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Retail to runway, “see now buy now” — call it what you will, but the new catwalk-to-cash-till obsession in the US fashion industry has spawned as many slogans this week as it has sales propositions. Michael Kors has dubbed it “ready to go”, and as master of the fashion catchphrase I doubt his expression can be bettered.
For his 35th autumn/winter collection, Kors had decided to offer 12 pieces for sale straight after the show: including a grey double cashmere knit sweater and a mini kitten heel with pointed toe; all would be in his Madison Avenue flagship store and online. “We decided a couple of months ago to offer a few pieces so that people could have new product and understand the message of the show.”
The pieces were a simpler interpretation of the show’s broader message, a homage to the “gossip girls” or “scream queens” he looks to as his muses, and including everyone from Lee Radziwill to Alexa Chung and Diana Ross to Catherine Deneuve. Were they an attempt to lure the millennials looking for the more accessible items in the Michael Kors collection? Not really, he shrugged. “I’ve found we don’t really see a difference in the way people buy clothes according to age, or geography. There isn’t one type of millennial client on a computer and an older client in store. We simply offered people pieces from the collection.”
Neither was he planning on staging another AW16 collection come September, when some brands will switch their seasonal deliveries around. “No,” he said emphatically. “You won’t be seeing AW16 again. This is it.”
This in fact was an eclectic contradictory collection of 1960s style coats and sugary pops of colour in an otherwise neutral palette, where a Donegal cashmere cardigan might be paired with a feathered skirt, and a silk georgette blouse in a spriggy brown floral was worn with heritage fabrics like herringbone tweed and Tattersall. The lengths were shorter, and there were metallic brocades.
In truth, it wasn’t my favourite Kors collection. I look to the brand for impeccable tailoring, mannish cuts and that kind of easy American glamour encapsulated by women like Lauren Hutton; clothes that cleanse the eye. A floral mink intarsia jacket in powder blue, silver floral brocade dress with cut-outs at the waist, ostrich feather embroidered jeans and studded block-heeled Mary Janes “for punk rockers” seemed a little overwrought and fussy. Echoes of the new Gucci aesthetic have been a recurring feature this week, where deco collars, shiny metallics, feature buttons and pussy-tie blouses have been a theme at many shows: I caught another whiff of it here. Ditto Saint Laurent. The shorter hems also seemed a trickier proposition for his multigenerational market.
But there were some beautiful pieces. It was hard to argue with the proper loveliness of a classic Kors peacoat in navy double-face crêpe broadcloth or those sumptuous Aran cashmere knits.
Earlier this month, the company posted an earnings report that confounded critics of the brand’s alleged overexpansion in recent years and announced a 6.3 per cent revenue growth in the last quarter, to $1.4bn. The growth has come, according to the company, from an increased focus on in-store retail (out with department stores) and the success of a new range of smaller-sized accessories — handbags, cross-body bags and wallets — that have broadened the Kors offering for those customers who already own his ubiquitous large tote bags.
There was surely no coincidence, then, that one such smaller bag was going in store that day: a studded “camera bag” with heavy chain link strap, the first of several interpretations that will come out this year. Why waste any more time in getting those goods to market? “You know, I think fashion is like music,” observed Kors, “some people buy vinyl, others listen on Spotify. There are now different ways of showing fashion, and it’s for the designers to work out what’s right for them.”
For the moment, though, Kors is hedging. “I still believe in anticipation,” he insisted. “These 12 pieces are just to whet the appetite, you still need to digest the collection.”