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Riding a Rising Tide: Buyers, Press Struggle With Boom in Resort

Consensus? Not yet. But there is near-unison on one matter: the status quo has to go.

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NEW YORK — So resort’s no romp on the beach, you say? You’re not alone. The giddy glee with which the season opened back in mid-May thanks to the flamboyant arrivals here of Dior and Chanel has descended into mass exhaustion. At the same time, endless conversation about the protracted schedule and number of openings has held industry attention as raptly as would a salty sex scandal.

A whiny bunch? So some might accuse. It is, after all, the job of retailers and editors to cover collections as they open. But there is no question the recent explosion of cruise/resort as part of the overall apparel business — those percentage-of-sales figures cited just keep escalating—has proven the process for covering it woefully inadequate.

Once upon a time, resort was primarily an American invention, created by and for the American market. In the early Nineties, designers held shows, but it was a handful of houses, presenting typically in their showrooms to a miniscule audience, the proverbial bells and whistles on hold until spring.

That was a fashion lifetime ago. Today, the fierce demand for more and more new merch in the stores ever earlier is the industry’s driving force. Retailers demand, so fashion houses supply and with remarkable success, given an endless litany of challenges from dearth of contemplative creative time, to sit-and-wait-for-fabrics time to Italy-shuttered-in-August time.

On the up side, we should all be awed by designers’ ongoing ability and willingness to churn out creativity on demand, and of their operations — even the miniscule ones — for doggedly finding ways to deliver the goods. (It is fascinating, too, to note that consumer perception of resort is about more than delivery dates. Increasingly, retail and house executives find their clients responding to clothes that haven’t been publicized ad nauseam.) On the down side, this all happens so relentlessly that with the notable exception of Donna Karan, no one seems to question whether this is in fact the single best way to conduct business, or if heads and schedules are simply spinning too furiously to stop and question the system.

Over the past several weeks, that system didn’t break down — for all the aforementioned whining, its population is too professional for that — but neither could its sluggishness be disguised by the proud donning of all those of-the-moment chunky wedges to wend from one opening to the next.

This story first appeared in the June 19, 2006 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Resort didn’t jump up and bite all at once. Rather, over the past few years, subtle and not-so-subtle growth was met with small-picture accommodation: another appointment squeezed in here or there; a day or two extra tacked on to this trip or that. Now however, minor scheduling tweaks have proved patently inadequate. Those who go to the spring and fall shows expect those events to dominate their lives for a month and have long planned accordingly; this unexpected, wide swing of resort opening dates has left little time to deal properly with other aspects of business. The presentations started in mid-May and continue through this week, with some major design houses requiring retailers to start all over again in July for spring one.

Despite the ever-increasing fashion quotient of the resort collections, because the openings are so spread out and disorganized, it is more difficult to conceptualize the season as a whole. Other pragmatic issues have surfaced as well: out-of-town retailers must make more frequent, previously unbudgeted, trips to New York; for magazines, June has traditionally been a time to shoot.

There has been no dearth of “what should we do-ing” through the comings and goings of what some now call this “third season.” Not surprisingly, just about everyone has an opinion. Many favor the establishment of a consolidated market period — not to be confused with a show week, which most seem not to want. The mass embrace of formal shows would be unrealistic financially for smaller operations and could change the delightful breezy nature of resort fashion, should designers become increasingly, and inevitably, preoccupied with “show” elements other than the clothes. Rather, many of those questioned liked the idea of a formalized two-week market period in New York during which Americans and Europeans with the means to do so would show here as they chose, whether in a formal show, informal presentation or market appointments.

Consensus? Not yet. But there is near-unison on one matter: the status quo has to go.

Karl Lagerfeld
“There could be a cruise week, why not? And it’s polite to go somewhere else and take the collection to your audience. Cruise is about traveling, too, no?”

Sidney Toledano, Christian Dior
“We plan to [show in New York] again next year. It’s perfect timing, we had very good feedback from the retailers and we then showed the collection the following week in Paris. It shouldn’t become too many brands showing because it would be too long.”

