It was really interesting to read about Burberry's new strategy to combine its men’s and women’s collections together into one unified 'seasonless' collection to be shown at two annual runway events with the clothes available to buy straight after the shows.
This is a big departure from decades of tradition. The established fashion calendar positioned the catwalk shows as closed industry events in which buyers and press might preview the new collection months before it is available for most customers to buy. These were norms created in an analogue era that have become increasingly outmoded as digital media has increasingly turned the shows into powerful marketing vehicles in their own right that generated consumer demand that an outdated calendar meant could not be converted into direct sales. Burberry have taken some steps to close this gap before of-course but enabling the full collection to be available to buy straight after the show is a wholesale realignment of runway and retail cycles that has significant implications for supply chain and production as well as presentation and comms strategy.
But it is one that makes complete sense from the point of view of the customer. Calling the new collections 'Spring/Summer' and 'Autumn/Winter' makes less and less sense in the context of a global consumer base - so they're simply calling them 'February' and 'September'. And listen to the way that Christopher Bailey talks about the change - for example on how it brings them closer to their consumers:
'In 2010, we did a livestream of the show. It was a meaningful decision to get closer to the customer and a broader audience, because we were doing these spectacles of shows, but it was feeling very insular. All the things we’ve been doing since then have been steps to get closer to an audience that loves fashion, loves the energy of fashion, the music, the spectacle, the people. It just feels like a natural next step.'
"You create a lot of energy when you do the shows, and the broader these have become — whether it’s livestreaming, instagramming, or showing online — you’re creating all this energy around something, and then you close the doors and say, ‘Forget about it now because it won’t be in the stores for five or six months."'
And on how it changes their relationship with supply chain partners:
'We needed to build a much more agile and flexible supply chain. You normally design the full show, then you show the show, and then your supply chain starts to kick in. Now, we will be designing the show and, as we’re doing that, we will be passing things over immediately to our supply chain partners to say: let’s look at the lead times on this; how can we work with this factory to get this on the date that we need it? As we are starting to create the collection, we will have to commit to fabrics or trims or embroideries. It’s more of a partnership than a handover on one specific date.'
Towards the end of the interview he says: 'I’m trying to look at everything in the spirit of what it is, rather than what we have defined it as through our industry.'
This to me is the essence of this thing that we call digital transformation. Not being afraid to usurp well-established traditions and assumptions when it's the right thing to do for the customer. Being bold as a brand and as a business.
It's easy to think of digital simply in terms of marketing or comms but digital disrupts horizontally. You can either ignore it, or see it as an opportunity and embrace it.