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Fashion Council Realizes Runway Show Calendar Is Woefully Outdated

Change is coming to New York Fashion Week, but nobody's quite sure how that'll turn out.

It's time to change New York Fashion Week, according to its organizer.

In December, the Council of Fashion Designers of America announced it had commissioned Boston Consulting Group, a management consulting firm, to assess the role of fashion week, runway shows, and the fashion calendar. In the six-week study, released today, consultants interviewed 50 fashion insiders, including designers, executives, retailers, wholesalers, and editors. 

"There was an overall consensus on the need for change," the report concluded, listing the problems hindering the industry. Merchandise isn't available in stores in sync with the seasonal weather, even though shoppers are looking to purchase clothes close to when they need it. Runway styles seem old and stale by the time they make it to stores. Meanwhile, fashion designers fear burnout due to the current system's complexities. 

Under the traditional fashion calendar, labels show off their clothes up to six months before shoppers can buy them. Spring clothes are shown in fall and fall clothes are shown in spring. This gap allows apparel buyers, who must plan ahead to stock their stores for the next season, to review the clothes in advance. Once a mere industry necessity, fashion events have become more of a spectacle in recent years. Fashion fans clamor to watch the live stream of Kendall Jenner strutting down the Marc Jacobs catwalk or see photos of the outfit Anna Wintour wore sitting front row at Ralph Lauren's show.

Shoppers began demanding immediacy. Fast fashion retailers such as Zara and H&M altered their expectations, taking styles from runways to stores a few weeks after they'd been unveiled. By the time the real designer items came out, they'd long lost their luster as the latest, trendiest item. The fashion calendar was too slow. Now a number of labels, including Burberry, Tom Ford, and Tommy Hilfiger, are shifting to a see-now-buy-now model, in which shoppers can buy collections immediately after their runway shows.

Though the CFDA refused to back one specific new model, the study proposed many options.

For instance, one potential method is to hold private appointments for retailers and the press four-to-six months before goods are shipped to stores. That would allow retailers enough time place their orders and let hype for new collections simmer for months. Then, at the next fashion week, labels would show off these in-season styles through runway shows or presentations as the clothes hit store racks. Other suggestions included using immediately shoppable capsule collections for luxury brands and merging men's and women's shows.

"Ultimately, it is up to the brands to decide what works best for them," the report said.

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