Retail via Blackberry. Fashion Future Foretold from Digital Fashion Giant Net-a-Porter.

by Rachel Yeomans | September 3rd, 2009   

The life cycle of fashion used to follow the pattern of:

  1. Designer makes clothing
  2. Clothing goes to buyers
  3. Buyers buy clothing
  4. Clothing goes to retail store
  5. Shopper goes to retail store
  6. Shopper buys clothing

Over the past few years, and especially so in the past year, the life cycle has shrunk significantly. In the era of the Internet and iPhone, consumers and fashionistas have expected much more and much more quickly. Take the upcoming fashion shows. Designers traditionally show their spring collections in the fall and their fall collections in the spring so the store buyers can place their orders half a year in advance thereby allowing magazine editors time to prepare their coverage. Half a year has turned out to be just too darn long for the Web 2.0 sector of society.

background3 Retail via Blackberry. Fashion Future Foretold from Digital Fashion Giant Net a Porter.

Digital retailer Net-a-Porter.com recently saved a Paris-based publicity executive from the tragedy of lost luggage en route to Fashion Week in London. According to Fortune Magazine, with a few clicks on her Blackberry, she was able to get same-day delivery of a Thread Social dress from the online retailer.

Net-a-Porter is a London-based online retailer that heavenly merges the ease of an online fashion boutique with the trend disclosure of a fashion magazine. And the numbers don’t hide its popularity. Net’s total sales were up 45% for the first 13 weeks of its fiscal year (beginning Feb. 1), while sales at Neiman Marcus Direct (the side of Neiman’s business that includes its web and catalogue sales) are down 14% for roughly the same period. A new study was conducted by Forrester Research projects that Net-a-Porter web sales in the United States will reach more than $156 billion in 2009, representing 6% of the total U.S. retail pie.

workwear3 Retail via Blackberry. Fashion Future Foretold from Digital Fashion Giant Net a Porter.

Net-a-Porter isn’t alone with squishing the fashion life cycle–impatient consumers are leading to impatient designers. The fashion future is starting to look towards designers opening their own boutiques instead of selling through department stores, or going directly to the consumer through online retail. So from an average of six steps in the fashion sales cycle, it’s seeming that it’s possible to cut it in half:

  1. Designer makes clothing
  2. Designer sells clothing
  3. Shopper buys clothing

When we had Marshall Field’s, Nordstroms, and Saks, we now have Zappos.com, Bluefly.com, ShopBop.com, and Net-a-Porter. Where will fashion go next?

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