Hilfiger organised a space for instagrammers, to allow them to take photographs of the show under the best possible conditions and publish them live on Instagram (see here) and US shows are now often open to the public (albeit with an entrance fee). American Fashion shows are now organised as democratised "entertainment".
The reactions of the luxury brands (in Paris and Milan) – which project themselves as "creation driven" – relegate the image of American brands to one of being "marketing driven": it gives them a unique opportunity to reaffirm their status as luxury brands, practicing real rarity management. And thereby to conclusively distinguish themselves from the American brands (and Burberry) often projected as affordable luxury. We are therefore seeing a general repositioning of brands within the luxury sector.
But this does not imply an inflexible position on an immovable model on their part. Prada makes two models of the bags it presents in its shows available immediately in its boutiques. And Karl Lagerfeld reveals (on BoF) that Chanel's organization is far more subtle than one imagines: "Chanel makes six collections per year, but I make already one — the capsule — that is not shown to the press, to nobody. The day it comes out is the day the stores get a document. Now I want to do something else — perhaps it's too early to talk about it — to make a special collection only for the [Internet]. Fifteen things, you buy them and you get them immediately." A vision that is much more sophisticated than the "See Now, Buy Now".