Photographer: Samir Hussein/WireImage

Burberry Is Changing The Way It Sells Fashion

The British fashion label is upending industry traditions and taking its own route.

The fashion calendar may never be the same again, thanks to Burberry.

The British fashion label is overhauling its runway show tactics, combining its men's and women's presentations, cutting its number of annual shows in half, and shunning the traditional fashion calendar, the company announced on Friday. It will hold two shows each year, one in September and another in February, and customers will be able to buy clothes, online and in stores, from collections immediately after they hit the catwalk. 

Fashion has long maintained a wide fissure between runway shows and sales, leaving shoppers waiting months for clothes to hit store shelves when the next season comes along. Spring clothes are unveiled in fall; fall clothes are unveiled in spring. Lately, some have moved to change that. Designer label Thakoon said in December that it's switching over to a similar show-and-sell model, while some bigger brands, such as Versace and Moschino, have experimented with the tactic, albeit only with small capsule collections. Burberry, which hauled in $3.6 billion in revenue in 2015, will be the biggest attempt yet to transform the fashion seasons. Ripples from Burberry's shift may call into question a schedule most have followed for an eternity. 

The finale at Burberry's Spring/Summer 2016 fashion show.
The finale at Burberry's Spring/Summer 2016 fashion show.
Source: Burberry

"The changes we are making will allow us to build a closer connection between the experience that we create with our runway shows and the moment when people can physically explore the collections for themselves," said Christopher Bailey, the creative and chief executive officer of Burberry. "Our shows have been evolving to close this gap for some time. From live-streams, to ordering straight from the runway, to live social media campaigns, this is the latest step in a creative process that will continue to evolve."

It's the second big alteration at Burberry since Bailey took over in May 2014, following the departure of his predecessor Angela Ahrendts, who left to run Apple's retail operation. Last November, Bailey consolidated Burberry's various fashion lines—Burberry Prorsum, Burberry Brit, and Burberry London—under one label. “We believe this will make it simpler and more intuitive for our customer,” Bailey said at the time. “This is certainly not cosmetic. It is a huge change.”

As for men's, Burberry won't completely abandon these events, but it will no longer hold typical runway shows at them. The company said it's working with London Collections Men, hosts of Britain's major men's fashion events, to figure out what alternative role the label can play. (The brand is a huge anchor for the up-and-coming fashion week.) Burberry will follow the usual calendar for its spring show before taking the leap to its new schedule in September.

Buzz about changes on the runway has simmered for a while now. In December, the Council of Fashion Designers of America hired Boston Consulting Group to study the way it does fashion shows. All involved are seeking to make runways more consumer-friendly, rather than a trade event. And all will be watching Burberry come this fall.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.