Like Moschino says, “fashion kills,”—or does fast fashion kill? Fashion week is an event where celebrities, buyers and journalists walk the streets of New York, Paris, London and Milan in the latest novel outfits and sit front row at a show where collections have yet to find their way to the public market. In recent years, the media has made the experience of fashion week more accessible for the admirers who cannot buy tickets to the Michael Kors show or sneak a first look at Anna Wintour at Chanel. This widespread exposure by fashion websites and bloggers has also made trends from the runway easier for fast fashion stores to imitate and knock off. With the rise of fast fashion spreading like wildfire through the high fashion industry, the death of fashion week may be near.
Fast fashion, a term used to describe designs from runways moving quickly into stores in order to capture current fashion trends, involves market giants like Forever 21, H&M and Zara, major brands that continue to change fashion for the public. These stores have made the expensive looks on the runway be more accessible—and most importantly, cheaper—for the consumer. With the guarantee that high fashion looks will not available in the stores until a half year after designs debut on the runway, these stores can take looks from Chanel, Prada, Alxeander Wang, etc. and spit them out into the stores with a nicer price tag for mass consumption.
Designers showing collections at fashion week have had enough. Burberry and Tom Ford have started the “in-season” model to combat the tug-of-war. The “in-season” model allows consumers to buy clothing from the collection the moment after it hits the runway. This means spring collections are shown in spring rather than featured in the fall, and consumers are able to buy their favorite designer’s feature piece directly off the runway. Other designers are choosing to host Instagram-only shows or host events such as exclusive parties or video premieres to showcase the collection in order for the consumer to get excited about the looks. Labels are also considering hosting presentations for buyers or media editors just seasons before, then showing the in-season collection for the consumers later on.
This shift in the consumer-driven, in-season model of fashion week puts the fast fashion industry in a bind. How will they be able to create new looks without the six-month grace period between seasons? With the in-season model, designers’ collections will be nearly impossible to knock-off considering they will be in stores that day. And once these trends make to the fast fashion stores, it’s already time for the next season.
One solution H&M discovered was featuring a collection during fashion week. The clothing company has featured only a few collections during the store’s lifetime, but their biggest collaboration by far featured prestigious label Balmain (basically the Kardashian Klan’s designer-of-choice). This collaboration hit stores fall 2015 and caused chaos with the consumers. Because the aspect of entertainment is becoming more popular within the fashion industry, H&M featured pop culture stars and models Kendall Jenner and Gigi Hadid in the collaboration with Balmain to amp up consumer value and draw.
With the emergence of in-season models from designers, fast fashion chains may need to follow H&M’s footsteps and become integrated within the high fashion world. Although these stores provide consumers with an easier way to look fashion forward and runway ready (because let’s face it, we can’t all afford Dior), these stores leave the fashion industry in shambles. Their knock-offs and ability to skirt through court cases by claiming to “buy their designs from a third party” and not imitating high fashion designs forces designers to worry whether their designs will be duplicated, creating a loss of sales. Although expensive, the designers of the brands that are being copied deserve the credit for their novel and groundbreaking ideas.
Regardless of whether or not “fashion kills,” only time will tell if fashion week will die at the hands of the consumer-driven fast fashion stores.
Photo courtesy of TrendStyle