Post NYFW: The Success of Buy Now Wear Now

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Looking back post New York Fashion Week at the success of “buy now, wear now” models for Fall 16 has gotten mixed reactions.

For over 70 years New York Fashion Week has influenced our apparel and beauty trends by giving the media a glimpse into styles four to six months in advance, and buyers enough lead time to procure on-trend clothing for their brick-and-mortars. This month, in response to the rise of social media stardom and the snapchat generation, a handful of fashion powerhouses including Tom Ford, Rebecca Minkoff, Donna Karan, and Ralph Lauren, changed their runway game completely by showing current season styles and making them instantaneously available for consumers to buy. ‘This “see now, shop now’, ‘buy now, wear now’, ‘stream now, buy now’, ‘ready-to-buy’, phenomena is making a statement that’s comparable to the pret-a-porter evolution of the 1920’s – and it’s shaking-up the industry as we know it.

“In a world that has become increasingly immediate, the current way of showing a collection four months before it is available to customers is an antiquated idea and one that no longer makes sense.” Tom Ford told WWD as he canceled the brand’s runway presentation last February. Instead, Ford presented his Fall 2016 collection this September at an invite-only, Four Season’s dinner party attended by an extensive list of A-listers like Alicia Keys, Julianne Moore and Naomi Campbell, and livestreamed the catwalk for the world to see and share.

“Fashion shows used to be for just a few, now they are open to all, via different channels,” says Valentina Brugnoli, the Tom Ford show’s executive fashion producer.

“I think it’s business smart to align the collection shown with the current season. By the time collections come in the stores, we have seen their replicas so many times that we don’t care anymore and we want something new,” adds Brugnoli.

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For a society that’s becoming more and more accustomed to mobile app insta-conveniences, a ready-to-buy model feeds consumer appetite for instant gratification while maintaining relevance in a flux of digital information and overturned “it” factor. Mega-brands are also given more bang for their buck by bridging the third party gap between influencers who are eager to snap a selfie wearing the latest runway must-have for their 5 million+ followers to lust over.

For those behind-the-scenes, editing a guest list from journalists, and buyers to social media celebs and trendsetters requires adjustment and restructuring as runway shows morph from business-as-usual runway shows into full on parties -or in Tommy Hilfiger’s case a straight up carnival.

“The consumer is telling us she wants immediate gratification… and at the same time she wants an experience,” Tommy Hilfiger told luxury shopping site LUISAVIAROMA. In collaboration with Instagram’s favorite supermodel Gigi Hadid, Hilfiger took over New York’s South Street Seaport to present the Tommy X Gigi Fall 2016 collection amidst arcade games, a ferris wheel, temporary tattoo stations, street food and onsite pop-up tents that sold styles right off the runway.

“I love the idea of seeing something on the runway… and being able to buy that specific piece right away, rather than having to settle for some fast fashion knock off.” says Brugnoli.

Certainly this new Fashion Week format could boast in favor of ‘quality over quantity’ and a win for luxury brands who are weary of dishing out copyright lawsuits on fast fashion dupes.

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“The buy now, wear now model pulls the rug out from under the fast fashion business model because it prohibits fast fashion companies from beating designer brands to market with their own styles”, said Griffin Vanze, founder of AEON ROW, a sustainable, zero-waste fashion line made in the USA from recycled fabrics. Pinched manufacturing schedules and less time to ‘get inspired’ by influential designers will impose a challenge on retailers like Forever 21, Topshop and Zara who have since thrived on their ability to offer cheap designer replicas to the public.

“If buy now, wear now were to take away market share from fast fashion, it could actually help the fashion industry be more sustainable,” says Vanze.

Although ‘I want it now’ accessibility to designer clothing may encourage more room for innovation and deter consumers from buying cheap carbon copies, it could force the small retailer to reinvent itself. Along with having to confront millennials who prefer shopping online and through their smart phones, a condensed wholesale buying time pressures boutiques to adapt by stocking up their shelves with short notice of style availability. On a positive note, it may encourage shop owners to invest in more small and local designers for whom a ready-to-buy standard would be unrealistic.

Limited to those with the capital to make production guesstimates and the resources to deliver a quick turnaround, buy-now-wear-now seems not-so-eco-friendly and, as Vanze puts it, “intentionally designed to make customers consume more clothing.” In addition, socially conscious brands working with artisans specializing in handwork, and fair trade suppliers in other countries, are committed to generous lead times and wouldn’t be able to keep up.

Intimidated? Don’t be. Independent designers (aka the fashion industry’s original rebels), have already begun to evolve the way they do business in a competitive apparel market. In recent years a number of small and environmentally-conscious labels have adopted pre-sale and made-to-order models that help them determine manufacturing needs and stay afloat by avoiding inventory overages. Some have even stopped following the fashion calendar altogether by promoting seasonless collections that allow them to focus on smaller, more frequent releases that peak interest from the social media stratosphere while maintaining a thoughtful presence with their customers. In AEON ROW’s case it’s interchangeable wardrobe staples that never go out of style:.

“Buy now, wear now provides a backdrop to differentiate our aesthetic. After all, true style is about expressing yourself, not about having the latest look,” says Vanze.