3 Ways See-Now, Buy-Now Is Challenging the Fashion Industry

The fashion industry is in the midst of a major revolution. As each fashion week season rolls around, a larger number of designers can be seen embracing a new approach to their big runway reveals: see-now, buy-now.

The movement, ushered in by an increasingly impatient and digital-and-mobile minded bunch, ditches the fashion industry’s traditional six-month catwalk-to-store lag time in favor of an approach that mirrors its name. Consumers can now buy looks off the runway right after the show is over.

Filled with perks for shoppers of the digital age — many of whom will march into their nearest Apple store should an app take more than a millisecond to load — the see-now, buy-now model simultaneously challenges both veteran and emerging design talent.

Here are three reasons why.

A Mega Shift in Supply Chain Strategy

In order to earn a ticket on the see-now, buy-now train, traditional fashion firms and designers must significantly retool their supply-chain operations. And, like every millennial’s favorite Facebook relationship status: It’s complicated.

Adapting to a new supply chain model of any kind is difficult, but a significant acceleration in speed-to-market — which a see-now, buy-now model would require — is more of a major supply chain overhaul, which can be catastrophic.

Of course, having a nimble supply chain and the financial resources in one’s corner can aid the process.

For now, Burberry and Tommy Hilfiger are among the top fashion names to make the switch to see-now, buy-now.

Trade-Off Anticipation for Immediacy & Accessibility

Some of the fashion industry’s top creative heads have been openly against the see-now, buy-now model because they believe it hinders the emotional elements of desire and anticipation birthed by “the wait.”

Most notably, François-Henri Pinault, CEO of French luxury conglomerate Kering, has rejected the approach.

In a memorable sound bite in February, Pinault said fast fashion “negates the dream” of luxury and “there are some brands for which a runway show is a communications event.”

With Gucci, Balenciaga, Saint Laurent and other popular fashion houses under Kering’s command, the company’s public refusal to adopt the model could temper momentum.

Pressure on Creativity & Quality

Faster fashion has become one of the industry’s more polarizing topics. On one side are those who believe that the key to survival is keeping up with consumer demands for immediacy; on the other are those who say that the only way to accomplish that is to sacrifice quality and creativity. Fashion designers and executives clinging to the latter perspective believe that even if consumers say that they want everything right now, they don’t mind holding on a bit longer for the best possible product.

Last year, in a heavily cited interview with System magazine, former Christian Dior creative director Raf Simons lamented about the ever-increasing pace of fashion and a lack of time for the “incubation” of ideas.

Similarly, Italian designer Ermanno Scervino told Reuters in March that he has no intentions of joining the see-now, buy-now crowd.

“It is not for me, it is not for [products of] excellence,” he said. “We have long [designing] time frames. I am not interested.”

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