NEW YORK — Yet another designer is trying to transform the overburdened fashion system: Rebecca Minkoff.
The contemporary sportswear and accessories designer plans to take her fashion show straight to consumers in February — and will present her spring collection that will already be in stores, rather than her fall one.
The expectation is that the barrage of Instagrams, tweets, social media and hype surrounding the show will help drive spring business at retail, a radical departure from a typical fashion show that presents the following season’s collection for buyers, editors, bloggers, stylists and celebrities.
She is the latest designer to question the value of fashion shows that present collections four to six months before they land in stores — by which time consumers are so bored with the styles that they’ve seen on celebrities and social media for six months that they don’t buy them. She joins the likes of Proenza Schouler in New York as well as Thomas Tait in London, while last week Silas Chou’s daughter Vivian took a majority stake in Thakoon Panichgul’s company with plans to turn it into a show-now, see-now, buy-now, wear-now brand.
Minkoff plans to invite retailers and their best customers, as well as editors and bloggers and selected readers, to an IMG-sponsored venue which the company will select and will seat 500 or 900 people, depending on the location. About 30 to 50 percent of the audience will be “everyday” consumers.
Ken Downing, senior vice president and fashion director of Neiman Marcus, thinks Minkoff’s move makes a lot of sense since he’s been proposing a change in the speed of the fashion cycle, a concept that Donna Karan has been talking about for years.
“I am an enormous proponent of relooking and recalibrating how we use the fashion show that has become a mega-marketing” event, said Downing. “The history of fashion shows was to show the buyers and the press the message of the season. But technology has utterly changed everything in our industry. That customer continues to follow Instagram and Twitter and watches the live-stream of fashion shows. When they are seeing clothes, they are less aware of seasons. What they are seeing, they want,” he said.
As a frequent traveler to Neiman Marcus stores throughout the country, Downing works with customers in the dressing rooms. He’s been hearing a similar refrain for more than a year now: “‘I’m so tired of looking at that.’ And these were clothes that had just arrived in the store. We are visually feeding them this glorious imagery six months before clothes are delivered to the store,” he said.
The good news is that the customer is engaged and is following all the visual imagery that designers and the media are feeding them, he said. “But they are exhausted by the time the clothes arrive in the store because they are seeing them too soon. When you start to hear it from one, four, 15 customers, it becomes a very real conversation,” said Downing.
Unlike previous generations of fashion customers who would buy their wardrobe several months before the season began, Downing said that mentality has completely changed. “The customer buys now to wear now. The idea of planning a wardrobe six months in advance is less and less and less. That customer mentality is all but extinct. They’re buying it when they want it, and they want it when they see it,” he said. “When you put these images in front of the customer six months in advance and they can’t get it, we’re actually irritating the customer by not servicing them.”
He anticipates that Minkoff will see an immediate response to their spring collection that will be in store because of the excitement that social media will provide in season. He noted that it’s also something that Jeremy Scott is doing at Moschino, where he’s creating a runway capsule that a store buys sight unseen and is in-store as the collection is being shown in Milan.
Downing has been talking about this mixed-up fashion cycle at every market appointment he goes on. “I’m talking to everyone who will listen. We’re an industry of futurists and we’re supposed to be thinking very modern and ahead of the curve, but we’re an industry afraid of change,” he said.
Minkoff said the decision to show spring, which retailers and editors saw in September, may initially cause a little confusion, but the company believes the concept has the right elements and will be even more effective in subsequent seasons.
Uri Minkoff, chief executive officer and cofounder, said he and his sister Rebecca, cofounder and creative director, spent a lot of time after the September shows trying to figure out the right formula, asking themselves: “What will the ideal new model be in terms of a fashion week that takes into account retail partners, one’s own stores, the social media frenzy and consumers? What would be the ideal solution that doesn’t change dramatically the fashion calendar, and becomes a win-win-win for every party involved?” he said.
“People have questioned, “Is it a video, or one-on-one deskside appointments? Is it a bigger theater? Is it consumer, or is it not?” said Uri Minkoff. Other problems are that press and buyers go on the road for a month twice a year to attend shows, and customers see things on Instagram and six months later, fast-fashion firms have knocked them off, said Minkoff.
