The In-Betweeners: How pre-collections went from irrelevance to designers’ cash cows

Pre-collections – clothes shown and sold between the main fashion seasons – used to be nothing more than ‘suitcase stuffing’ in the style stakes. Today, with lavish shows and huge budgets, they’re designers’ cash cows

Cruise, resort, holiday. The fashion world isn’t enjoying a vacation: in fact, quite the opposite.

These are some of the confusing, obfuscating monikers given to fashion’s new obsession, interim or “pre” collections – entire seasons of clothing presented between fashion’s traditional spring/summer, autumn/winter split.

Designers are currently knee-deep in “cruise”. The power-player troika of Christian Dior, Chanel and Louis Vuitton have presented their respective collections across three separate continents and others in the industry are scrambling to showcase their own wares in showroom appointments and presentations that will spin out over the next two months.

These clothes will make up roughly 35 per cent of the designers’ income – another 35 per cent comes from “Pre-Fall”, showcased from November through to January each year. The remaining 30 per cent, or less, is composed of sales based on the traditional spring/summer and autumn/winter catwalk shows.

That’s a lot of sales figures. And really, that’s what pre-collections are all about. “Cruise is our most important collection,” stated Michael Burke, Louis Vuitton's CEO. “It's everybody's biggest collection.” The tricky titles – “cruise” and “resort” – allude to their commercial origins: satisfying the demands of wealthy clients for fresh garments to wear during their summer vacations. Hence the not entirely inaccurate inferred visions of Hollywood stars reclining by pools in billowing beach pyjamas; of Princess Margaret in Mustique in brocade kaftans; or of gussied-up designer bikinis and sarongs.

In short, the implication is that cruise clothing and collections are flimsy nothings, better suited to stuffing a suitcase than filling a catwalk. Perhaps that was once the case, but no more. Witness the time and money lavished on Christian Dior’s cruise show in New York earlier this month, Chanel’s excursion to Dubai last week or Nicolas Ghesquière’s Louis Vuitton collection presented in Monaco on Saturday evening. The Cruise 2015 collections of Chanel The Cruise 2015 collections of Chanel

Nevertheless, perhaps it’s all part of a move away from fashion as pure fantasia. Ghesquière intoned the word "real" repeatedly when talking about his Vuitton clothes, and regardless of the intricacy of their embroidered and jewelled surfaces, nothing felt overdone. Similarly, despite that Thousand And One Nights backdrop to Karl Lagerfeld’s Chanel cruise show – staged on a man-made island off the Dubai coast, in a Moorish palace specially erected for the occasion at a rumoured cost of £1.4m – there was a resolute commercial reality to the clothes. “I made a modern look for women all over the world,” Lagerfeld stated. “This is, for me, a look that can translate for everybody in the world, especially with the travelling – it’s a cruise collection.”

There’s that word again – cruise – which does seem to have an impact on designers’ thought processes. Sometimes, it’s a clanging impact: far too many designers can’t see the clothes for the “cruise” and wind up splodging nautical stripes and dropping comedy anchors across their clothes. Sophisticated, fashion-conscious, wealthy women don’t want to dress like deranged extras from an off-Broadway production of South Pacific. Save those high jinks for the editorial-led collections we, ironically, call “ready-to-wear”.

“It needs to have a commercial impact,” said Raf Simons, of the cruise collection he showed in New York for Christian Dior. “I am trying to bring a lot of reality to Dior... they’re not going to be three metres tall,” he continued, miming a towering pair of platform shoes. “It’s a cruise collection.”

During that Chanel cruise show, one fashion editor made an apt comment: that the ready-to-wear was replacing haute couture, both in its employing of expensive, labour-intensive techniques and in its unwearability. The pre-collections, by contrast, have elevated themselves over the past few years from suitcase-stuffing to wearable; practical, saleable, yet undoubtedly “designed” clothes. Chanel dubs its pre-Fall collections “Métiers d’Art”, using them as a means to showcase techniques of craft specialists, such as the embroidery houses Lesage and Montex or the Scottish cashmere company Barrie. That kind of work doesn’t come cheap. Nevertheless, with high-profile clientele demanding more and more of their designer fashion, ironically in today’s marketplace of hyper-luxury, they are commercial.

Our demands of designers’ pre-collections are being pushed higher and higher. If these collections were virtually unheard of 20 years ago – and presented quietly in showrooms a decade later – the lavish spectacles of Dior, Chanel and Louis Vuitton are only the most visible examples of a seismic fashion shift from two seasons to four. Pre-seasons – previously for buyers’ eyes only – are reported as avidly as the biannual catwalk shows on websites such as style.com – and in the pages of newspapers like this one. In a sense, they’re also satisfying a demand, not just for physical product, but for fashion imagery; for fresh ideas and creativity.

So pre-collections are great for fashion buyers, for wealthy clients and for frock-watchers. They provide extra trends for high street retailers such as Topshop to latch on to (incidentally, said high street behemoth has no fewer than 52 drops of fresh product each year). But where does it leave the fashion designers?

“Has a designer ever said they like pre-collections?” asks Lazaro Hernandez of the New York design duo Proenza Schouler, when I broach the subject. “I think that there’s always been this fight between editorial and expressing creativity, and commercial clothes,” he continues. “Somewhere along the line, they split up.”

“More commercial, less expensive,” interjects his Proenza partner, Jack McCollough. “Pre-collection is delivered earlier, but it goes on sale at the same time as the collection. It has a really long shelf life.”

“It’s weird, because we started with two seasons; we got to see the tail-end of that and the beginning of these four seasons,” continues Hernandez, of the beginnings of the Proenza Schouler label in 2002. Then he sighs and exclaims: “It’s a pain in the ass.”

If we’re honest, that’s probably the reaction of many designers – and, frankly, journalists – when confronted with the doubled workload the pre-collections represent.

Despite the financial benefits, cruise is no vacation for the fashion industry.

News
people
Sport
FootballGerman sparks three goals in four minutes at favourite No 10 role
News
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Sport
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
athletics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Sport
Radamel Falcao was forced to withdraw from the World Cup after undergoing surgery
premier leagueExclusive: Reds have agreement with Monaco
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
Arts and Entertainment
Gregory Porter learnt about his father’s voice at his funeral
music
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Life and Style
Children at the Leytonstone branch of the Homeless Children's Aid and Adoption Society tuck into their harvest festival gifts, in October 1936
food + drinkThe harvest festival is back, but forget cans of tuna and packets of instant mash
Sport
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
New Articles
i100
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Fashion

    Volunteer Trustee opportunities now available at The Society for Experimental Biology

    Unpaid Voluntary Position : Reach Volunteering: Volunteer your expertise as Tr...

    Early Years Educator

    £68 - £73 per day + Competitive rates of pay based on experience: Randstad Edu...

    Nursery Nurse

    £69 - £73 per day + Competitive London rates of pay: Randstad Education Group:...

    Primary KS1 NQTs required in Lambeth

    £117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

    Day In a Page

    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam