Innovación: From catwalk to checkout: how Burberry is trying to reinvent retail
Burberry models wafted down the catwalk at London fashion week in outfits inspired by Virginia’s Woolf’s Orlando, it wasn’t the ornate drummer-boy jackets and ruff-collared shirts that stole the show.
The hottest runway trend was instant shopping, as the British brand turned its catwalk into a living and breathing shop window. Fans were suddenly able to buy the equestrian-inspired leopard-print bridle bags or shearling jackets that previously they could only have coveted on social media straightaway – albeit for price tags larger than the average monthly mortgage payment.
“I think this can be seen as significant in the sense that when Burberry said it was going to do this, it was essentially rewriting how things are done [in fashion] and the point of a traditional catwalk show,” says Graeme Moran, head of content at the fashion-industry bible Drapers.
“If you go back 100 years, catwalks used to be small, private events that brands put on to show buyers, and eventually the press and clients, what they were doing. It can be argued that the catwalk has now become a platform to speak to customers, rather than the industry,” he says.
Burberry – along with brands such as Tom Ford, Tommy Hilfiger and Ralph Lauren, which also proffered their own shoppable runway collections at New York fashion week – is at the vanguard of what the fashion industry refers to as the “see now, buy now” model.
It might not sound like a phenomenon to most people, but this is not how the fashion industry has traditionally worked. There is normally a six-month time lag between catwalk shows and designer clothes arriving in department stores and boutiques around the world. The delay means that fashion editors are usually writing about next year’s shorts and sundresses just as the rest of us are digging out our winter coats.
This interregnum also enables nimble high-street chains to piggyback on emerging trends and get cheaper versions of standout styles into store.
The backdrop to all this has been the rise of digital media, which has turned runway shows into powerful consumer marketing events that brands cannot cash in on if products have not yet even been produced.
Burberry’s chief executive, Christopher Bailey, described the show as a “special moment” that was the “culmination of a series of important changes we made, designed to bring our collections closer to our customer.
“The changes we are making will allow us to build a closer connection between the experience that we create with our runway shows and the moment when people can physically explore the collections for themselves,” he said.
The usual fashion business cycle sees buyers examining new collections in the wake of the runway show and then placing their orders. But, this year, Burberry let important buyers and press view its new designs back in July, provided they agreed to keep its secrets. Rather than the world’s most beautiful women parading the key looks around the room, it is understood the industry’s power brokers studied mannequins on a rotating carousel in a showroom at its London headquarters.
“Our brand is about moving forward,” Bailey told the Financial Times after Monday’s show. “But we’re testing things out, seeing what we will be able to [do] better in future. We’ve had to look at every facet of the business, from the suppliers, factories, media, every level of the process, to see how it works. And we’ll learn from this and build from there.”
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