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Why Resort Season Matters Now More Than Ever

Resort season is now a major moment on the fashion calendar. Here's why.

For emerging designer Katie Ermilio, a resort collection was always a future step she planned on taking when her four-year-old label was out of its infant stage. Then demand happened. "For me, doing resort means that there will be a constant flow of new product on the floor for my customers which is amazing," she says. "Usually there's a lapse of time that happens when designing two main collections for spring and fall, so I was excited to keep the momentum going."

She's not the only one. More and more designers are choosing to produce resort collections in order to keep up with store interest. "Resort is a meaningful delivery, driving the overall sell-through performance for the season as it benefits from having the longest selling time on the floor," says Jennifer Sunwoo, executive vice president and general merchandising manager of women's at Barneys New York. "Resort or precollection deliveries can range anywhere from 60-90% of the total order for the season."

Buyers have found that pre-collections not only live on the sales floor longer, but they're preferred by shoppers as well. "Customers are always looking for versatile wear-now items as well as novelty and newness," Sunwoo says. "The greatest opportunity that still exists for pre-collection is in offering more fashion in transitional lighter weight pieces that do not necessarily have to be taken away since the weather is still relatively mild in November and even December." Knit wear, tops, jackets, and lightweight leather all perform well.

Even smaller retailers, which make much tinier buys, are now looking to resort. "I tend to be a bit conservative buying resort collections, because I don't have customers buying whole new wardrobes to take on vacation over the holidays which is how the resort market started," says Jen Mankins, the owner of Brooklyn chain Bird. She carries big names like APC and Thakoon Addition, but also lesser-known labels such as Apiece Apart and Pesqueira. "But resort is sometimes called pre-spring. When that is the case, then my budgets are anywhere from 40%-60% of my seasonal buy."

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As buyers become hungrier for resort collections, designers have begun to show off these wares to editors as well. Ruth Finley, the founder of Fashion Calendar—the 65-year-old, subscription-only fashion and beauty events guide that list every fashion show from every major brand in New York (and many abroad as well)—says that resort show listings have increased by 25% from 2012. "Designers don't want a lot of people coming, so many still show by appointment," Finley says. "But there has been a definite increase in interest over the past couple of years."

Indeed, as the number of fashion publications increase—mostly online, but independent print pubs are rising, too—there's a need for newness in market stories between seasons. "I think it is part of the cycle of fashion, for better or for worse, but this is what the cycle has become," says Pierre Rougier, founder of publicity and branding firm PR Consulting, which counts Raf Simons, Christopher Kane and J. Brand as clients.

Adds Linda Gaunt, founder of Linda Gaunt Communications, which reps brands including Sachin + Babi and Adeam, "It's a great opportunity to create more personal presentations and intimate one-on-one moments with editors."

Whether the New York fashion industry will go a step further and make a create an organized event—tents and all—around resort remains to be seen. "[Resort] has become a very important part of the business for fashion houses, so it will not go away," Rougier says. "Whether every house will feel the need to present it to the media or not will be up for review at some point, for sure." Given the increasing significance of the collections—buyers, editors, and the general public are all interested—it might be easier on everyone's packed schedules to do just that.