Burberry's Radical New Business Model Paves A New Road For The Runway
Runway shows are the ultimate tease. As Burberry’s chief executive Christopher Bailey put it, “You can’t talk to a customer and say, ‘We’re really excited, we’re going to stimulate you and inspire you, but you can’t touch it or feel it for another six months.’” Amen, Christopher. And so, in that spirit, he decided to take action and change the company’s business model. Instead of having runway shows each season, there will only be two per year. These shows will combine both men’s and women’s clothing, which makes it much easier to stay on top of what they’re releasing. But the best part about all of this is that the new format will make the clothing available immediately after you see it, both online and in stores.
The new model is a modern adaptation for the digital age that we’re living in. The current runway model for each season is incredibly outdated. The senior vice president and fashion director at Neiman Marcus, Ken Downing, calls the current system “a business model that is 40-50 years old.” He’s right. Thanks to smartphones, we’re able to instantly check out new collections, stream live runway shows, and stay up to date on the latest trends. This is all great, but it’s also a little idealistic for companies to think that a consumer will still be thinking about their runway collection six months later when it’s finally available in stores. The trends that we saw on the runway half a year ago are probably as DOA as the hoverboards everyone got for Christmas.
The new push is part of a consumer-friendly strategy that Bailey is spearheading. “You’re really important to us,” he explained. “We’re serving you and we need to change our ways rather than expect you to do these things.”
Other companies and designers are following a similar path—namely, Tom Ford and the design house Vetements. Ford announced last year that he would be stepping away from the runway and would instead be hosting intimate presentations that mix menswear and womenswear during NYFW. “Certain fluidity is necessary in regards to how we communicate with the consumer,” Ford explained. This new direction is exciting because it allows the viewer to take a closer look at the clothes and appreciate the details.
For Demna Gvasalia, creative director of Vetements, moving towards a gender fluid future is a natural next step for the brand. “Showing men’s and women’s at the same time connects us to real life. Today, men wear womenswear and women dress in men’s clothes,” he revealed. “Gender is not a given fact anymore; a person has the right to choose one. Times change.” Preach, honey. Gvasalia—like Burberry’s Christopher Bailey—will be showcasing his men’s and women’s clothes together. What’s more, he will show the collection two months ahead of the major women’s shows in Paris, Milan, London, and New York.
The fashion business may be taking some big risks, but the choices that are being made are moving in the right, progressive direction. The changes are a win-win for all parties; designers, companies, and consumers. The wait is over for these brands, but unfortunately we’re still waiting on the retail release of Yeezy Season Two.
Photos via Burberry, FashGif, Sonny Vandevelde, and i-D.
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