Thursday, May 27, 2010

The future is now.

Below is an article from The Australian today about the challenge the net poses to the fashion industry. I don't know if consumers are as bothered by the six month lag as Armstrong argues (it certainly doesn't stop them buying what's in store until the catwalk stuff trickles in. And how many people can actually afford catwalk labels anyway?) but the Burberry innovation is really interesting!

The future is now
Lisa Armstrong, The Times, May 26, 2010 12:00AM

IT'S always good to see things from a fresh perspective. Even when you're looking through a lens darkly, it makes a change from the rose-tinted view. So I'm surveying the trackie trousers on brave real-life volunteers, for another feature, and thinking, yes, maybe . . . good case, girl . . . oh, all right then, you've convinced me.

Then again, I also happen to know what next season has in store. And, believe me, it's not track pants.

Next season is all about conventionally smart classics. Don't yawn. They are fabulous, these conventionally smart classics. They have been tweaked and re-proportioned, but most of all, they have been absent. And that does make the heart grow fonder.

I don't want to get bogged down in the wintery details of next season's new love affair with flannel, camel and classic tapered trousers. But this swerve towards proper, grown-up clothes isn't a minor detour. It's not a question of trading in one pair of bondage shoes for a newer pair. It's a whole new ideology: new in fashion terms, anyway, which means that it's a revival, with knobs on. And it's making all those rock chicks and sporty jersey-wearing warriors look a bit dated.

You will be well aware of this if you followed the catwalk reports in February and March. And if you missed them, pictures of all the collections are on the web, which is why the whole fashion system is in the throes of a nervous breakdown, although not everyone in the system appears to have grasped this salient detail yet.

Having Paris (and later London, Milan and New York) declare their hands six months before their ideas would be available in the shops made sense pre-internet. On a marketing level, it created a buzz by allowing the public a preview peek and allowed customers to prepare themselves mentally for a 7cm hike or drop in hemlines. Those six months also gave designers time to manufacture the clothes and get them into stores.

But the perma-presence of next season's collections online, and the race among celebrities to be first to wear them the minute they have been on the catwalk, have proved to be the ultimate spoiler. It's like seeing the trailer for Sex and the City season five before you've seen Sex and the City two, three and four. At some point you're going to give up on the entire franchise.

That can't be good for business. The issue is not so much that we know that this (northern) summer's big trends won't be big by the end of August. We have always known that. It's fashion,

after all, and it comes with a big, fat rider: it's not for life. No, the problem is that we know that this summer's big trends are already on notice and it's only May. The fashion-forward are trying out camel and working next autumn's midis, having decided that this summer's hot trends look a bit tired. (British television presenter and model Alexa Chung has been out and about in them since September.)

Some brands are coming to terms with the speeded-up new order. Burberry did an experimental sort of initial public offering for the first time this year, inviting customers to order certain items online straight after the live streaming of its winter collection in February. This was before most of them had bought anything from Burberry's summer range.

But most of the industry still operates as if women suffer from a collective fashion amnesia, so it shows us its vision for six months down the line, then expects us to revert to the old vision as if we didn't know that everything was about to change. That may just work when everything isn't about to change, when it's the same old silhouettes and idea but reworked in seasonal variations. This year, though, we are about to see a big change in direction and everyone who is interested in fashion - and that's a lot of women these days - knows it.

We have all become futurologists. And futurologists tend to give the present short shrift.

The long-term ramifications of this are headache-inducing. Will Burberry's customers, having spent hundreds (in some cases thousands) ordering a coat from the next collection, decide to forgo anything from this collection, even though the coat won't arrive for months? Will we eventually (not far down the line, probably) reach the point at which we can order an item immediately after seeing it on the catwalk and take delivery within a week? Will trends become irrelevant and fashion increasingly become a rolling buffer of personalised options? And when will I be able to get my hands on those classic grey peg-leg trousers?

Lisa Armstrong is fashion editor of London's The Times.

No comments:

Post a Comment