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Brief Published: 23 Mar 2016

Fashion in Flux: Catwalks, Fast v Slow and Season-Neutral

L-R: Fashion crowd at Naeem Khan, Peronalised engraved chair plaques at Saint Laurent A/W 16/17

Since the A/W 16/17 catwalks finished two weeks ago, we have been sharing concise analysis of the season with our key fashion clients – as well as our thoughts on the future of the traditional fashion calendar.

While the season opened with announcements of a shift to entirely consumer-facing, in-season shows, it closed in defiance with a no change message from many of the established luxury houses: Burberry and Tommy Hilfiger’s public-facing, social media-focused model at one end of the scale, and Saint Laurent’s exclusive and intimate salon event perched firmly at the other.

And that would appear to be a very clear analogy for the whole industry right now: one operating on a spectrum of fast to slow that is inversely out of kilter with both trend evolution (slow) and social media demand for information (fast).

Currently, there are no hard and fast answers to the questions the industry is asking of itself – more that we will be experimenting with a number of models that might just work better for certain businesses. But in opening up the debate around pace, our sensibilities have been re-alerted to concepts of craft, tradition and the creative process versus the newer industry idioms of social media likes and instant consumer gratification.

As designers and brands reposition themselves along a barometer that represents these two approaches, we are reminded of the luxury that time affords the creative process. Potentially, those favouring a move towards consumer-facing strategies will be working in contrast to that. As a result, see-now-buy-now collections may inadvertently come to represent a new middle ground of luxury – somewhere between high fashion and the high street.

This sense of flux has also brought into serious question how relevant traditional fashion seasons now are. The increased importance of the pre-collections in terms of crucial full-price sales, the need for all-climate products all year round and the ongoing slowdown in fashion trends and colour evolution are all part of the move towards a more season-neutral strategy that we have been discussing with clients for the past two years. Designers and brands are now embracing these thoughts as part of the agenda for change, and we are working with clients on what a more seasonless approach might mean for them.

Commenting on the current fashion climate, Stylus Head of Catwalks Sue Evans says:

“I find the sea changes we are currently experiencing within the industry both exciting and perplexing. I can see the desire for change that the Instagram generation is generating and the industry’s compulsion to fulfil that need, but there are already too many seasons, too many brands, too many clothes. I don’t think we need to be constantly chasing newness. When you look at what people really wear, it hardly changes from season to season, and in reality the customer is slow to adapt to trends. Less is more. I think designers adopting a more season-neutral approach is the way forward, rather than rerouting the fashion calendar." 

All of these topics will be explored further as part of The New Fashion Landscape, our 2016 Industry Report, which will explore the key influences really shaping the future of fashion. 

For more on season-neutral, fast consumption, new luxury and the latest catwalks see Luxury PerspectivesFast Consumption, 2016: Look AheadNew-Era Luxury and A/W 16/17 The Lookbook.