The fashion industry loves a bandwagon, and the see-now-buy-now one keeps rolling along. A murdererâs row of major brands, from Burberry and Ralph Lauren to Tommy Hilfiger and Moschino, has incorporated at least some element of instant gratification into their recent collections. Burberry and Lauren presented immediately shoppable runway shows, with the latter inviting attendees straight into the store after his spring 2017 show. Hilfiger made his Tommy x Gigi collaboration available to buy fresh off the runway, and Moschinoâs Jeremy Scott has been offering capsules of his most poppy, instantly recognizable pieces â like this seasonâs slogan sweatshirts and trash-can bag. But itâs been tough, from an outside perspective, to see how they stack up â when a collection is trumpeted as âsold out,â itâs rarely revealed how many pieces were even available, or how long that process took.
In recent weeks, see-now-buy-nowâs image as the silver-bullet savior of fashion has taken a hit. Designer Thakoon Panichgul, who had completely overhauled his business to focus on seasonless dressing and e-commerce, announced he was putting his brand on âpauseâ to rethink the concept. And Tom Ford, who tried out see-now-buy-now for one season, decided it wasnât for him, telling Womenâs Wear Daily, âThe store shipping schedule doesnât align with the fashion show schedule â¦ you canât have a show with clothes that have been on the selling floor for a month.â
Fashion has been bullish on instant shopping for several years now, with the conventional wisdom claiming that our immediate-gratification culture has spurred a Veruca Salt customer. (âDonât care how, I want it now.â) And for people who follow fashion religiously, that is definitely the case. When I interviewed Jeremy Scott several years ago, he told me that his young customer was impatient for fashion: âI live in a world of Instagram fans who âlikeâ things,â he said, âand donât understand, when theyâre âlikingâ it, why itâs basically not coming out of that phone right there for them.â But as Cathy Horyn pointed out after Laurenâs show, the strategy may work better for mid-price labels than it does for luxury ones. Contemporary brands like Rebecca Minkoff have been demonstrably successful at leveraging the possibilities of instant shopping â CEO Uri Minkoff tells the Cut that the brandâs sales were up 64 percent year after year, after adopting see-now-buy-now. âWhen we create an experience, the format is not as relevant as âWhat is the experience, who is involved?ââ he says.
For example, their show last month at the Grove in L.A. was open to consumers and was stocked with influencers whose combined following totals over 20 million on Instagram alone, including Chiara Ferragni and Aimee Song. Some pieces were available to buy right after the show, while others dropped 30-45 days later, and Minkoff said that both sold âway better than normal,â with even the dress the designer wore for her bow selling out briskly online. Still, says Minkoff, âThatâs what works for us. Iâm not saying that everyone should do it. In a luxury sense, having a longer-term relationship and a romanticizing of something over a period [of time], thatâs great.â Minkoffâs brand operates at what he calls âa more spontaneous purchase level.â
To bridge that gap between romance and spontaneity, some high-end designers have waded into instant shopping by offering small see-now-buy-now capsules, and continuing to show the rest of their collection as before. But according to Ken Downing of Neiman Marcus, âI donât feel like doing just a capsule is the only way to attack this, because I actually think it confuses the consumer even more.â Downing is a strong advocate of see-now-buy-now as an overall approach â he mentions customers who come with photos of a runway model or a celebrity in something they just wore. âIf they canât find what theyâre looking for thatâs all about that moment, Iâm sure theyâre finding it in fast-fashion stores,â he says. Elizabeth von der Goltz of Bergdorf Goodman echoes this line of thinking. âWhen people have these see-now-buy-now capsules that they put enough marketing and social media behind, they work extremely well,â she says. âBut you need to come up with a full strategy thatâs not about this one shot. How do you continue driving your business through the season, versus this one time?â
One surprising discovery that emerges is that this new world of immediate shopping has some old-school aspects to it. (Maybe not that surprising â if you think about it, the old-school couture fitting and trunk show was the original see-now-buy-now.) Stores are putting their muscle into experiences. Von der Goltz points to recent events Bergdorf has done with Kith, Nike, and Fenty, as well as what she calls its âright off the runwayâ events, where customers can meet designers, see and touch the clothes, and place preorders. Downing, who was on his way to a customer event in Houston when we spoke, says, âtheyâre actually very successful events because itâs an experience. Youâre interacting with a fashion authority who can give them ideas on how to put clothes together. Itâs making the clothes that theyâve seen for some time look new by the way that weâre styling it.â
While its roll may have slowed slightly, everyone I spoke to agreed that see-now-buy-now is not going anywhere, even if a few brands have soured on it. Fashion consultant Julie Gilhart said she thought it would just become more commonplace, predicting that âmany of the up-and-coming brands will just build this see-now-buy-now concept into their initial business start-up.â Minkoff even imagines consumer fashion shows becoming a draw in themselves. âWouldnât it be fun for consumers to be able to come to New York,â he muses, âand see three or four fashion shows rather than saying, âIâm going to see a Broadway show?â He thinks that a few seasons from now, that could be the reality. âI donât think the world is slowing down,â he says. âWe are betting the ranch on this model.â