There has been a lot of buzz in the fashion industry lately, driven by the influence of technology. So far, encounters between these two – once distant – worlds have caused changes in the materials used to manufacture fashion goods; production processes; how fashion is sold to the public through physical and e-shops; and the promotional channels used. It was a matter of time until the key events in the fashion industry — the shows – also had to adapt to the change of pace imposed by technology.
After the latest New York and London Fashion Weeks, several brands have already launched their shift to combining male and female fashion shows/seasons into two shows/seasons per year, in February and September, with collections presented readily available for purchase just hours after the shows. Initiated as exclusive invitation-only events, organised to present new collections to the press and professional buyers, runway shows have always been one of the most powerful marketing tools. Until now, though, months had to pass before customers were able to purchase that glamorous dress seen at the latest fashion show. This time lag has become a significant disadvantage since Instagram images of the shows spread in real time, several shows are broadcasted via streaming online, and bloggers are sitting in the first row alongside the traditional fashion press. Fast fashion industry players have taken advantage of this time gap, and brands have started to see it as lost opportunities and lost business.
'As wonderful as it seems to all fashionistas, this shift poses legal issues that brands should not underestimate,' comments Ida Palombella, Head of the Italian IP and Technology practice at Withers LLP, recently elected Toplegal's Italian law firm of the year for fashion and luxury. 'Being able to have new collections ready to sell hours after being publicly presented means that the production and marketing process has to work well in advance. Confidentiality is at stake here; until now, new designs were kept in the utmost secrecy at the maison premises until their time came to appear on runway; in the future, third parties outside the inner circle of the brands, albeit business partners, may get news of them beforehand, with possible leaks occurring.' Ida continues, 'technology may offer interesting solutions to this issue through 3D printing, but the point at which branded products are printed in store or at home seems some way off, given the limited range of materials that can be currently used.'