By Dharaa Rathi
What do hamburgers at midnight and high fashion have in common in the digital era? Easy access. Today, Postmates and luxury goods are both ubiquitous, and it’s because of technology. More specifically, the smartphones that most millennials (including this author) are tethered to for information have changed the way society consumes everything. Companies across all industries have completely reshaped themselves to broadcast their achievements, messages, and goals onto phones instantly in an effort to relate to their future market.
The luxury fashion industry, while rooted in the tradition of a regimented schedule for new collections, has tried to adapt to the advent of instant gratification. Amidst arguments for keeping haute couture inaccessible to the online-savvy shopper on the basis of preserving the lengthy creative process, some brands have tried to make the switch. Thierry Andretta, a Chief Executive at Mulberry, an English leather handbag company, described Mulberry’s new model as “luxury that is relevant for a younger generation… As soon as they’ve found something online they want to buy it immediately. If it’s not there, in the majority of the cases … they will not wait for months.” Other houses like Burberry, Ralph Lauren, and Tom Ford have also taken on this new model of “see now, buy now.” Collections are shown during the regular fashion week cycles, but they are immediately available for sale afterward, bucking the tradition of waiting a season for department store buyers to stock their product.
In essence, luxury brands are competing with fast fashion names like Zara that provide huge varieties of trendy pieces in high volumes, instantly. Runways always heralded future trends, built on private expressions of creativity and art. Now, luxury brands are fighting to keep up with young consumers who, through social media, have “access to information at the same level as an industry insider,” according to Greg Petro, a contributor at Forbes. This information, while seemingly harmless, shatters the illusion of haute couture’s exclusivity and strains a brand’s ability to both entice and surprise consumers simply through the anticipation of the next season.
Even if brands aren’t offering immediate sales of their newest collections, they’re still posting campaigns on social media. Saint Laurent did a live broadcasting of their runway show in Paris this fall, and Valentino featured their new collection on supermodels like Kaia Gerber and Kendall Jenner, both of whom have massive followings on social media.
It is a constant and targeted effort to market the lifestyle brands are selling. Although this approach detracts from haute couture’s exclusive-and-thus-elite impression–and indeed, the fascination behind paying thousand dollar premiums on clothing–older houses have realized that integration with the digital space is necessary. With e-commerce alternatives like Farfetch and Net-A-Porter, it is easier for smaller, younger brands like Vetements to relate to young consumers; their takes on fashion unencumbered by decades of tradition. Smaller names can then directly compete with the likes of Louis Vuitton simply by exposure, both online and on Instagram. Established houses are now trying to cement their standing as the elite ring of high fashion to stay relevant and attractive, because as Heidi Klum likes to say, “in fashion, one day you’re in, and the next day, you’re out.”