Fashion’s Obsession With the Pre-season

The last round of pre-fall showings indicated just how important these collections have become in the accessories arena.

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Special Issue
WWD Accessory issue 03/26/2012

Without obsession, fashion as we know it wouldn’t exist.

This story first appeared in the March 26, 2012 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Most often, we think of the woman obsessed, with a look, a mood, a feeling, the desire for which fashion can satiate, or merely with a singular item — the perfect handbag, that wantonly embellished shoe — that she must obtain just because. Then, there’s the deep obsession of the designer who each season conjures a heady statement and sets out to express it to perfection in his or her runway collection.


Recently, fashion as an industry has fallen under the spell of another obsession: the pre-seasons. Whereas less than a decade ago they were little more than deliveries, ticketed space fillers from which women would hopefully choose to update their basics while waiting for the real fashion to arrive in-store, now the pre-seasons are anything but — the “pre” a major misnomer. It has become a truism to note that they have the longest time on the selling floor, and thus are equal to, if not surpassing, the runway collections in importance.


This obsession started with resort, which morphed from take-away vacation accoutrement into a full range of offerings from warm-weather to wear-now suitable for Northern Novembers and holiday gifting. Once that season exploded, brands started paying closer attention to pre-fall, giving it, too, more attention. “Resort started as more of a showing season, but [pre-fall] is catching up,” says Reed Krakoff. “The merchandise is on the floor for a long time. It’s really important that it makes a strong statement about what the brand’s about.”


Yet despite the importance of accessories to the bottom line of nearly all successful businesses, most of the conversation and attention regarding resort and pre-fall has focused on the clothes. That is, until now. The last round of pre-fall showings indicated just how important these collections have become in the accessories arena. They are now expansive, and typically feature not only recolored or otherwise updated versions of familiar bags and shoes, but new designs as well.


“Accessories do have to be an extension of any collection,” says Nina Ricci creative director Peter Copping. As such, he notes, it’s not enough to merely rework old designs. In keeping with an inspiration that crossed the brand’s ultrafeminine lingerie references with aggressive military elements, Copping’s accessories for pre-fall included bold handbags and pastel leather gloves intentionally faded at the seams. He introduced several shoe styles, as well as the Gia and Bracelet bags, and updated the brands A.S.A.P. and Minaudière in various materials. At the same time, he notes the importance of “repetition in developing a signature with accessories.” Thus, pre-fall affords the opportunity to rework items already on the runway.


Either way, delivering a fashion sensibility at the front end of a season is essential. “Women definitely buy fashion right away,” says Marco Gobbetti, chief executive officer of Celine. “The first [pre] delivery is always fashion. We treat the clothes and accessories the same way.”


Krakoff concurs, dismissing as “old-fashioned” the notion that the pre-seasons can be of diminished fashion value. “People are so well educated and have so many choices today,” he says. “The excitement and newness need to be there. That’s becoming more and more important: to not let it get too commercial, too predictable or too overly merchandised….A few pieces made for runway are a bit more esoteric, but [the overall accessories range] must be new and exciting 12 months a year.”

—Styled by Roxanne Robinson-Escriout

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