Once upon a time, about the only people who attended fashion shows were apparel buyers for high-end department stores, who had to plan what would be on the racks. This is why spring clothing is presented in the fall, and fall clothing in the spring. Today, these shows are social media spectacles, and you’re as likely to find Ciara at one as the associate in charge of shoes at Saks Fifth Avenue. You’re also likely to see every runway look in your Instagram feed or in a story on Snapchat, which makes waiting six months for some big reveal as antiquated as, perhaps, going to a department store.
Now some fashion companies are trying to rewrite the calendar. The “see now, buy now” model—how did it take until 2016 to come up with this?—is so painfully obvious that even Kanye West thinks it makes sense. “I just thought of the craziest idea of all,” the fashion entrepreneur tweeted recently. “I’m going to sell winter coats in the winter!!!” So far, Burberry is the biggest company to make the shift. Brands such as Tommy Hilfiger and Tom Ford are doing it, too, as are fashion-forward labels like Thakoon and Vetements. Prada, Versace, and Moschino have tested buy-now capsule collections. “This new consumer doesn’t enjoy shopping the way the older generation did,” says Roseanne Morrison, fashion director for trend intelligence firm Doneger Group. “It’s on their time and on their terms.”
This is true—but it sort of makes it sound as if it’s an unreasonable request to want to grab the parka you’ve just seen when it’s cold. And it’s not. Who goes into a Burberry store in August thinking, “Ooh, I can’t wait to buy that trench with the latest storm-shield design half a year from now”? See now, buy now lets us have the instant gratification we get in every other part of life. How sad that it’s taken fashion, an industry built on enticing want, this long to figure it out.
But that’s exactly why some companies aren’t playing along. They say they need a monthslong windup to keep shoppers yearning. Kering, which owns Balenciaga, Gucci, and Saint Laurent, recently said it wouldn’t flip its calendar. Chief Executive Officer François-Henri Pinault said fast fashion “negates the dream” of luxury. Of course, the world’s largest apparel companies, Zara’s Spanish owner Inditex and Sweden’s H&M, capitalized on this folly and built multibillion-dollar fast-fashion businesses.
For this idea to really work, LVMH and its platoon of meganames, including Louis Vuitton and Marc Jacobs, have to dress the part. And overhauling back-end logistics, although easier with nimbler supply chains, requires more than the flick of a switch. The company’s CEO, Bernard Arnault, the de facto emperor of luxury goods, has yet to commit to doing so, though one of his brands, Loewe, did in 2014.
Without everyone taking part, will it look weird for a label like Burberry to present fall clothing in September while all other designers are featuring spring? (The house’s most recent show in February highlighted a few buy-now items, and as a whole the event felt transitional.) It might—until Kanye or a Kardashian tags a photo #fasterfashion, it starts trending, and suddenly fewer CEOs can make an argument that “the dream” has died.