The seasonal fashion calendar is under siege, which is raising red flags for between-season collections like resort.
“Brands are under immense pressure to create more and more,” said Neil Kraft, founder and CEO of the fashion and lifestyle agency KraftWorks. “[Resort] collections have always been about injecting some excitement at a quieter time.”
Considering mounting pressure and changing consumer habits, some brands are retreating away from a strategy that’s about making more noise. Burberry, Tom Ford, Vetements, Alexander Wang, Proenza Schouler, Tommy Hilfiger, Gucci, Public School and more have all made changes to how they will show their collections each year.
There’s no one-fits-all answer when it comes to addressing a new consumer, so strategies differ, but some, like Burberry and Tommy Hilfiger, are choosing to align retail production with runway shows for a consumer-facing calendar, while others, like Gucci, are combining menswear and womenswear shows into one production to unify business. Alexander Wang recently folded his resort collections into his two annual collections.
No matter the particular solution, the core message sent by these brands is that it’s critical to become more streamlined and efficient, and return focus to core products, while becoming more relevant to the consumer by showing them items they can actually buy.
Resort collections, otherwise known as cruise or pre-spring collections, are shown in the early summer months and then put on sale in November as the luxury set prepares to embark on winter holiday travels. In recent years, resort became more critical to a fashion brand’s business strategy: in a crunch to keep up with fast-paced consumer demand between regular fashion seasons in February and September, resort offerings supplement retailers by driving revenue and buzz. In 2013, Barney’s evp Jennifer Sunwoo said that resort and pre-season collections can drive between 60 and 90 percent of the store’s total order from a designer.
As a result, shows got more high-profile. Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Dior all put on big productions in Havana, Cuba, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and Belhaim Palace, England, respectively, for their Cruise 2017 collections. Each was live-streamed and celebrity-studded, and in the case of Chanel and Louis Vuitton, controversial: the displays of wealth harshly clashed with the host countries’ backdrops.
Now, more brands are shifting away from excess. Resort was born as a way to create off-season demand, not exactly meet it.
“You really have to put the customer first, and think about what they want, not what the fashion calendar says,” said designer Misha Nonoo, who recently switched her business strategy to show collections in their appropriate season, not six months out. “I was in London in April, and [in stores] I was looking at fur, cashmere, bikinis — it just didn’t make any sense. There was no point of view.”
A crushing pace of year-round collections, like resort, has also resulted in designer, and consumer, fatigue.
“The whole industry runs so fast because we need to deliver something new to the store every two weeks so the client isn’t bored,” Vetements founder and creative designer Demna Gvasalia said in a recent interview with Business of Fashion. “They don’t want to wait for six months, so we have the pre-collection, the pre-pre-collection, and the main collection, which nobody is buying, so it all just ends up on a sales rack.”
According to Bain & Co., the luxury industry is facing years of slow predicted growth. The global market is projected to grow by only 3 to 4 percent by 2020. The company’s Spring Luxury Update 2016 advised brands to maximize growth through a few key methods: Improving in-store experiences, refocusing distribution strategies, and mastering brand content.
“The future market scenario will be inevitably shaped by luxury brands’ strategic decisions,” said Claudia D’Arpizio, a Bain partner and the study’s lead author, who added that the brands that stand out in a sluggish market will be the ones able to hold onto top talent, a particularly hot topic following the creative director carousel of exits that marked 2015. At least part of the blame for so many designer departures was the quickening pace of output.
The Dior Cruise 2017 show was the fashion house’s second without a creative director at the helm following Raf Simons’ exit. In an interview with Cathy Horyn following his departure, Simons spoke of an industry that allowed no time for creative inspiration, saying that showing multiple collections per year resulted in production time crammed into three to five weeks.
“The design process is based on time and research, and that has been trimmed down significantly,”said Rony Zeidan, founder of creative agency RO NY. “That creates stress and reduces creativity, and it’s no surprise that these big designers, like Raf Simons, have chosen not to be there. They’re resisting the traditional cycle.”