Ready To Wear: In fashion, to tweet or remain discreet?

 

How best to showcase a forthcoming collection when even the most well-heeled of Western consumers must surely be tightening her belt? There were two very disparate solutions to this particular problem in evidence last week.

In the red corner, we have Burberry. This is a brand that upholds democracy with pride. With this in mind, the company staged what it described as the world's first-ever "tweetwalk", meaning that each look was available to its followers on Twitter – they number more than half a million – before it had even made it on to the catwalk. The show itself, meanwhile, was live-streamed and the collection sold online immediately after, an unprecedented move given the norm is to wait a full six months before any clothing for the forthcoming season is available.

It will also, inevitably, influence the mood of the clothes. It is not uncommon for designers to show looks that are inspiring and aspirational and then to put together a selling collection behind the scenes for buyers to choose from. In this case, however, what we, the fashion audience, saw was what the Burberry customer will get. It's a smart move, as befits this spectacularly successful Great British name, whose embrace of digital technology is working.

In the blue corner: Tom Ford. Among the world's most famous designers, Ford staged what is known as a salon collection to no more than around 150 carefully selected buyers and press. Ford also decided that he doesn't want any pictures and/or reviews of his clothing to appear until it goes on sale at the beginning of next year.

Ultimately, each approach is intelligent. The fashion industry is a very broad church. The Burberry trench coat – still the cash cow of the business – is something that many women, and indeed men, of style see as a wardrobe staple. The Tom Ford woman, conversely, would rather be naked than wear a dress any other woman at the party might own. Neither Christopher Bailey, Burberry's creative director, nor Ford are stupid, of course, which accounts for the continuing buoyancy of their respective businesses despite polar opposite viewpoints and the hardest of times.

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