More and more companies are rethinking how they handle the overheated fashion system, with its chaotic fashion weeks, flood of tweets and Instagram posts and accelerated product cycles. Just last week, Tait, the fast-rising London designer, decided to skip a full-blown fashion show and have one-on-one appointments with press and buyers in March. Proenza Schouler took a firm stand earlier this month when the designers said they would not release any pre-fall imagery or sanction outside photography and short-lead reviews of their collection until the clothes, shoes and bags begin to hit the stores around April.
Inviting consumers to a fashion show is not a new idea, and American Express has been selling tickets to customers for NYFW for years. Uber teamed with Rag & Bone to provide free tickets to customers for the brand’s spring show in September, while Riccardo Tisci created a true fashion moment last season by inviting 1,200 “real people” to his Givenchy show on a pier on the Hudson River. Stores such as Macy’s have held fashion shows during NYFW with current merchandise, and designers such as Tommy Hilfiger and CH Carolina Herrera have had special shows during NYFW for American Express customers.
Minkoff’s firm has tried to be ahead of the curve, including being one of the first brands to develop a social media presence on platforms such as Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat; to launch wearables, and to unveil a “store of the future” concept, said Uri Minkoff.
“Our goal has always been to look and see where there are inefficiencies within the existing fashion supply chain and see if we can create solutions within those that can create either a closer relationship with the customer, a closer relationship with our retailers and spot those things and look to disrupt them,” said the ceo.
Minkoff said he’s spoken to IMG, key retailers and key social media platforms. “We want this to be what fashion week should become. This should be the new model for the industry. It doesn’t create dramatic change, but allows for all the parties to win. We kind of wanted to put our stake in the ground.”
Catherine Bennett, senior vice president and managing director of IMG Fashion Events and Properties, said no one has really done a major fashion show of in-season clothes during NYFW. “Rebecca Minkoff has always been an innovator; she was one of the first designers to integrate social media into her shows in an impactful manner, and last season she partnered with Intel to create some really unique content around her show using drones. The conversation over the ever-evolving landscape of New York Fashion Week is ongoing, but it’s exciting to see that Rebecca carved out a unique scenario to meet her business objectives,” said Bennett.
As for how this will play out, since buyers and editors have already seen the spring collection, Rebecca Minkoff said this season will be a bit of a “leap-frog season,” and going forward, it will work more efficiently. She said she wants to make sure the entire “ecosystem” as it stands today is still relevant and supported.
“We’re resetting things. We’re going to present a buy-now, wear-now show with our spring product that all of our stores and ourselves have purchased. We’re going to be inviting our top customers, whether it be department stores and say to their most loyal consumers, ‘You can come to a Rebecca Minkoff show.’” She also plans to open it up to editors and invite their community. “You spend so much money with this fashion show, it’s a way to say, ‘let’s celebrate fashion, let’s actually see goods that we can buy, and they’re available right now.’”
So what will actually be on the runway?
“The idea is a mix of pieces of what you have seen, it’s also moving into summer. What we’re showing is what’s available right then and within 30 to 60 days out, as well as a capsule of things you haven’t seen,” said Rebecca Minkoff.
The company will continue to host one-on-one appointments in the showroom with key retailers and editors in March to show the fall collection, and she won’t object if people post pictures on Instagram or social media. “Based on that and their response, what they like and what’s trending at retail, what we’ll show in September will be what we showed in the showroom, plus things that we decide to do as a reaction to our living, breathing business, plus holiday that’s never been seen before,” she said.
In addition, Uri Minkoff said, “What’s actually on the runway has been purchased. It creates an efficient system. What you’re creating in September and February is an awareness for the consumer of, ‘Oh my God, I love this, I’ve never really seen it before, I can actually go buy it.’ These elite customers get so excited when they get this exclusive experience.”
As far as who they will invite, he said, “The editor can incentivize their reader. A retailer can have a sweepstakes. It’s a service add that’s never been available before. They’re able to partner with us as a brand, they’re able to give that curated experience to people and live-stream that experience on their channels, and can convert all that noise into a sale,” said Uri Minkoff.
He said people are lamenting their fourth-quarter business and that they’re not having full-price sales. “Now all of a sudden, the Super Bowl [of shows] twice a year actually becomes an actual buying and retail celebration and festival, versus just a big tease,” he said.