See now, buy now: a real breakthrough or just a fad?

Today, debate is raging between those in favor of immediately commercializing models shown on catwalks, otherwise known as ‘see now, buy now’, and those who oppose.

Models on the catwalk.

For luxury brands that strut their stuff on catwalks, the current model demands that clothes be available in stores four months following a fashion show.

Today, debate is raging between those in favor of immediately commercializing models shown on catwalks, otherwise known as ‘see now, buy now’, and those who oppose.

Across all industries, digitalization is at the core of a series of breakthroughs. In the fashion industry, digital’s impact can already be seen in e-commerce's and social media’s omnipresence, which has been driving these trends, multiplied the number of collections and shortened clothing design, development and time to market cycles.

With fashion shows being shown in real time, they are henceforth seen by everyone simultaneously, which has several consequences: fast fashion brands draw inspiration from designs to quickly produce trendy clothing, which are much cheaper and that arrive in stores before the designs are shown on catwalks. Fashion shows will not disappear, as they are a key channel of communication and publicity. But their role is being rethought, especially to make them compatible with ‘see now, buy now’.

Although not entirely new (capsule and cruise collections are participating in this trend), this business model raises several questions. Will it concern just a part or the entirety of a collection? Will certain types of clothing, such as men’s suits, lend themselves better than others? What will be the impact on the creative process? How should speed and quality control be reconciled? Will the luxury segment be able to combine its elitist DNA with an unrestrained drive toward digital? It is clear that many new dynamics are sprouting and fashion is at the cusp of significant changes.

Whatever the case, ‘see now, buy now’ implies reducing the standard amount of time between the catwalk and items being placed on store shelves. The supply chain will gain in terms of flexibility and the tempo will accelerate, going from four months to just a few weeks, even being available immediately. Already rather complex, collection planning processes, manufacturing and especially product development will be the first to be shaken up.

‘See now, buy now’ has not generated a consensus in the fashion world. There are diverse approaches. Burberry is leading the movement, followed by a few anglo-saxon brands; most French actors (Kering Group, French Fashion Federation) have been reluctant; situated between both are two American (CFDA) and Italian players (Versace or the Gucci brand, which represents 50% of Kering’s luxury sales) are more open and ready to experiment. Newcomers and pure players will have a ‘see now, buy now’ advantage. Fashion houses will, however, have more difficulty freeing themselves from catwalks’ golden cage, unless they go against the grain and make being different an asset. The potential scenarios are numerous. The brand that finds the right combination between all of these variables will make a breakthrough in the fashion industry.