Fashion, retail, and technology coexist somewhat uneasily in an era of constant and rapid change. This is an age when MTV's Video Music Awards TV viewership plunged 75% while its SnapChat viewership grew by the same amount.
The role models of fashion and music, key influencers of the newest dominant generation of shoppers, enjoyed more exposure through streaming media than on traditional broadcast networks. According to Variety, this change is outpacing anyone's ability to keep track. It is happening everywhere that fashion, merchants, and customers interact.
Fast-breaking developments pose significant challenges to fashion houses and designers. These are people who must remain visible and desirable in a crowded, fickle, and increasingly fragmented marketplace. They need to match the novelty and attractiveness of their designs to the long tail of manufacturing and shipping their products. The speed of social media and social opinion does not always work in their favor.
Different Designs, Different Strategies
Industry players are divided in their approaches as they struggle to determine what will move products to consumers' wardrobes most efficiently. Designers like Tom Ford and Rebecca Minkoff have leaped onto the see-now-buy-now bandwagon, encouraging instant purchases and coming to fashion events with new inventory prepared and available for sale. Smaller designers are starting to sell post-fashion-show merchandise through pop-up shops.
Pop-ups capitalize on Uber's dynamic sales style, using social media to inform buyers of the shops temporary location. This is a departure from holding down a multi-year lease on an expensive Manhattan storefront. Some designers pursue a compromised version of see-now-buy-now success by making only a limited selection of goods available for purchase.
While some designers continue to push the instant runway-to-retail model, others have seen fit to push back. Some, including Kate Spade, are turning a cold shoulder to Instagrammers and front row social media aficionados. They believe that too much focus is placed on photography and texting, and not enough attention on the designs on the runway. This is especially pertinent for those in the front rows, for whom the feverish activity of photographing everything is seen as diminishing the overall grandeur of the event.
There is also a fear that any design that is photographed and instantly posted to social media will become old within twenty minutes, which renders a design's mystique obsolete long before it reaches the retail floor. The mavens on this side of the social media argument tend to view the obsession with cellphone photography as gauche, and numerous shows now request and demand that mobile devices remain holstered during the show.
The truth remains that fashion and fashion retail are changing. Consumers expect more than simply a design and a garment. They want an experience, especially on the luxury end. They demand something unique along with the product. This might involve a luxurious ride home in an Uber Black or highly personalized attention from a chat bot, as Tommy Hilfiger is now doing.
The correct formula for delivering designs to customers remains in flux and may for a long time, perhaps forever. Designers like Ermanno Scervino remain steadfast in their conviction that clothes take a long time to design and produce, and that is where their value is rooted. There is no see-now-buy-now for him.
Other style leaders continue to experiment with new devices – beacons, apps, and approaches that seek to address the ever-diminishing attention span of modern customers.
It will be up to those folks to decide what is the best fit.
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