Once a mysterious entity shrouded in secrets, luxury fashion brands have been forced to adapt for the digital age by overhauling their season-based approach to selling, and making goods available immediately via an online click. However, they are now at risk of “devaluing” their brands by bowing to the pressure of younger audiences who are constantly demanding for the new, and instantly.
2016 has been a turning point for many luxury fashion brands. Burberry led the way earlier in the year when it made the radical decision to scrap its existing fashion calendar of four shows a year, replacing it with two ‘seasonless’ collections called ‘February’ and ‘September’ that are available immediately. The brand ended the fashion tradition of a six-month wait for products, to close the gap between the runway and the consumer experience.
Tom Ford followed suit and in a similar move cancelled its New York Fashion Week show to adopt a see-now-buy-now model. Moschino, Versace and House of Holland have also been experimenting with the idea by selling capsule collections to online retailers ahead of the show happening.
In today’s digital economy “new is definitely the currency by which things are measured,” according to Ben Kerr chief strategy officer at content agency Somethin’ Else, who said that for fashion houses, having to adapt their shows and deal with the appetite for ‘new’ is leading to the devaluation of their brand.
“This [the new fashion show model] represents a really big and severe challenge for the fashion industry, because as soon as you start to click to buy from the catwalk, effectively what you are doing is you are commoditising your brand,” he told an audience at Eurobest in Rome. “No longer is it about the big idea, or the trend for the season.
“Fashion brands really make all their money by creating massive perceived value around what they do, and building an image of who they are and their place in the world. All of a sudden if you’re creating a conveyor belt you risk really devaluing your brand and effecting your long-term opportunity for growth.”
Kerr added that fashion brands need to think “long and hard” about how they use their catwalk shows because if they commoditise them they will no longer seem as valuable to the consumer.
So, with the appetite for the new and now seemingly insatiable, how can luxury fashion brands sustain the hungry consumer without losing the often centuries old reputations they’ve created?
“Fashion brands need to think how they can infiltrate the younger audience because if the bottom of the funnel is devaluing the brand they have got to do something at the top to keep the value there,” said Kerr. “They can continue to develop new clothes to keep the audience excited, but that is a challenge when people are looking for stuff all the time. The second thing they can do is create content that fills their social feeds. So alongside the brands that people are seeing on Depop [a mobile, social shopping app that sells new and used clothing] which is de-branded, they are still content exciting content in their feeds that is making consumers warm to brands.”
With margins continuing to be squeezed, outsourcing more creativity by collaborating more frequently is the way forward for fashion houses. Kerr called out the example of Adidas working with edgy skate brand Palace on a footwear and clothing collection, as something “Adidas wouldn't have dared to do five years ago”.
“Marketers think they collaborate a lot of the time anyway, but with the growth of YouTube improving cultural collateral, what the fashion industry has been doing is paying for endorsement deals... these perceived ways of collaboration are just glorified endorsement deals. Brands need more exciting ways to collaborate. This is a scary thing because marketers and brand owners have a singular vision of who they are and what they should look like, but it’s not cutting through in today's media market place.”