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Brief Published: 8 Feb 2016

Catwalk Game Changers: Fixing the Fashion System

Seasonless, climate-neutral, gender-inclusive and see now/buy now are fast becoming the leitmotifs of an industry grappling with change. Last week saw some of fashion’s biggest names seizing upon these concepts in a bid to fix an outmoded system.

Burberry Menswear A/W 16/17
Burberry Menswear A/W 16/17
Burberry Menswear A/W 16/17

Brit power brand Burberry – the first to engage consumers with catwalks by livestreaming its shows six years ago – kicked off the news by announcing a move to just two presentations a year, featuring climate- neutral product for both men and women in single shows simply entitled February and September.

With product available to purchase immediately – both in-store and online – and supported by a full media campaign, the move is all about furthering consumer engagement when it matters and therefore, crucially, maximising potential sales.

Where Burberry leads, others tend to follow and Tom Ford and Vetements swiftly confirmed similar radical shifts to in-season presentations with a buy-it-now focus and a gender-inclusive approach.

In an appropriately disruptive move, Vetements also announced its decision to show in January and June rather than March and September, further tearing up the catwalk calendar rulebook, but cleverly tapping into the bigger pre-collection budgets of most stores as well as allowing a longer product shelf life before traditional markdown periods.

These shifts could be seismic and multi-layered. Showing in-season product on the catwalks smartly addresses the massive timing disconnect created by social media in recent years – with see now/buy now being the natural progression for a fashion media no longer dictated by the wait for (and weight of) September issues.

Mixing men’s and women’s collections together in one presentation similarly confirms this shift from catwalk show as traditional industry tool to Insta-ready celebrity event, rethinking the interface with buyers and traditional media in favour of a FROW-centric, consumer-facing focus aimed at both women and men.

The increasing global reach of designer brands and fashion retailers dictated that it was only a matter of time before the savviest innovators embraced seasonless as a concept, identifying the year-round need for various climate-appropriate products, set against a multi-territory-ready season-neutral backdrop. Burberry’s new naming protocol of February and September further endorses this re-think around seasonality.

However, the impact of change could be even more far-reaching than this. The move to in-season shows aimed at enhancing consumer engagement would, if broadly adopted, impact on existing catwalk services to the broader industry as well as changing the way fast high-street fashion works.

With over 350 scheduled catwalk shows in a womenswear season alone, the potential shift is likely to be a very gradual one, but represents possibly the biggest news in catwalks since ready-to-wear fashion shows started.

For more on a season neutral approach to A/W 2016/17 see our Supernova, Thirties Dignity and Audition Fashion Forecasts.

Also see Tribal Gatherings: Cultivating Fandoms for more on other innovative consumer engagement strategies from luxury brands and Catwalk to Closet for the background on catwalks new consumer focus.