The Autumn/Winter season is an interesting one: more textures, more garments, more layers. The design input has bags of potential to ramp up – but less time. Between Spring/Summer shows in September and the Autumn/Winter shows in February, there are five months, compared to the Feb-Sept gap of 7 months. No biggie? That’s 28% less product development time.
With fashion show stagings getting ever more elaborate and new emphasis on covering digital eating into team time, how are brands and designers coping?
The time pressure and shorter window to capture sales means it often makes sense for brands to rework success stories from the previous season. Switching colourways or reworking fabrics on items which attracted buyer’s attention is commonplace, and will become more so, as the ‘extra’ duties a brand is expected to subscribe to increase.
As the garments haven’t hit stores by the time the A/W collections need working on, and therefore there is no actual sales data, brands currently rely on the expertise of the buyers who placed orders after the shows. At 3.1 Phillip Lim, the demand for the satin crepe panelled cigarette pants was proven when they were snapped up for online sale by Matches, Shopbop, Ssense, Browns, Net-a-Porter, Selfridges and Farfetch. Phillip Lim were able to react in time, including the trousers in their AW12/13 offering – which was a wise move. SS12’s arrived last month and Net-a-Porter, Shopbop and Farfetch have all seen size sell-outs already.
No different at Acne, who have rerun their SS12 Leather Moto Trousers in a change of colour after Matches, My Theresa and Net-a-Porter bought in. Preen‘s Faithful blouse was bought by Shopbop and Boutique 1 after SS12 and made a reappearance in a new fabric for AW12/13. Then there’s Isabel Marant, the queen of hype garments and reruns. Those AW10/11 red leather Sok trousers, which were splashed across magazines and blogs, sold out at Net-a-Porter in a season at their £1200 price point. Four seasons later, they’re back, reworked with a new laced fastening. Her tasseled knits and bomber jackets are other examples of shape repeats which see success.
So, it’s all very well relying on the insight of seasoned buyers who have a knack for preempting what consumers want post-show, but how sustainable and scalable is it? Wouldn’t it make more sense to go direct to consumer without being funnelled through buyers, whose own tastes and whims may affect their choices?
By tapping into consumer interest year-round, we can determine which trends will prevail and which will be old news before the next collection lands. Combine that sort of intelligence with access to sales data, and brands can see when their retailers go out of stock in each size, colourway and when they discount. We can pinpoint specific items and trends, allowing design teams to see exactly how demand fluxes. This is a scalable way of ensuring garments sell and it frees up development time to work on the innovative items in a collection. Fixing the perennial problem of understocks and overstocks makes a pretty powerful tool, right?
So, Mr Lim, if you’re listening: those cigarette pants rerun for AW12/13? Well, they attracted 133% more online mentions from fashion’s influencers than the SS12 version. Keep them right where they are!