Just look at this month’s New York Fashion Week. Or actually, let’s throw it back to the 1850’s when top couture houses in France held private fashion shows for their most prized clients. The high-end fashion world has always been good at making sure no one outside of their exclusive circle has access to their products. Talk about defining affluence.
The concept of showcasing the best of fashion on runway models came to America in the early 1900’s and took its current form in the 1990’s. But, there is much debate of when the mainstream consumer started to notice. Was it when Mercedes-Benz became the title sponsor and started to market the hell out of it? Or was it just this month, when J. Crew, Christian Siriano and many others opened their runways to “every day” models.
Social media has shaken up the fashion industry. And as the BBC reported in February, it is now affecting how models are chosen. Sure, it could be argued that new, young and digital-savvy models like Kendall Jenner — with her built-in follower base from years on a successful TV franchise — have created this shift. But like the private shows from the 1800’s, it’s now gone mainstream.
High fashion is not just for preferred clients because we can all see it now. All consumers have access to it by simply entering a hashtag into their search. Or by just going to the NYFW website and watching shows stream live. Yes, live. Those coveted front-row seats are now up for grabs for anyone that wants to tune in.
This accessibility to high fashion, to learning the specifics of the designers and their artistry, has created even more need for accessibility. The rabbit hole is just going to keep getting bigger.
So what does this mean for luxury brands moving forward? Does exclusivity still have its role? If ready-to-wear is immediately ready-to-buy, then aren’t we primed for a revolution in copycat innovation?
According to YouGov’s 2015 survey of affluence and wealth, it’s all changing. And it is time to embrace it. We are quickly approaching the time of year when brand marketers strategize about how to position products and services for next year. It’s imperative that they ensure not just the right budgets but that the right corporate philosophies and structures are in place to address the themes mentioned above — this desire for extreme accessibility, even in the most exclusive of categories, like fashion.
Because, as the survey points out, “luxury consumers may still demonstrate an air of caution, but they are ready to spend — as long as it is on their terms.” And we all know the rest of the world will soon follow. Maybe even immediately. Let’s see if the live stream option is available.