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Beyond the Bale : March 2016
54 MARKET INTELLIGENCE When Michael Heseltine was President of the British Board of Trade some twenty five years ago, he visited Première Vision in Paris where around fifty UK weavers of wool were showing their winter menswear and womenswear fabrics. Heseltine had been well briefed and surprised the assembled textile industry leaders with his knowledge of the intricacies of the fashion system and cycles – a knowledge gained when he controlled (and still does) Haymarket Press and Publishing in London. His recollections about how, mainly women's clothing companies and retailers, waited outside the dispatch doors of the printers to pounce on his fancy fashion magazines, fresh of the press, featuring the Paris, Milan and London couture shows, intrigued all in the room. Those were the glory days of the glossies when the antics of the High Street were pure and unashamed plagiarism. Little alas has changed with the passing of time. Fashion trade fairs in January/February for the next winter and September for the next spring were a fad of the 1970s and 80s, as Paris and Milan vied for prime position in an increasingly crowded calendar. This was not to last as women's and later men's Fashion Weeks began to appear in the late 1980s, firstly in Paris, Milan, London and New York, swiftly followed by Sydney, Auckland, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Singapore and several even more unlikely cities across Asia. These closed 'trade only' events predated the digital age when anyone caught with a camera taking a sly shot of a frock was escorted off the premises after the offending film had been unspooled and exposed. Instant communication can be the scourge of creativity and when fashion celebrities saw their seasonal secrets, fresh from the studio and on the runway, beamed around the world before the models had time to light their cigarettes, it was probably time to blow the whistle and rethink the workings of the entire fashion (and textile) system. Some leading luxury clothing brands started this very process last month. Before we look at what one fashion journalist described as a 'revolution' in the industry, let's look at how things were in previous years. Bulk shipments of greasy wool usually leave Australia for the combing and spinning mills of Asia and Europe between October and January in preparation for the Northern Hemisphere winter season. Let's remind ourselves that in preparation for winter, spinners and weavers begin to put together their yarn collections for knitwear manufacturers and tailored clothing manufacturers around May and start to show new colours and samples to key accounts from late June to October often at textile trade fairs such as Pitti Filati, Filo, yarns shows in Italy, Première Vision in Paris, Idea Biella in Milan and Intertextile in Shanghai. Visitors to these strictly trade only events are yarn and fabric buyers from all the major fashion brands and retailers preparing for autumn the following year. Buyers usually only 'sample', that is to say, placing small orders to make up model garments to test the market at apparel trade fairs and Fashion Weeks the following January and February. The fashion brands then place their long awaited bulk orders for fabric and yarn with spinners and weavers for delivery between May and July, for garments to be made up by late summer in time for autumn. All the men's and women's wear brands will have shown their model garments to trade buyers and press during the January Fashion Weeks, a clear eight months before the bulk goods are on the racks in stores in the malls and high streets of the northern hemisphere. Fashion Weeks are fancy affairs and a classy cat walk show doesn't come cheap. AU$ 200,000 is seen as an average investment and several luxury brands will routinely spend up to ten times that amount. And all this expense purely for retailers and press a clear eight months before the goods hit the stores! As the once trade secrets of the fashion runways now instantly enter the public domain via social media, why not reschedule these expensive extravaganzas to take place in the autumn when the goods are available in store and online? Burberry decided to do just that and announced that future Burberry fashion events will be 'consumer (rather than trade) facing' to open the retail seasons. Several other brands that had probably been hesitating for months, followed suit and within a week, Tom Ford and Tommy Hilfiger had made the move and several more are certain to follow. “The changes we are making will allow us to build a closer connection between the experience that we create with our runway shows and the moment when people can physically explore the collections for themselves,” Burberry's chief creative and chief executive officer, Christopher Bailey, told WWD, the highly respected fashion magazine in New York. “Our shows have been evolving to close this gap for some time. From live-streams, to ordering straight from the runway, to live social media campaigns, this is the latest step in a creative process that will continue to evolve.” The fashion industry is talking of a ‘shifting of tectonic plates’ with further tremors to come in early course as more and more brands are expected to opt for near public shows in season and very private previews some eight months before. In our regular feature article written by AWI’s Global Strategic Advisor Peter Ackroyd, we provide an insight into changes to fashion show schedules and audiences caused by the advent of social and digital media. Mr Ackroyd is President of the International Wool Textile Organisation and Chief Operating Officer of the Campaign for Wool. FASHION SHOWS BECOME CONSUMER FACING Peter Ackroyd, President of the IWTO and Chief Operating Officer of the Campaign for Wool.
In the Shops - March 2016