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Men's pre collections: why catwalk fashion is losing its relevance

Paris Men's Fashion Week is over, with Kenzo officially closing a month of catwalks and trade shows, presentations and collection previews, that started in London in June then moved to Florence and Milan and ended in the French capital.

The buying season will continue for another fortnight until designers and brands close their books for production, order fabrics and begin their manufacturing processes. But despite the glamour of catwalk collections, mainline fashion is becoming less and less important as retailers shift to early deliveries.

Men's pre collections: why catwalk fashion is losing its relevance

Pre collections were once reserved for womenswear, along with resort and cruise collections. They offered retailers the opportunity to keep their shop floors refreshed with new product before the mainlines dropped. But as retailers began relying more and more on early deliveries and better price points, menswear soon took notice.

Pre collections are nearly 80 percent of what you'll see in store

Pre collections are now the bulk of men's collections too, often being 80 percent of a store's total buy. Mainline collections allow designers to cement a brand's image, tell their story to the press and keep the fashion world intrigued. But catwalk collections are not what sells in store, especially in menswear. They are often uncommercial and expensive and most importantly available too late.

Men's pre collections: why catwalk fashion is losing its relevance

For designers to have successful relationships with stores it is about having their clothes displayed for the longest possible time on the shop floor. In summer, pre collections are delivered as early in the season as November, allowing brands a good seven months to have a full price sell thru before they go on sale. Mainline collections tend to be delivered in February and March, meaning stores have just a few weeks to sell these at full price until the discounting season begins.

A high sell through is the holy grail of retailing. Brands that can sell up to 70 percent of their collections at full price before sale are the most successful. Anything below and retailers may ask for contributions to their mark downs, or return their left over stock altogether. Late deliveries are risky to stores, precisely because there is less time for them to sell them. That is why they prefer to place the majority of their orders during the pre collection season.

Fashion, lest we forget, is a business. And however carefully curated a store, or directional a fashion offer, in the end everything is merchandised to sell. A shop floor full of last season's clothes is not a viable business, unless of course you're Yoox.

Photo credit: Richard James showroom @ Pitti Uomo '92