Milan Fashion Week: the runway-to-retail debate

New York and London are keen to embrace the enthusiasm shoppers have for collections that have been streamed online, but the see now, buy now revolution is meeting with resistance elsewhere, including in Milan.

“See now, buy now” has become a hot debate in fashion circles this season, since Burberry, Tom Ford and Tommy Hilfiger recently announced plans to align catwalk shows to present in-season collections, which will become available to customers from as early as September.

New York and London are keen to embrace the enthusiasm shoppers have for collections that have been streamed online, but this revolution is meeting with resistance elsewhere, including in Milan. In an interview with Bloomberg, François-Henri Pinault, chief executive of Kering, ruled it out for Gucci and his other brands, which include Alexander McQueen, Saint Laurent and Balenciaga.

Karl Lagerfeld, presenting his latest collection for Fendi this week, admits ‘it’s a mess” that there is as yet no consensus among designers about how to engage directly with web-based customers. He fears that even if they produced a collection six months ahead of the fashion show, it would be impossible to keep the designs a secret.

Lagerfeld prefers the current system of showing his collections and giving people time to consider their choices and place orders for his wavy-line-­inspired collection of frilled bags, yoked dresses and frill-topped, thigh-high boots. And there are sure to be takers for his girlish, ­pastel-coloured fur coats and stoles that playfully mimic faux fur, but are bound to cost the earth.

Prada, meanwhile, has taken a tentative step towards offering shoppers instant access to its must-have handbags hot off the catwalk this week, by making two designs – the sporty-looking Pionniere, inspired by a hunter’s bag, and the Cahier, inspired by ancient books with bronzed metal elements – immediately available in certain European and American stores, and spreading to the Middle East and Asia within a couple of weeks.

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