Over the past few years, we've seen a steady stream of fashion and accessory labels — from Bonobos to Warby Parker to Baublebar — launch direct-to-consumer businesses online, expanding over time into third-party stores as well as their own brick-and-mortar locations. On Thursday, London designer Matthew Williamson announced via WWD that his 18-year-old eponymous label is heading the reverse direction: After closing the doors on its NYC flagship in 2012, the company will soon shut down its London flagship on Bruton Street to concentrate on its six-year-old direct-to-consumer e-commerce business, as well as licensing.
A spokesperson for the label, known for its colorfully printed dresses that can cost upwards of $2,000, confirmed that the team will soon be relocating to a showroom in central London, which online customers can visit by appointment. (The store in Qatar will remain open for now.) A new website will launch early next year that will offer free shipping worldwide and same-day delivery in London. As announced previously, Williamson plans to release six smaller collections a year, which will be shown to clients at small presentations shortly before they're available for purchase, a la Tamara Mellon. The company says it still plans to be involved with London Fashion Week, but indicated that a full fashion show would not be part of that plan.
Williamson, who served as creative director of Emilio Pucci between 2005 and 2008, isn't the only designer who has elected to downsize and restrategize in recent years. As recounted recently to Fashionista, Amy Smilovic — the designer behind 20-year-old contemporary New York label Tibi — had to completely rethink her brand five years ago to stay in business. Fast-fashion retailers like Zara and Topshop were drawing away customers, and so she and her husband, Tibi CEO Frank Smilovic, decided to downsize their staff, streamline their wholesale accounts and rebrand as an "advanced contemporary" label with a more sophisticated, minimalist aesthetic. New collections are now released at Tibi stores about once a month. Marc Jacobs and Kate Spade both announced earlier this year that they are folding their lower-priced contemporary lines, while Jean Paul Gaultier and Viktor & Rolf recently decided to go a step further, shuttering their ready-to-wear labels to focus on haute couture and their fragrance licensing businesses.
No doubt about it, the ready-to-wear market is tough right now, especially in the U.S. and Europe. If we had to put money on it, Williamson won't be the last designer to announce a restructuring this year.