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Burberry – Catwalk to Credit Card in 15 minutes.

If you had your ear to the ground at around 4pm last tuesday, and were listening very very carefully you might just have heard the faint sound of the start of a revolution. It wasn’t Burberry’s groundbreaking use of 3D streaming – innovative and exciting certainly, but an evolution of what’s been happening for a while. It was something altogether different, and much more radical.

The real news from Burberry was that you could buy the shearling jackets online immediately after the show – from Catwalk to Credit Card in minutes. True, you do have to wait a few weeks for delivery (I did say the start of a revolution) but the point is that you could buy instantly. It seems like no big deal in this ‘click here for next day delivery’ world, but it could well mark the start of the biggest shake-up of the fashion system in decades.

The purpose of the fashion show is to showcase garments to buyers and fashion editors. The buyers pick the lines they want to stock, and the fashion editors decide what they will feature in their magazines. In the six months following the shows the magazine stories are shot and the garments produced. Historically, the public wouldn’t see any images of the collection until about six months after the show.

The system has worked well for years, but the internet, and to some extent our obsession with celebrity has thrown a spanner in the works. It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly when it started (style.com’s archive goes back to 2000) but images of the collections began to appear on line immediately following the shows. I have a suspicion that the public was really interested in the celebrities attending the shows rather than the clothes, but either way no-one is willing to wait six months to see the latest from their favourite designer any longer.

Once people have seen the collection though, they are going to ask the obvious question: why they can’t buy it? If you look inside the fashion system, you’ll see a whole load of good reasons why it’s built around the six month cycle; but no matter how good the reasons might be, it’s not something that the consumer will tolerate for too long. Burberry’s genius is to be the first to subvert the system and offer instant gratification. True, the coats are only on sale for 72 hours, and it’s not the entire collection, but I can’ help feeling that the Genie is out of the bottle, and there’s now no going back.

It’s all very well to do it once, for a few pieces, and to still build in a six week production cycle but managing it for the whole collection, with delivery time closer to what today’s consumer will expect is altogether a different matter. It’s nothing short of a complete redesign of the fashion system – a revolution.

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