If there's one thing we can safely conclude about this whole "see now, buy now" situation, it's that we're not going to see one cohesive calendar shift — at least not anytime soon. It seems as if no two brands share the same belief about which collections should be shown when, with individual companies preferring to look internally at what format would work best for them.
This was made very clear during a panel discussion between Thom Browne CEO Rodrigo Bazan (formerly of Alexander Wang), Coach CEO Victor Luis, Diane Von Furstenberg CEO Paolo Riva and luxury advisor Philipp Gajzer at the Financial Times Business of Luxury Conference in San Francisco on Tuesday. Asked by Fashion Editor Jo Ellison for his thoughts on "see now, buy now," Luis said sharply: "Especially given the transformation we're undergoing, we just don't believe in the concept." He added that he knew people would be surprised to hear that since, compared to most luxury brands, Coach is "rather broadly distributed." While so many companies focus on communicating their messages directly to their consumers, Luis argued that "the fashion press is a real, important voice."
Riva, on the other hand, does want to communicate directly to DVF consumers, but doesn't think a brand can reach all of its goals with one event. "We did an experience," he said, referring to the Instagram-baiting presentation the brand held at its Meatpacking District store in lieu of a runway show during the most recent New York Fashion Week, complete with "Instagirl" models and forced dancing. "We are asking the fashion show to do everything: to showcase the product, to communicate in an intelligent way to press, to assist our partners to buy the collection, social media buzz, celebrities and influencers... it's too much for one moment," he argued. "Let's split it up." He suggested going "back to" a more serious presentation that focuses on the clothes for press and buyers, and a different "moment" for consumers that would differ for every brand.
Ellison then asked what we've all been wondering: Is it realistic for every label to operate on its own terms, which would likely result in editors and buyers "spending all our lives wandering around looking at different shows on different schedules at different times?" Luis, reasonably, said no: "It's not realistic because the industry needs to be organized where parties come together, whether it's trade or press." He also feels that it's important for buyers to see a fully executed show before buying the collection (as opposed to just visiting the showroom) in order to see Coach Creative Director Stuart Vevers's vision come to life, which gives them ideas on how to merchandise the collection later on. (Of course, Coach is in the unique position of being an accessible, widely known brand that's actually trying to be seen as more exclusive and high-end.)
Thom Browne is also, of course, a pretty unique brand. Currently, the designer's New York Fashion Week presentations are among the most purely creative and theatrical on the schedule, and have little to do with the men's suits, shirts, ties and cardigans that make up most of the brand's business. Bazan said he feels the brand isn't communicating its commercial business enough, and that he might consider incorporating its made-to-measure business into a "see now, buy now" event, where shoppers "see now, try [on] now, adjust it to your size, buy it now, and get it in 12 weeks," believing that people want a memorable experience like that. "There's some beautiful storytelling [in the process or ordering, customizing and waiting for something]."
Soon, Diane von Furstenberg will have a whole new creative vision to put forth, thanks to newly hired Chief Creative Officer Jonathan Saunders. Riva said the company spent the past year simplifying and streamlining in order to create the right environment for a new creative head to come in. As for von Furstenberg's role, it sounds like it won't have as much to do with design. He said she will "spend a lot of energy [mentoring] women in different platforms around the world."
While the panel may not have offered a clear solution to the fashion calendar debate, it did provide even more evidence that industry powerhouses are rethinking just about everything these days — and the changes are coming fast.