See now, Buy now, Pay later

Hype This!
© Jenny Holzer
© Jenny Holzer


Consumers, given the choice and means, will consume. Most companies and brands are catering to our needs of instant gratification – movies on-demand, same day delivery, instant credit approval. However, fashion, an industry built on buying more and buying often, hasn’t wholly embraced the concept.

Take the “buy see now, buy now” trend – collections ready to buy as soon as they appear on the catwalk. While some labels have talked of reforming an antiquated model, with Tom Ford, Burberry, and Tommy all creating shoppable runways, there is isn’t much evidence of a wholesale change. As matter of fact, the major European brands have emphatically rejected the concept Ralph Toledano, the president of the Fédération Française de la Couture du Prêt-à-Porter des Couturiers (A governing body for the French fashion industry) told WWD that it’s fine the way it is:

“As far as we are concerned, the present system is still valid.”…“There is not one person who said it was a problem,” Toledano said. “Our clientele is educated and informed on how the system works.”

History hasn’t been kind to companies that ignore the demands of the consumer, but fashion has always been a different kind of company: one that straddles the line between art and commerce, product and experience.

Forcing the customer to wait is part of the experience. “Waiting created desire, ” says Francois-Henri Pinault, CEO of Kering (parent company of Gucci, Saint Lauren, Balenciaga). And the type of immediacy of shoppable runways “negates the dream of luxury.”

Whether fashion’s means of distribution is in need of change might be missing the real issue: Luxury companies don’t want to make customers wait; they want customers who wait. The customers who will exhibit patience, who hold their immediate, primal, baser impulses are the most valuable ones.

In the famous  “marshmallow experiment,” conducted by Walter Mischel at Stanford in the 1960s and 1970s, children were given a choice: eat one marshmallow now, or wait 15 minutes to get two. When Re-evaluated years later, the children who waited for more appeared to have done better in life – most of them earning higher SAT scores, rated as more mature, with less disciplinary problems.

The point is: In the end, everyone gets a marshmallow. But those who can show self-restraint and can appreciate a deferred, marshmallow-filled, gratification, are exactly the kind of successful, sophisticated customers a brand wants. And they probably do better in life and will shop full-price.

For now, the shoppable runway is just another distribution channel a “runway giftshop” – something to help offset the cost of the event and provide some financial metrics for the social media campaign. For the future, see now buy now will maybe give you the initial rush now, but will shape the kind customers you will have.

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