Robin Givhan: Fast fashion set to get even faster

Some fashion brands have advocated a see-now/buy-now calendar.Photo / 123RF
Some fashion brands have advocated a see-now/buy-now calendar.Photo / 123RF

The fashion industry is grappling with an existential question: how to sell its wares to consumers?

The traditional cycle of designers previewing a collection six months before it's delivered to stores - and a year before it's knocked off by mass marketers - was long ago upset by fast-fashion brands that could turn on a dime.

Then social media came along to overwhelm consumers with so many instant runway images, videos and 140-character reviews that fresh fads seemed like old news by the time they arrived in stores.

Thus began industry-wide hand-wringing over when to preview merchandise, who should see it and how to keep shoppers excited about it.

First, fashion pondered how to make e-commerce as frictionless as possible. Then it turned to pop-up shops as a way to tap into new demographics without making a massive financial commitment. Now it's playing with drop culture, which focuses on selling limited-edition merchandise and turns shopping for it into an obstacle course.

The blurring of gender lines, meanwhile, is as much a reaction to changing definitions of masculinity and femininity as it is about tapping into an upheaval in shopping habits.

Instead of showing menswear and womenswear in separate presentations, designers are putting them on the same runway - hoping to speak to everyone at once and in a timely manner.

Some brands have advocated a see-now/buy-now calendar.

The result? Designers offering sundresses for sale in February.

Others are sticking to the traditional schedule. And still others have muddied the waters, making part of a collection immediately available and keeping the rest on reserve.

The traditional cycle of designers previewing a collection six months before it's delivered to stores... was long ago upset by fast-fashion brands that could turn on a dime.

Fashion is frazzled. And 2017 promises to bring more to worry about, rather than less, because there is no indication that the forces of cultural change will cease moving forward.

The only missing element in this conversation about logistics is whether fashion is giving consumers anything worth desiring, worth waiting for and, ultimately, worth shopping for.

- Washington Post

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