Michael Kors
“I think the chances of it organized into a tent situation are close to none. And how many small designers can afford to have a third show? The only plus to a show: It’s at one set time and tells everyone you have to be here, this is important. June is a huge month for shooting. Magazines are shooting September, shooting and reshooting. To try to do a set fashion week in June would be difficult for editors. The smartest thing, whether you have a show or presentation, would be to discuss a two-week time slot.”

Alber Elbaz, Lanvin
“The beauty of the [cruise] season was that it was a free season. It was kind of off-season — underground. It’s a collection being done almost directly to the clientele. It goes directly to the needs of women. You’re not coming to see a fashion show, but to listen to the designer. When you do a show, you think in a different way and you become more daring and more eccentric.”

Yves Carcelle, Louis Vuitton
“We don’t feel the need for a [cruise] show now. Some ready-to-wear companies have a lot of wholesale clients and need to emphasize the cruise to outside clients. In our case, we have no wholesale, only our own distribution. I think you will see more sophisticated presentations for the press. [Cruise] has become an economic reality today.”

Valerie Hermann, Yves Saint Laurent
“We are doing shows with our models in our showroom. We’re doing it in a more intimate way. It’s all about the product and delivery, having the right product in the right window of delivery. Everything which makes life easier for the customer is best.”

Marc Jacobs
“The thought of a cruise show just freaks me out. I’ve already lost some sleep over it. It’s really hard work to get the cruise collection together, and adding a show into the mix really changes the picture.”

Ralph Toledano, Chloé
“We have to think about our design teams. We must give them some time to clear their minds and to have a break. By asking them to mount more shows puts more pressure on them. Cruise is based on real commercial needs.”

Donna Karan
“The press doesn’t need one more fashion week. The problem is not about resort being so big and spring not important any more. It’s pre-fall that’s the problem because it gets delivered in June. Spring has the wrong selling time; resort has the wrong selling time. With fall coming in June, by October, when it actually turns fall, [stores] need another collection. Basically, we are killing fall. We have done resort shows before. I’d love to do [a formal resort show] if [LVMH] gave me the money.”

Ann Stordahl, Neiman Marcus
“Anytime a market period can be consolidated is helpful, certainly for those of us who don’t live in New York. But I don’t think it’s necessary to have another week of shows. As retailers, we still have to write the collections and would prefer small defilés in the showrooms. I also think adding the expense of another show is a problem, and could impact designers’ creativity in terms of spring.”

Nicolas Topiol, Christian Lacroix
“[A cruise week] sounds like something that would make sense in the future. For a brand like ours, which is Paris based, it could be interesting to show a cruise collection in New York. Cruise is really a U.S. collection from its origin.”

Sarah Rutson, Lane Crawford, Hong Kong
“A tighter window would obviously be easier. As soon as New York shows resort, Europe should follow on. Going back and forth isn’t the most cost-effective thing when we could do it all in one journey and kill two birds with one stone so to speak. It is getting increasingly difficult for merchants. Merchants need to be able to take time to look at their businesses and not to be constantly on the road as seems to be [the case] now.”

Michael Burke, Fendi
“I’m not excluding a show in the future. We do show this primarily for our U.S. customers. We try to make it convenient for the buyers. It is first and foremost a collection to be bought. It’s not just an image thing. It’s a serious business.”

Mark Lee, Gucci
“Cruise was conceived as an American collection, but it has become international in scope and relevance. Nevertheless, it makes sense for European houses to keep their shows on American soil. Cruise is becoming more and more important to Gucci and to fashion.”

Robert Triefus, Giorgio Armani
“Cruise should absolutely be formalized into a concise time period like fall or spring. I believe that the buyers, press and designers would benefit greatly from a coherent presentation or show. As this collection is primarily for the U.S. market, it would make more sense for European designers that produce resort to have it shown in New York. Both formal shows and market appointments are fundamental. Having a tighter window would bring the top people to your collection at a time when they are focused on the category.”

Loredana Nastro, Versace
“There is no doubt that resort needs to be formalized in a more concise time period. It will work to everyone’s benefit from both a time and expense point of view. The fact that the Europeans are showing in New York shows the importance that designer luxury brands are placing on the needs of the American market.”

