"See now, buy now": evolution or end of fashion?

08 March 2019 | Posted by Zackary

At the very end of the 1980s, I.T. was born in Hong Kong. The concept store caused a sensation from the beginning, importing foreign brands that were completely absent from the country. Thirty years later, the company is listed on the stock exchange and has become a Galeries Lafayette partner in China.

To celebrate its opening to the French market, the two-letter shop is looking at things in a big way. Taking advantage of the excitement of fashion week, it opened a pop-up in the heart of the Marais with the help of Sarah Andelman from Colette. The space design is rather surprising: there is not a single rack of clothes, all replaced by digital kiosks displaying the items in 3D. For the occasion, the store has multiplied collaborations with catwalk heavyweights, from Stella Mccartney to Alexander McQueen, as well as Off-WhiteZadig & Voltaire and Simone Rocha.

The collections were unveiled on the screens. For two days, customers could buy them exclusively via an application, before they join the e-shop within a few weeks. An example of “see now, buy now”, which makes it possible to obtain the object of our desires without waiting between its presentation, manufacture and arrival on the shelf.

The approach divides the fashion world: is it actually its future, or does it sign the death of creativity? Maybe both…

(I.T. pop-up in Paris ; © L’Officiel)

A still new phenomenon

See now, buy now first appears at Burberry in 2016, which, in an unprecedented move, announces that the creations would be on sale the day after the show.

New York gets excited. Tom Ford follows in London’s footsteps, as does Rebecca Minkoff. The latter even reports a 211% increase in sales following the operation, then 264% the second time (source Wall Street Journal, editor’s note). Milan also tries its hand at it, with Prada at the forefront. Only Paris resists. On the side of Dior and Chanel, it is a categorical no — a view shared by the Federation. However, young designers also see as an opportunity to seize, like Demna Gvasalia at VETEMENTS.

Today, the trend is growing in the four major capitals. Kenzo has decided to apply this principle to each of his Memento collections (updating the archives created by the eponymous creator, editor’s note), as well as MM6 and its last capsule revisiting Martin Margiela’s classics. Ralph Lauren eventually gives in to the sirens of immediacy, while Tommy Hilfiger militates for see now, buy now by establishing the quarters of his collaboration with Zendaya in Paris, whose clothes are available faster than a Big Mac on UberEats.

(Tommy x Zendaya show ; © ELLE)

Le catwalk contre-attaque

This upheaval is a response to the fast fashion and cult of copy instituted by Zara, who is able to manufacture discount clones in less than a week. Last example to date? The e-shop Fashion Nova which, the very next day, offered a polyester version of the vintage Thierry Mugler dress Kim Kardashian wore at an awards ceremony. The items sold via see now, buy now are therefore mainly commercial. No need to digest the aesthetics, they are made to be worn immediately.

Another argument in favour of the exercise: it capitalizes on emotion, and our compulsive tendency to surrender to the call of the credit card. As a result, brands are taking the opportunity to inflate their prices and bypass the sales trap. Do you want it? Buy it now…

It also helps to redefine the notion of experience, which is essential for luxury labels to remain relevant. Alexander Wang and Adidas created a pop-up next to the show. With Gigi Hadid, Tommy Hilfiger even built a carnival. Getting on a Ferris wheel and stuffing yourself with cotton candy, right after shopping, undeniably helps you forget your bank overdraft. So, what’s the problem?

Pop-up truck Alexander Wang x Adidas Originals, giving a new meaning to “fell off the back of a truck”. (© HighSnobiety)

A mixed record

Critics of see now, buy now blame it for distorting the creative process. If the collections are only intended to be commercial, what place does it leave to true originality? The first inspiration becomes money, to the detriment of stylistic experimentation. Not to mention its compressed manufacturing times, which may affect product quality.

Besides, this type of structure imposes indecent budgets. If it were to become the norm, it would be almost impossible for young designers to keep up the pace, leaving the market in the hands of the biggest.

Yet, see now, buy now is only the logical consequence of the turn taken by brands at the Instagram era. They include their community in the show, whether it is through a live stream or a pop-up store, and offer them access to the collection. In other words, you become your own version of Chiara Ferragni, almost invited to the front row and supplied before the others.

It is therefore emerging as a new differentiating factor in a saturated environment. With ever more fashion weeks and images travelling at the speed of light, it makes it possible to stand out from the crowd by responding to a need for immediacy. Has time become the most precious commodity in fashion…? •

Hugh Hefner's and Donatella Versace's love child, I am the visible half of the duo behind ZACKARIUM. Addicted to fashion and to Lucky Strike, my mission is to guide you smoothly through the jungle of brands and catwalks.

Discover more articles

Fashion, with a bit of wit...

Passionate, bold, and probably a little bit vulgar. Welcome to ZACKARIUM.

Your weekly dose of style, directly in your mailbox.