What should luxury brands learn from fast fashion

Hugo Boss, Spring Summer 2011 campaign

Italian leatherwear company TOD’S is among the growing number of luxury brands which have realized the importance of availability of its products throuhout its retail network right off the catwalk show. Tod’s Siganture, an haute gamme line of shoes and bags will be available in its 177 boutiques worldwide days after the catwalk show which will take place during Milan Fashion Week in September this year.

Through implementing state of the art digital technologies, BURBERRY catwalk shows can be viewed by customers directly in its stores, the time between the presentation and availability in stores being halved. Burberry is also one of the leading international luxury brands with an increased positioning on social networking website such as Facebook, consumers being able not only to view but also share photos with their favourite trench coats.

The revival of German based HUGO BOSS in the past two years, with sales growing double digit season on sea, is also attributed to the fact the company has cut drastically the time between the launch of its colllections and actual availability in its stores. The time between creation and in store delivery has been reduced from 50 to 38 weeks.This way, the company insists it can react much faster to market conditions and change of trends.

It is widely known and accepted, yet, hardly openly spoken about, that the immense success of ”fast fashion” such as Zara and H&M has been based on the fact that, it takes these brands less than 2 or 3 weeks from the scheduled fashion week calendar to implement the latest trends in their collections which make it to their stores in days from actual production. Asia’s huge production capacity has also played a crucial role for such brands in producing and delivering products very fast. Recently, fast fashion brands have been ”fast” not only in delivering latest design collections in a very short amount of time, but also implementing inexpensive merchandising to support the trends. One can be taken by surprise to discover in the windows of such brands days from the actual fashion shows when major international luxury brands presented their collection.

While tacitly accepted by most major international luxury brands, few have taken steps to implement a faster chain from concept to delivery. Most of them fear that once the established ”cycle” is broken consumers might perceive their products as being more accessible and available, which is opposite to the core essence of a luxury brand, exclusivity. But just how much exclusivity do brands risk by delivering their products faster?

One major negative perception would be that consumers would realize it actually takes a much shorter time to manufacture a certain product. Consumers are aware that an increasing number of luxury brands use technology in their manufacturing, however, once a shorter delivery time is implemented, the brands should adapt their marketing, communications campaigns. Reaching and communicating directly to consumers is critical these days. The latest designs of a major luxury brands which would be ”unveiled” in the print magazines such as Vogue or Harper’s Bazar, are today readily available minutes after the actual fashion shows and presentation, through the internet. Critics and commentators have all become bloggers and their reviews are available, in some cases,  on the same day as the actual fashion show.

Marketing is therefore critical in rethinking and implementing faster deliveries of products, campaigns and merchandising. That is why, one of the ideal solutions could be Tom Ford’s ”no photography” polocy at his first women’s collection fashion show under his own label, in September 2010.  The celebrity models as well as attendees were ”sworn” to keep the secrecy of his designs and official photos were only released January 2011.

Oliver Petcu