Vera Wang
“Formalizing the time frame would be helpful. Everybody is complaining. This starts in mid-May and goes on and on. Whether or not to have a show depends upon the house. It is a huge effort to put on a show.”

Glenda Bailey, Harper’s Bazaar
“I would love if we could designate a period of time in which everybody could show resort. That would help all of our diaries, and also our planning, because we intend to shoot resort in two weeks time [for the November issue]. My favorite form of presentation is when it’s intimate and you get to talk to the designer and the design team. When designers come to New York, it’s an opportunity for us to see them. I want to encourage that as much as possible.”

Vittorio Missoni, Missoni
“We’re a small company and though cruise accounts for 50 percent of our summer sales, it would still be too costly for us to stage a fashion show the way Chanel and Dior did. It would automatically hike up the prices.”

Michael Fink, Saks Fifth Avenue
“There is a lot of travel that costs a lot of money. This has to be streamlined. The spring and fall seasons are much easier to navigate. It’s always interesting to see the designer’s spirit as represented on the runway, but I don’t think we need another official show season. The clothes must always translate to a real woman’s needs, not a runway fantasy. The production expenses in producing a show could be used toward something much more customer-related. Hello, let’s talk to the customer, instead of the press, for a change.”

Carine Roitfeld, French Vogue
“It’s not easy for us to get on a plane for a fashion show in New York. Why should we have to travel to N.Y. for a French collection? Not every collection merits a show — maybe the special ones. But I’d much rather see cruise collections in a showroom.”

Christopher Bailey, Burberry
“The business has been going so well that clients kept asking us to sell it beyond Milan. It was just the right moment to expand — and I love the thought of bringing it home to London, too.”

Roopal Patel, Bergdorf Goodman
“Because of budget limitations and work that needs to be done in New York, not everyone can travel to Europe. It helps us tremendously that Europeans are coming and showing here. It would be a great challenge to coordinate the Europeans and Americans to fit into a two-week time frame. I don’t think there should be a show week. It would put a lot of pressure on houses that don’t have the means to stage a show, when they should be focusing on the production and delivery of their fall collections because fall begins to hit now.”

Virginia Smith, Vogue
“What’s great about resort is that there isn’t the pressure of a formal show, and the designers are able to focus on great clothes. It also makes these collections not as exposed as the fall and spring clothes. It makes the clothes feel more personal. A more consolidated time frame is good thinking, but I don’t think we need another show week. I feel it’s less about shows and more about market appointments or informal presentations. The pressure of a full-on show is not what you want for resort. There’s an easiness to the clothes that everyone responds to.”

Roberta Meyers, Elle
“Walks like a duck, talks like a duck — it’s a season. Editors and designers think so. Presumably, buyers do, too.”

Doo-Ri Chung
“Resort is not so much about trying to make a statement; it’s about having clothes that women want to wear. For me, a show would be difficult financially unless I knew that the stores were going to buy it. With a fashion show, there’s a casting director, producer, DJs, models — it’s a huge production that requires a larger scale.”

Stefano Gabbana, Dolce & Gabbana
“Cruise is a service that we offer to the stores and, ultimately, to the final consumer, who both want a constant flow of fresh merchandise. It has a lower price tag compared to the runway collection, which absorbs the costs of the show. The clothes are definitely more commercial hence more profitable, so if we were to stage a show — with top models, great location, flying to New York etc. — that would automatically reflect on the final price, which would be less competitive. I don’t think the retailers care for a show if that means more expensive clothes.”

Steven Kolb, CFDA
“If there were an overwhelming interest to try to put a structure in place … then it would be appropriate for us to do that. [A show] is a lot of extra work and expense. We would advise younger designers to take their time, and not feel pressured to do [a show] because others are doing it. They should make sure to be ready from a business and design perspective.”

