With VR fashion shows and tech-fueled retail experiences, the fashion company Rebecca Minkoff has its eye squarely on the future. But just as the brand was experimenting with ways to disrupt the fashion dictatorship, it was entrenched in an incredibly archaic tradition: the runway show. As of its Spring 2016 show, Rebecca Minkoff is staging a new experience, and the hope is that other labels follow suit.
We all know the fashion show spectacles as an exercise in brilliant showmanship. Designers choreograph the procession of models done up in the season’s garments, make up, and hair. Some produce elaborate sets and stage cheeky gimmicks. In spring, designers show fall and winter trends and vice versa. The productions are rooted in giving magazine editors and retail buyers a glimpse of what’s ahead so that they can take note of burgeoning trends and plan on what to feature in their stores or pages months down the line. This also gives designers time to fill retail orders, which typically have a 90- to 120-day lead time.
This model worked for decades, but as the media—particularly social media—landscape has changed, runway shows haven’t kept up the pace. Designers still display what they’ll be offering six months down the line. When a show wraps up, it instantly hits the blogs and stokes a gotta-have-it now response from consumers. By the time the garments are available for sale, the buzz surrounding them has quieted. Consumers are already preoccupied with what’s on offer for the next season, and the cycle repeats.
“What I like to do is look for inefficiencies that exist within a system,” Uri Minkoff, CEO of Rebecca Minkoff, says of taking a hard look at the runway model. With its Spring 2016 show in February, the Rebecca Minkoff will be sending the same styles down the runway that it did in September. Instead of debuting new designs in a public format, the brand will share them with editors, buyers, and fashion directors in one-on-one meetings before staging the public event during the same season the apparel is available to consumers.
“In the film industry, you’ll get a minute-and-a-half trailer—it’s reflective of a two-hour movie but it’s not the whole thing,” Minkoff says. “Why do we take the experience at these ‘Super Bowl’ moments twice a year and reveal everything? All of a sudden, the consumer is excited, the media universe explodes, but the consumer can’t act on anything.”
Minkoff rightly applies the rules of supply and demand to this model. By closing the gap between when a product is unveiled and when it’s available, Rebecca Minkoff is cashing in on consumers’ desire for immediate gratification and their willingness to pay full price for something that’s of the moment.
“Instead of using the shows to be big marketing expenses for things consumers can’t really have right now, the idea is the show becomes almost a victory lap, a celebration of retail items that are just hitting the floor in the next 30 to 60 days so that when you’re creating the millions of social media impressions, you’re getting everyone excited, and it’s something that’s actionable now,” Minkoff says. “Here’s the music I should listen to, here’s how hair and make-up should look, here’s a cool set, here are the designs—there can be an immediate value.”
By tweaking the fashion week model, Rebecca Minkoff hopes to better serve those who interact with the brand. From a business standpoint, fashion editors can plan their features with the guarantee that what they share in stories will be fresh; retail buyers can place orders knowing that there will be a lot of media buzz surrounding the designs when they’re revealed; and consumers will be able to purchase items in record time after a runway show. In some ways, what this move does is take a page from fast fashion and how retailers like H&M have been able to publicize their designer collaborations, get them in stores within a few weeks, and sell out in a few days. (Moreover, by keeping the designs close to their chest, high-end brands can insulate themselves from fast fashion’s ability to get knockoffs to market faster than they can produce the originals.)
“What we’re tying to do is say, who are all the parties in this ecosystem and how can all of them win?” Minkoff says. “We’re trying to singlehandedly revolutionize the fashion calendar system.”