Throughout my career as a lecturer in fashion design, specifically ‘digital fashion’, I’ve referred to Burberry on countless occasions and used the brand as a regular case study. Burberry was amongst the original trailblazers when it came to utilising digital platforms and creating online communities, and embracing user generated content to help share the brand story.
Burberry’s The Art of the Trench was the first real large-scale digital communications campaign by a fashion brand that successfully created a community of contributors, with the end result far greater than simply the sum of its parts. ‘A celebration of the trench coat and the people who wear it’ may seem such a simple concept to the digital savvy now, you can still see the campaign here, but at the time it was considered innovative and unique as it encouraged the wearers to become part of the brand communications. It was collaborative and embracing at a time when luxury brands for the most part only connected with the consumer at point of sale, online or offline.
Burberry has continued to be a trailblazer in the digital world, with early adoption of live streaming from their fashion week catwalk shows, use of the Twitter Buy Button, engagement with Snapchat and Periscope, often long before it’s luxury competitors. I thought it was also very telling that former Burberry CEO Angela Ahrendts left the company in 2014 not for a position with another fashion brand but for tech giant Apple, her skills at helping transform Burberry did not go unnoticed by Apple CEO Tim Cook it seems.
So, the story and interview today on Business of Fashion that Burberry is trailblazing yet again is no big surprise. Under Christopher Bailey’s direction the iconic brand is still championing new ways to meet and satisfy the customer and this latest development is no exception.
As of September this year, Burberry will combine it’s menswear and womenswear collections into one runway show that will happen twice a year, the collections will become ‘seasonless’ and will no longer be called Autumn/Winter and Spring/Summer but simply February and September. The even bigger part of this story for the consumer however will be that the collections will be available online and in store as soon as the shows end. That’s the biggest challenge for the brand who will have to forecast, pre-order and work with the supply chain to make this happen of course. But for us consumers, all the hype and excitement that we can now be part of when the collections are first seen on the catwalk can instantly be acted upon by buying.
This is a massive shift for the fashion industry which is still in a state of flux when it comes to how to respond to the global consumer and the always on, instant demand for items that capture the imagination of the customer at a moment in time. It’s about fashion brands capitalising on all of the build up of a runway show and the spectacle they’ve created about the collection and keeping that enthusiasm and momentum going by making the collection available to buy immediately.
I saw an additional element of the difficulty of maintaining fashion ‘seasons’ when I lived in Australia recently and the challenges faced by designers who wanted to expand globally. Whilst designing for the domestic market, their collections were continually ‘out of season’ with some of the major global markets. The timing of fashion shows in Australia has also been a topic of significant debate for some time.
If collections become seasonless and have elements that work for various temperatures and climates (which some already do) and they become ready to buy straight from the runway, then the traditional cycle of the fashion calendar will be completely transformed. It will be really interesting to see how this translates and Burberry is holding its hands up and admitting it doesn’t have all of the answers just yet either.
So, innovators and trailblazers once more, Burberry, under the leadership of Christopher Bailey is leading the pack and championing change again.