In an era where smartphones, social media and live streaming fuel the desire for immediate gratification, the fashion world is undergoing a major disruption, with Canadian designer Pink Tartan the latest to join the likes of Burberry and Tom Ford in adopting a see-now/buy-now model for introducing new collections.
The Canadian design house unveiled its fall/winter 2016 collection at a special event Tuesday evening — one atypically held outside of Toronto Fashion Week — with the buyers in attendance able to instantly order the clothes literally being modelled before them.
"You get an instant reaction digitally. Now, you see fashion so quickly, so it's really about connecting with [who's in your front row] versus waiting for it to go through all of the stages," Pink Tartan designer Kimberley Newport-Mimran told CBC News after the collection's debut.
"It's about getting the response immediately," she added. "It's a way of gauging what my customers, who love the brand, are going to be wearing."
Traditionally, designers create new collections full of samples, which are shown at runway shows. Buyers in attendance subsequently place orders, while fashion media highlight these new collections in editorial spreads. The clothing is produced and eventually reach retailers — usually four to six months later.
However, with fashion shows having become public-facing events captured and immediately shared around the globe via social media and streaming, consumers worldwide are demanding new designs more quickly — or turning to fast-fashion retailers for hastily made copies.
Burberry's Christian Bailey and Tom Ford announced in February they would move to the see-now/buy-now model this fall, so customers can snap up their latest designs after they appear on the runway.
"The changes we are making will allow us to build a closer connection between the experience that we create with our runway shows and the moment when people can physically explore the collections for themselves," Bailey said in a statement.
Ford added, in a separate release, that "in a world that has become increasingly immediate, the current way of showing a collection four months before it is available to customers is an antiquated idea and one that no longer makes sense."
Other labels — including Chanel, Prada, Monique Lhullier, Moschino, Versace and Rebecca Minkoff — have been testing the waters by making select pieces immediately available for sale after their runway shows.
Indie designers sound the alarm
However, while bloggers and fashion fans might be cheering this shift, many smaller designers are sounding the alarm, saying it could put many companies out of business.
Unlike giants like Burberry and Tom Ford, indie brands don't typically have dedicated manufacturing facilities and aren't able to fulfill orders as quickly.
The shift to see-now/buy-now would force designers to guess which items will be big sellers and move the cost of manufacturing the entire collection upfront, without a guarantee of sales, which many have said they cannot afford.
The administrative body of French fashion designers also rejected the shift.
This new model works for "marketing-driven brands," but would compromise the quality of work by French fashion designers, group president Ralph Toledano told Women's Wear Daily.
For Pink Tartan's Newport-Mimran, however, the goal is to connect more directly with her customers.
"I was really excited just to see what the customer wants and how they responded to the collection," she said of Tuesday's event.
"They will be the first ones... to get the collection before it even gets to stores," she said. "For me, it's about inspiring people to get dressed."