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Will 'see-now-buy-now' be the future of fashion?

Updated: 2016-09-22 16:47
By Zhao Siyuan in London (chinadaily.com.cn)

Will 'see-now-buy-now' be the future of fashion?

Models present creations at the Burberry catwalk show during London Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2017 in London, Britain September 19, 2016. [Photo/Agencies]

The current buzzword in the fashion industry is not about a color, a fabric or a bag.

'See now buy now' is a new retailing format that will make catwalk looks instantly available for purchase after the show, meaning that the emphasis has switched from who the models are to what will be available to buy.

The traditional wait from runway to retail is six months. If you watched a show in September, you

would see models flashing out-of-season spring/summer outfits but you could only get your hands on the items in stores six months later, roughly the following March.

The new format has been raging in two of the Big Four fashion weeks so far, New York and London, as brands across the Atlantic have rushed to join the ride.

In the United States the trend has attracted not only high-end fashion houses such as Ralph Lauren but easier-going Tommy Hilfiger, which, thanks to its collaboration with supermodel Gigi Hadid, grabbed more coverage.

In London see-now-buy-now is equally irresistible. Traditionally market-savvy High Street brands, including Topshop, certainly haven't missed out on the new way. Luxury stalwart Burberry became the latest brand to get on board.

Burberry's bold move, under the helm of Christopher Bailey, the brand's social media age-aware CEO and creative director, reinforced anticipation amongst followers that the fashion industry is embracing another revolution, by pampering increasingly impatient consumers.

By cutting the six-month waiting gap, designer brands are trying to retake the battleground lost to fast fashion companies, such as Zara and H&M, which in recent years have constantly beat their more sophisticated rivals by supplying high-speed copycats of runway collections at a fraction of their original prices.

However, it's premature to say that the new retailing model has won over the entire fashion industry. To do so, it still needs the approval of the industry's real tradition ruler – Paris.

Feedback from the French capital doesn't sound upbeat. Karl Lagerfeld, who oversees Chanel and

Italian brand Fendi, told the Financial Times dismissively: "It's a mess."

Even in London where brands seem ready to test the water, uncertainty remains. Burberry's show on Monday would be the last by its outgoing talisman Bailey, casting doubts over the company's future policy.

The debate over the new business model has also reached China, a significant factor for any globally expanding brands.

Lin Yi, a Beijing-based fashion retail buyer, said the quick-sale format is luxury brands' treasure but fast fashion's trash.

"For big-name brands it's worth trying for because they can afford massive marketing campaigns. Their influence is already there. Even if the idea ends up as a hype, it's still good marketing for them. They can afford to not care about the actual sales performance," said Lin.

Fast fashion is another story, according to her. "Fast fashion companies have to sell enough clothes to make profits. They just cannot afford a marketing campaign that is headline-making but not money-making. "

Lin also warned against romanticizing the new idea.

"See-now-buy-now doesn't mean you get all of what you see. Instead only a capsule of runway looks can be offered after the show. "

To contact the reporter: zhaosiyuan@chinadaily.com.cn

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