High-end fashion brands may get protection from copycats as runway shows move towards 'see now, buy now, says Brand Protection expert Dilpreet Kaur at INCOPRO.
In the past, runway shows in fashion capitals across the globe were strictly industry focussed, aimed at press and retail buyers to preview collections. Notably, the rise of social media has removed this sense of secrecy, instead creating buzz around the designs on show and transforming the catwalk into a powerful consumer marketing opportunity – crucially, one demanding instant gratification.
Traditionally, fashion brands begin designing a collection six months before a show debut, and then the clothes typically aren’t available to consumers for another six months. Consequently, this means brands are all too often ill-equipped to translate the social media buzz into concrete sales.
This explains why, last year, luxury fashion behemoths Burberry and Tom Ford unveiled their first ‘see now, buy now’ shows. In turn, this heralds a new age for the industry whereby customers can now purchase ‘seasonless’ garments – rather than Spring/Summer and Autumn/Winter, collections are simply called ‘September’ and ‘February’ – as soon as they appear on the runway. Making this move enables fashion brands to capitalise on consumer interest as soon as it appears on their collective Instagram feeds.
At the same time, this may not be the whole story behind the switch. For decades now, luxury fashion brands have been targets for criminal counterfeits and high-street copycats. Previously, criminals were restricted to selling fake products on the streets, but now the internet has completely revolutionised their operations. As well as enjoying multiple platforms to sell on – chiefly domains, online marketplaces, and social media – fraudsters have also increased their audience and the speed at which they can sell.
The new digital age
Technology has succeeded in expanding legitimate methods for brands to sell their goods to consumers; unfortunately, this also means counterfeit networks are swiftly taking advantage of these innovations. There have been hefty increases in Facebook advertising being used to drive traffic to domains belonging to illegal counterfeiters, as well as to promote goods. Social networks, meanwhile, are also increasingly experimenting with selling directly through their platforms – as just one example, Facebook rolled out Facebook Marketplace to its mobile users in 2016, and Instagram is currently trialling a ‘Shop Now’ button, enabling customers to buy directly through posted images. Considering that counterfeiting is such a pervasive problem, it’s not difficult to spot the possible pitfalls of this new digital age.
By making their designs instantly available to consumers, high-end fashion brands are able to minimise the window in which other can copy their designs and get them to market. With this new ‘Instabuy’ model, the lead-time for maximising the media buzz has been dramatically reduced, and so counterfeiters must contend with missing out on heightened consumer anticipation. The situation is the same for high-street chains, which seek inspiration straight from the catwalk in order to make and sell their own designs.
Certainly, for brands that adopt these new ‘seasonless’ timescales, there are many lessons to be learned, entailing a complete overhaul of how product and supply chains are managed in relation to PR and marketing efforts. Ultimately, however, the payoff in terms of safeguarding brand authenticity could be momentous – but only for fashion brands bold enough to take the leap into this brave new world.