Peter Som
“It would be great if there was consolidation [of dates]. It would help in terms of buyers. If I had another show, I’d probably lose my mind. Resort is really about great, beautiful, wearable clothes, and it’s more market-focused. We have had a look-book to make sure buyers in Europe, the Middle East and Asia can still see the collection. Putting on a show is definitely a great expense. Twice a year is pretty much what we can do right now.”

Candy Pratts Price, Style.com
“We used to do appointments, then John and Karl blew into town. I love the taste of it, in one way, but an appointment with Carolina is divine, to sit and have her explain the clothes. Zac did a film. I do love all those experiences. I don’t think people would send editors to Europe then go home and back to couture. It’s not cost efficient at all. I do think the calendar is a bit spread. Do it as a show and get everyone there. Intimate, in your showroom, a show. Edit your collection to 30, 29 pieces. I don’t need to see it in three colors. But give me the spirit of what you are.”

Alex Bolen, Oscar de la Renta
“Resort is becoming an increasingly important season. An organized show calendar makes sense for all the buyers and the press. If it’s in Bryant Park or everyone has individual shows, that can be figured out. First things first, let’s get a week scheduled. [We have] made it clear to 7th on Sixth that having a resort show is a top priority.”

Stan Herman, CFDA
“Any time you organize something, it makes it stronger. It would take the CFDA to sit down with designers and poll them to find out what their desires were, poll the publicity people for their preferences, and the 7th on Sixth advisory committee to see what they think.”

Mark Badgley, Badgley Mischka
“Cruise is equally as important as spring, and actually more important for sales. Unfortunately, spring is the one that gets the big show. In the future, cruise should have presentations and we should have three collections a year.”

Francisco Costa, Calvin Klein Collection, women’s
“Imagine one more season for all of you. The reality is, what was resort when it first started? In essence, resort is to help stores have more product and to keep them looking fresh. That should continue to be the focus of it.”

Derek Lam
“There is only so much merchandise anybody needs. If every season becomes so big and so important, the question is, will we confuse people about what we are saying? It just becomes more stuff. And personally, I don’t think we need more stuff.”

Tomas Maier, Bottega Veneta
“New York should be smart and claim the season. There was never a response in Europe to cruise. But now magazines have started to cover it, retailers are reacting. We opened for 10 days in Milan for Europe, Russia and the Middle East, and sales were 10 times more than they were last year. As a retailer, you want things shown together. You cannot fly to New York every five minutes because everyone shows at a different time. The dates should be formalized.”

Susan Sokol, Vera Wang Apparel Divisions
“Tightening the resort market would be great. We have buyers from all over the world and nobody knows when they should come. From a business standpoint, shortening the spread would help strategically in terms of knowing where our sales are going and getting a more focused picture of the season sooner.”

Tom Murry, Calvin Klein Inc.
“We are doing a lot of things short of a runway show to better showcase the pre-collections. We don’t contemplate, at this time, having a runway show for pre-collections. It’s not financially feasible to go from two shows to four. There is only one way to do a runway show in our view: completely right or not at all.”

Ed Filipowski, KCD Worldwide
“Resort is so important, but this season it has almost become a burden to the industry. Now May/June is just like September/October and February/March. It should be consolidated into a two-week period. My European clients are definitely interested in showing resort in New York in some capacity. But I don’t think anybody wants a third major season. The format for showing should be casual.”

Behnaz Sarafpour
“Whatever we can do to make it easier for people we can work with — the editors and buyers — is good. So far, the only complaint we are hearing is the fact that it’s very spread out. It makes sense to shorten the time frame. From feedback we’ve gotten, it’s not so much that people want to see it on the runway or don’t want to see it on the runway, but more in terms of organization. I personally don’t want to do runway show. It’s an economical and workload issue.”

Lars von Bennigsen, Temperley London
“It would be good if all buyers came to New York. I do not think a formal show is needed, and it would put enormous stress onto the system for fashion houses and the press. There are financial implications on both sides and I am not sure that the benefits outweigh the costs at this point.”

Stephanie Solomon, Bloomingdale’s
“During this time of the year, we are really busy planning the Christmas holiday season, so it’s nice to see resort more informally in a showroom. We would benefit [from a concise period]. I feel very strongly about European lines, especially those with a big American clientele, showing during the resort market week.”

