Fashion’s Big Challenges The Focus Of CFDA Talk

Vanessa Friedman, Tory Burch, Steven Kolb,
Vanessa Friedman, Tory Burch, Steven Kolb, Alex Bolen
CFDA/Samsung 837.

The future of fashion isn’t exactly a crystal-clear one if designers have anything to say about it.

The CFDA and Samsung have teamed up on a series of panel conversations this year focusing on the big issues facing the industry. The first of the fireside chats was hosted in New York on Wednesday night at Samsung 837 featuring Oscar de la Renta CEO Alex Bolen, designer Tory Burch and CFDA CEO Steven Kolb. New York Times fashion director Vanessa Friedman moderated. The topic: fashion’s future.

Friedman kicked off the panel chat, saying, “The present of fashion, it’s kind of a mess.” She asked designers to sound off on a variety of issues from social media to the fashion calendar. Here are a few highlights from the conversation.

On the fashion calendar:

“This is an opportunity to adapt. The study itself more or less came to the conclusion that everyone should do what works for them. The shows and that format will be where we see the experimentation. Of all the fashion cities, New York, London and Milan and Paris, the one thing they could agree on was when clothes should be available for sale. It’s buy now, wear now.” — Steven Kolb

On the environment:

“We’re looking at lighter-weight fabrics in our resort. In the past, resort was only about 30 percent buy-now, wear-now — now it’s 60 percent. Global warming is something we have to take into consideration.” — Tory Burch

On social media & fashion:

“Social media really was the disruptor of fashion week. Suddenly stuff was out right away, and I think that it really contributed to the fatigue of the consumer and allows for copying. I think an embargo is an interesting idea, to really hold images back.” — Kolb

“Social media has us in a constant dialogue with our customer. It’s a window into who we are, and I do most of it myself, though my team does help sometimes and our Sport line is more curated by the team.” — Burch

On fighting customer fatigue:

“We know traffic is down, and we ourselves are making less product and want each piece to be more meaningful.” — Burch

“It’s important to listen to her and understand that familiarity is something that is very commercial. But it’s about balance. You have to listen but remember that you have to give them what they don’t know they want. I think Diana Vreeland said that.” Alex Bolen

Predictions for fashion in the future:

“In the future, you’ll see more brands direct to consumer. You’ll see more fabrics and designs not season-specific.” — Kolb

“Personalization. I think that has the potential to change the concept of the supply chain and shift fast fashion. I also think intellectual property will change not to be the object but the recipe.” — Burch

“We’ll change the name of the collection. We’ll still be showing six months ahead to someone.” — Bolen

Talking to the experience-driven millennial shopper:

“I think that people still have to get dressed in the morning, but we have to engage them on their terms. I think this is where customization comes in. I also think if we embrace mobile that will be important.” Tory Burch

“Ultimately, it’s about making shopping more of an experience. I think we were all surprised by the velocity that consumers adopted e-commerce. There are implications for us in terms of inventory and logistics and infrastructure. Ultimately this may be about less brick-and-mortar stores, but our stores may be bigger.” — Bolen