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Industry Feb 11, 2013 4 min read

Rethinking fashion weeks

We’re right into New York Fashion Week now, and while there’s runway shows going on, the tweets about snow are making NYFW feel like the side event! That’s if the...

  • EDITD Whistles Limited Edition
  • EDITD Marc Jacobs apology tweet
  • EDITD Burberry's runway live stream

We’re right into New York Fashion Week now, and while there’s runway shows going on, the tweets about snow are making NYFW feel like the side event! That’s if they’ve been lucky enough to make it to New York at all – many international editors and visitors have had their travel plans held up, but the shows simply have to go on. With the cost, effort and attention involved in a fashion show, it takes a weather front to highlight that fashion weeks and the way they’re delivered could do with a rethink.

There’s been many recent rumblings that the traditional show format is no longer relevant, or that brands aren’t so beholden to the structures of old. On Friday, Marc Jacobs announced they would be moving their show from Monday to Thursday because crucial bags, shoes and fabrics hadn’t arrived. It was an honest statement, but one which surprised the industry, not least because many of the most influential editors would have packed up and jetted off to London Fashion Week by Thursday. Jacobs HQ apologised for the inconvenience and stated they didn’t expect anyone to change their travel plans, but for many, Jacobs’ show is the week’s main event. Indeed, in SS13’s  shows he was the week’s most talked-about designer. But clearly MJ knows he can still win over his audience, and his industry, quickly tweeting to say the show would be live streamed.

Big name designers moving show dates during a fashion week certainly rocks the traditional idea of fashion week, but so does the crop of high street retailers being added to the show schedules. Topshop Unique trail-blazed the idea of this, showing at fashion weeks but also sponsoring young designers through NEWGEN since 2003. In the US, J.Crew have had shows for a few seasons too. But this year comes a whole host of retailers getting in on the action, with Whistles and River Island adding to the London line-up and H&M showing in Paris.

Catwalks aren’t traditionally used to exhibiting garments beneath the £100 mark.What’s in it for retailers? For Whistles, showing at LFW fits in well with the opening of their new London flagship on Dover Street. River Island are using the event to showcase their collaboration with Rihanna (an expensive undertaking, so it’s understandable they’re promoting it extensively). And H&M‘s presence in Paris is perhaps an alternate strategy to the questionable success of their collaborations, but also ties in with their planned spring-opening of a Paris HQ for new brand & Other Stories. Retailers are aware that fashion weeks are no longer solely industry events – that fashion’s audience has opened to the mainstream consumer who are clued up with what’s going on within high fashion. If they’re watching, why wouldn’t they want to show consumers they can compete on this level and still be affordable? And when pushing global expansion, it’s also a good way of harnessing international press and consumer attention.

As an influx of retailers move on-schedule, there’s an equal number of designers moving off, particularly at New York Fashion Week. NY suffers from not having any governing body organising the schedule, so it can be chaotic and over-crowded. For some designers, like Joy Cioci and Daniel Vosovic, that’s incentive enough to show outside the fashion week confines. They’re the first in what could become a wave of designers moving their shows to outside of fashion week, showing in March when the international shows are over. Capitalising on increased time of editors and reduced expense of venues and models, this could be a good strategy for smaller brands to ensure eyes on their show.

And then there’s the designers who simply aren’t showing. Or not in the usual sense anyway. Peter Som, Cacharel, Chris Benz and Holmes & Yang have all announced they won’t show this season. Instead the brands will be doing a mix of showroom presentations (where reduced costs can be put into manufacturing and marketing) and live-streamed events. Peter Som said of his decision to live-stream an event with the help of KCD Worldwide: “I’ve been doing shows in the traditional way for a long time, and I was kind of restless and wanted to try something new. KCD had announced they were doing digital fashion shows a few seasons ago, and I thought ‘Why not try it?” He finished with, “It’s a fun way to give everyone a front row.”

With the digital footprint of an online show being so measurable and the ability to link through to e-commerce sites and capture viewers details via subscriber lists and opt-in for social networks, this approach makes perfect sense.

And then there’s designers becoming a bit more… well, human. Alexander McQueen have scrapped their Paris show this year, opting for a showroom presentation as Sarah Burton is expecting twins and will be on maternity leave. As brands respond to digital growth and consumer interest, the transparency and visibility created mean that we no longer expect the brand to carry on regardless.

We expect to see more brands and retailers placing the consumer at the centre of their seasonal offering and diversifying that approach to best attract their interest. It may just be the end of fashion week as we know it. Especially if those Marc Jacobs shoes don’t arrive for Thursday…