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The Urgency of Fashion - NY Fashion Week

Posted on 22 September 2016

Fashion urgency? What a notion.

The kerfuffle afoot to recalibrate the arcane fashion industry calendar and system as we know it—a shakeup begun at New York Fashion Week last season—seems to have added dissonance to an already misaligned industry. Translation: the practice of showing puffers in August and sundresses in February, intended for sale six months hence.

Although attempts at realignment were seen at the recently concluded NYFW Spring/Summer 2017 shows, the see-now buy-now scramble has yet to reach the cadence of a stampede, yet more than a saunter was registered by several NYFW designers last week. In-season fashion drops, too, is another mantra, even while it fails to account for global markets whose current seasons may be on the other side of the equator. How about seasonless fashion?

To register the anticipated “tectonic shift” in the entrenched fashion system as we know it, Localspeak decided to track American brands whose pledge to see-now buy-now in-season fashion are at least creating “tremors” on the catwalk.

In a side by side topic comparison of trending conversations in social during NYFW, tracked in the social media analytics platform NetBase, however meager the see-now buy-now conversation, it was surpassed by overwhelming sentiment and passion intensity, as seen in the chart below.

Designer Tommy Hilfiger’s show received high marks for delivering on the brand’s new fashion immediacy mantra. And, with a little help from It model and social media celebrity Gigi Hadid, Hilfiger’s “Bombshell girl” look of studded biker jacket, fringed halter and leather pants look enchanted the overall NYFW social convo, second only to Tom Ford.

However, you can’t compare the two, as Tom Ford is intrinsically luxury. Hilfiger, mass market pop culture—not to mention the disparate price point. Their only commonality lies in each brand’s aggressive commitment to fashion immediacy. Among the fifteen NYFW designers analyzed by Localspeak in the NetBase chart below, overall top mentions were lead by Tom Ford’s 24%, Tommy Hilfiger’s 18%, Alexander Wang’s 15% and Marc Jacob’s 10% — all of whom showed collections immediately available for purchase following their shows.

Not coincidentally, Tom Ford also topped the social conversation among the same designers in the see-now buy-now analysis. Insight into how fast, or not, designers shift course was flagged by thefashiongirl in the post below, alluding to Tom Ford’s recalcitrance about fashion immediacy several years ago. She observed: “High fashion quality at fast-fashion timing makes for a better business.”

In the designer see-now buy-now NYFW analysis, for their first see-now collections, Tom Ford grabbed 28% mentions, followed by Ralph Lauren’s 25% and Tommy Hilfiger’s 17%.

By contrast, early fashion immediacy adopter Rebecca Minkoff registered only 6%, perhaps a sign of a given customer expectation since the brand has been delivering on the proposition for several years. Also presenting his first see-now collection, albeit a capsule see-now selection ready for purchase immediately after his show, Takhoon ranked 13% mentions in the same analysis in the NetBase chart below.

Skeptics of the direct-to-consumer in-season strategy pose an argument that sounds a bit ancien siècle. Clinging to an old luxury fashion adage founded on the notion that luxury is a business of creating “dreams.” To relinquish a brand’s control of dream-spinning aspirational marketing, they believe, is to deflate its value proposition by compromising magnetism of anticipation.

These perceptions appears are founded on flawed notions that luxury and aspirational luxury customers need to “chase a dream” or aren’t tuned into luxury e-commerce. They also presumes that luxurians would rather opt out of immediate gratification and, instead, stoically wait six months for delivery of an item they were enthralled with eons ago.

In today’s dis-intermediated economy, underpinned by expectations of instant gratification, it’s worth questioning this misanthropic marketing presumption. Has the luxury argument for “dream casting” become a myth? Can any value still be attached to customer expectation (translation: six-month delivery)? Is value deflated by acquiescing to the voice of your customers eager for immediate satisfaction?

As fashion disruption escalates, it’s premature to expect a cohesive calendar shift, especially given highly divergent marketing approaches. Do brands risk eroding their luxury or attainable luxury stature or personality by offering direct-to-consumer seasonal fashion—when the voice of consumer clamors for the satisfaction?

And what is the peril of protracted fashion label obstinacy to dive into the sea change of an industry in flux? Depending on how you view it, as brands begin to adopt the see-now buy-now in-season fashion model, consumer expectation is kindled with the expectation that more brands deliver on the same proposition. Brands who cringe at this approach run the risk of curbing consumer enthusiasm in favor of the competition.

Fashion misanthropes, take heed.

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