The Results Are In!

  • The Results Are In!
  • The Results Are In!
  • The CFDA started talking to people in January. I was one of the 50 industry insiders who were invited to come in for a formal interview with the Boston Consulting Group and share my thoughts on the future of New York Fashion Week. And the results of the study are finally in. Steven Kolb wrote in his thank you note that the unanimous consensus is that “the time is ripe for change. The Fashion Week as it was known for decades is at the beginning of a seismic shift. ‘In-season relevancy’ emerged as a recurring ideaAdditionally, the delivery cycle at retail emerged as a paramount issue that needs to be addressed.”The complete study is revealed below and on“The responsibility of the CFDA is to provide information to help designers decide what is right for them, alleviate the pressure and give them the freedom to allocate their resources in a way that is best for them,” said Diane von Furstenberg, chairman of the CFDA.New York Fashion Week opens the season of global Fashion Weeks. Its purpose is for designers to show their upcoming collections, for press to review those collections and for buyers to place orders. Many American designers will continue to take orders from buyers in London, Milan and Paris during subsequent weeks. These collections are then delivered to stores and available for consumers to buy four to six months later.In recent years, evolutions in technology, consumer behaviors, weather, and retail cycle have challenged the role and impact of the current fashion system:As the organization representing American designers and the organizer of the official New York Fashion Week schedule, it is CFDA’s responsibility to evaluate the purpose of New York Fashion Week. The intent of the CFDA study undertaken with The Boston Consulting Group in January was to question the status quo for our market, bring up all the issues, and stimulate a dialogue in the American fashion industry; it is a first step to then move towards long-term solutions together.Over the past six weeks, more than 50 fashion industry stakeholders, mostly in the U.S., were formally interviewed by The Boston Consulting Group, and dozens more informal conversations have taken place. Of those formal interviews, 20 were designers or fashion executives, 8 wholesalers and online retailers, and 15 editors of both traditional and new media. The remaining 7 included show organizers, casting agents, fashion bloggers, and international fashion trade organizations.‘In-season relevancy’ emerged as a recurring idea: although brands still have to show their upcoming collections to press and buyers in the most inspiring way several months before deliveries, there is an opportunity to alleviate the pressure to have large-scale presentations / shows and potentially re-allocate resources and budget to activate sales when collections are delivered to stores and available online. Multiple formats, locations and timing could be considered for these in-season activations.In fact, several U.S., U.K. and other designers have tested this idea this past February. Rebecca Minkoff showed in-season clothes at New York Fashion Week, and Tom Ford and Burberry announced a similar approach with men’s and women’s at the same time. Michael Kors, Proenza Schouler, Lela Rose, Theory, Tory Burch, and several other brands featured a selection of clothes immediately available for sale.Although ‘in-season relevancy’ was a recurring idea, the study also highlighted a diversity of opinions on the topic, and future approaches are likely to be brand-specific with regards to tier and in-house strategy. The CFDA encourages designers to evaluate what is best for their brand, and will support innovation and experimentation.Beyond fashion shows, the delivery cycle and subsequent markdown cadence at retail emerged as a critical issue that needs to be addressed in our market to better match the actual, physical season and our consumers’ behaviors and needs. The CFDA will create working groups to continue this dialogue between designers and retailers.Interviewees were given the opportunity to express their thoughts about the current system, what they would ideally change as well as their industry and brand visions for the future. Interviewee-led solutions were explored and tested by interviewers for support, differences, and operational / logistical details.[Note that given the size of the industry sample (50 formal interviews) the results from these interviews are qualitative directional only: we are showing visual exhibits in order to facilitate interpretation.]THREE KEY CHALLENGES IN THE CURRENT SYSTEM EMERGED CONSISTENTLY ACROSS THE INTERVIEWS• Perceived “early” deliveries and markdowns hurting full-price sales: The race to earlier deliveries and therefore markdowns is leading to merchandise at retail that is seen as increasingly out of sync with the physical season, while our consumers are looking to buy clothes closer to when they need it. This results in retailers and brands failing to capitalize on “see now, wear now” consumer trends as well as in-season clothes’ being on markdowns during relevant time / season, hurting full-price sales potential.