Digital, Social Media Forcing Fashion Week Changes

It’s hardly news that thanks to the influence of digital, Fashion Week has been tottering on its high heels for ages. Bloggers and social media have been challenging the traditional fashion calendar.

Cheap-chic chains like H&M and Zara, able to rush trends from runway to retail before the designers who invented them, have also blunted its impact. And innovators like Tommy Hilfiger, Burberry, Rebecca Minkoff and Tom Ford are already tinkering with ways to inject a direct-to-consumer “shoppability” component into what began as a trade show.

But a new study from the Council of Fashion Designers of America, conducted with the Boston Consulting Group, shows that fashion brands are eager for bigger changes in the way they do business, says Steven Kolb, CFDA’s president and CEO.



“Fashion is an industry that is about newness,” he tells Marketing Daily. “The digital influence has created more knowledge, more information, and more imagery. And while social media has been great for expanding the eyeballs and the audience, it has also created this fatigue. Consumers often get over a look before they’ve even had a chance to buy it.”

And while fashion has been a leader in adapting to social media, “no one has quite figured out how to harness it in a way that brings true value back to the brand,” he says.

First, a Fashion Week refresher: New York Fashion Week comes first, opening a season of global Fashion Weeks. Originally, only buyers and fashion editors attended, and runway looks appeared in stores and fashion spreads up to six months later.

Soon socialites began attending, and then celebrities, heightening news coverage. Now, influencers attend and spread the word about what they saw immediately and some designers even webcast shows, creating a clamor for new looks. But that pulls deliveries forward, the study notes, “resulting in more misalignment with the actual, physical season, triggering early markdowns and reduced full-price selling, and furthering consumer confusion.”

The study, based on in-depth interviews with designers, fashion execs, wholesalers and online retailers, found four pressing issues:

*Brands are eager to find ways to boost “in-season relevancy.” 

*The perception of earlier deliveries and subsequent markdowns is hurting the full-price sale of apparel.

*A declining perception of what’s new is problematic. Trends seem stale by the time they reach the rack, causing fashion fatigue, which ultimately hurts full-price sales. 

*Designers are burning out. Because the resulting fashion cycle has become more complex, including pre-collections, there is “less time for the creative process and artisanship and puts immense pressure on critical design and creative talent,” it says.

How each designer intends to approach these problems varies. For example, the study says luxury brands are leaning toward runway shows that include capsule collections, which would be for immediate sale. Others are considering merging men’s and women’s shows. And many are considering ways to tighten delivery schedules, so that clothes arrive in stores when consumers want to buy them (and are more likely to pay full price.)

He says the study is intended to be a starting place for bigger changes, and that it pulled together many side conversations throughout the industry.

“We knew going in that there wasn’t going to be a magic pill that everybody could take, and that there would be a variety of ideas,” he says. But new business models are coming. “The world around Fashion Week changed very quickly. And Fashion Week didn’t.”

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