Marco Bizzarri, Stella McCartney
“We present resort in our New York showroom first, but feel it’s important for us to accommodate our clients who can’t come to the States by organizing a selling campaign in Milan in the weeks after as well.”

Peter Dundas, Emanuel Ungaro
“The dates should be consolidated out of prevention of cruelty to journalists. I like the idea of everybody coming to New York, so you don’t have to go to three cities.”

Carolina Herrera
“In terms of timing, everybody should show together. I like informal shows or individual appointments. That allows you to see all the clothes, and comes more easily than thinking about 1,200 people in a tent and the music and the hair and the makeup.”

Joseph Velosa, Matthew Williamson
“I hope that pre-collections don’t turn into runway shows. There will come a time when buyers will get frustrated with buying all the time. Some formalization of pre-collection sales is required. There’s also an extra dynamic that clothes for a runway show need, which you would have to add to pre-collections if they were shown on the runway.”

Mario Grauso, Puig Fashion
“To consolidate the calendar is the only reasonable thing to do. The only fear about doing a show for resort is that we don’t want it to become not about the customer. It’s too important to the women who buy the clothes. We can’t make it just press.”

Buffy Birrittella, Polo Ralph Lauren
“It must be a nightmare [for those covering the resort market]. It should be somehow reined. Resort and pre-spring are very different for us. Resort is all take-away. We don’t show pre-spring to the press. This is designed with the runway in mind. This is the week when we need to show resort in order to ship and get fabrics. If the time frame is consolidated, it would have to be at a time that works for us.”

Virginie Mouzat, Le Figaro, Paris
“I don’t think it makes sense for European houses to show their cruise collections in New York when their roots are here. But showing definitely has given cruise more visibility. The clothes have become more sophisticated and complicated, too. Not every house, though, needs to show cruise. It’s a privilege for the chosen few.”

Oscar de la Renta
“Today, competition is not local but worldwide. If Chanel and Dior do shows in New York … There’s no question, we need to establish a specific time when everybody shows. From the point of view of expense [for retailers] we need to formalize a week.”

Robert Duffy, Marc Jacobs
“A resort show? I don’t want us to be an hour late again.”

Dan Lecca, photographer
“I remember a time when there were resort shows, but only by New York designers. Then it stopped. All of a sudden, there’s this trend of a proper show — Chanel, Dior, Oscar, Gucci. I think the season should be formalized into a week. It would be easier for everybody — retailers and press. But they don’t have to have big shows.”

Evelyn Gorman, Mix, Houston
“I am back and forth a lot for resort because the timetable for American designers is different for European designers. Resort is the craziest. I have three trips to New York in June, two or three in July and another in August — and that’s just for resort. I wish there was a concise period, but I don’t think it’s logistically possible.”

Melanie Rickey, Grazia, a weekly British fashion magazine
The success of pre-collections shows perhaps how outdated the runway system is. There’s no point for a journalist in having another runway season. Why create another time that you have to go away, when they can just send you a look book? Runway shows started at a time when we didn’t have the Internet, and I don’t think a runway season of pre-collections would be very interesting.”

Sarah Easley, Kirna Zabête
“Right now, I am happy with the status quo of showroom appointments. It’s working for us. We sell a lot of smaller designers and it’s tremendously expensive to stage another runway show. We’d be taking a step backward if [the system] was limiting a lot of opportunities for younger designers to do a resort collection.”

Robert Burke, Robert Burke Associates
“I wouldn’t be surprised if [the season] became more concise because retailers, especially those who have to travel, are not going to want to spend two months in the market.”

Hilary Alexander, The Daily Telegraph, London
“I don’t think resort has much to do with the U.K. It’s more of an American-centric thing, relevant to that market. You don’t see people in New Bond street walking around in resortwear, or the windows with signs saying ‘resortwear just in’. It’s more about Americans and cruises and winter sun. I think it’s just another way of selling. I think the bag market has been saturated, so they’re thinking ‘Great! Let’s big up resortwear!'”

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