• A decreasing perception of newness: Technology and social media have rewired the fashion system as everyone knows it. Shows no longer just reach retail, industry insiders, and press. Images and livestreams from shows are accessible worldwide in real time, exposing consumers to designs months before they are available for purchase and providing sufficient time for so-called Fast Fashion brands to manufacture and deliver such trends. Even for industry segments and brands not directly challenged by Fast Fashion interpretations, this contributes to the ubiquity of trends and designs. As a result – as our interviewees saw it – trends and designs can seem out-of-date or stale by the time they reach stores, causing general consumer confusion and fatigue and ultimately hurting designer full-price retail.• The danger of designer creative burnout: The confusion of the fashion cycle, coupled with the increased importance and complexity of pre-collections, leaves less time for the creative process and artisanship and puts immense pressure on critical design and creative talent. Our interviewees expressed a desire for a future system that creates more structural, predictable downtime for design and creative talent.A CLEAR CALL FOR CHANGEAs a result of the collective experiences of our industry participants, the CFDA believes it is time to open up new ideas for New York Fashion Week to be more relevant and alleviate the pressure for designers and brands to conform to a singular model. Future approaches to New York Fashion Week should:• Celebrate and protect the creativity of U.S. designers and brands • Put product and designers’ big ideas back at the center
    • Keep consumers top of mind
    • Act as the platform for brands to build a global brand image• Generate excitement in our market among retailers, press, and consumers around fashion • Help emerging designers grow their brands and businessesPOTENTIAL MODELS FOR THE FUTURE‘In-season relevancy’ emerged as a recurring idea in the study, with various tactical configurations, including the following model: More intimate retail / press appointments or presentations 4-6 months before deliveries, with an option to then have in-season activations when collections are delivered to stores and available online for sale.• Keep retail and press appointments / presentations as the culmination of the design process to allow buyers to place orders and provide long-lead press with original content early enough, but make them more intimate and exclusive:• Consider creating bi-annual, in-season consumer-relevant activations during or after New York Fashion Week around the main and pre-collections to be delivered to stores immediately and for the next several months:Benefits of this idea for Brands, Retailers and Press:This model is not the only way to think about the in-season relevancy idea: a hybrid model also emerged, that maintains the current timing but includes ‘capsule collections’ available immediately for increased “shoppability.”THINKING BEYOND FASHION SHOWS: SHIFTING THE DELIVERY DATESBeyond New York Fashion Week and fashion shows, the majority of people interviewed highlighted the need to rethink the delivery cadence to better match the actual, physical season and boost full-price selling. To achieve the goal, retailers and brands need to engage in a targeted dialogue. Topics for discussion include:The CFDA will:The CFDA will also help designers who are interested in transitioning to a new format. Support could include the following:• The CFDA has developed a guide book to help designers make the transition and mitigate some potential risks or concerns expressed by interviewees; it will be released on within the next two weeks as designers start planning for September New York Fashion Week.• The CFDA will monitor designer / brand experimentations and disseminate sharable case studies for collective industry learning.• The CFDA is also looking at providing a turn-key solution for emerging designers who wish to show with consumer relevancy. The CFDA may partner with online retailers, social media outlets, production partners and / or content creators to feature emerging designers who may not otherwise have enough resources for in-season activations.Designers interested in experimenting with new formats can reach out to the CFDA to further discuss potential options. **CONCLUSIONThere was an overall consensus on the need for change, specifically for exploring new models for New York Fashion Week and the timing of retail deliveries.The study highlighted a diversity of opinions with regard to specific solutions, which is expected of an industry rooted in creativity, individuality, innovation and inspiration.The purpose of a fashion show depends on the brand maturity, the brand tier (e.g., contemporary, accessible luxury to luxury), the product focus (e.g., accessories vs. ready-to-wear), target consumers, share of wholesale vs. retailer business, and the level of digital influence in the business. Therefore, it is up to each designer and brand to define what is best.While the CFDA will not promote only one specific idea at this time, it was imperative to bring out all the issues. It will encourage designers to try and experiment with new concepts and will foster continued conversations on the topic through stakeholder meetings, panel conversations, and workshops throughout the year. The CFDA owns the New York Fashion Calendar and will accommodate all types of shows and events and continue to support all designers regardless of how and when they show.Article by

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