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The Great Fashion Show Boom

Luxury’s megalabels have dialled up the number of shows they are staging. How much is enough?
The finale of Dior's Autumn/Winter 2022 Haute Couture show.
The finale of Dior's Autumn/Winter 2022 Haute Couture show. (Indigital)

On Thursday, the global fashion industry took a collective sigh of relief as the close of Paris couture capped a first half jammed with events. This year, luxury’s biggest brands came swinging out of lockdowns, with Dior staging a staggering eight runway shows since January 2022, up from seven during the same period in 2019. Chanel and Louis Vuitton have both turned out five this year.

The pace is unlikely to slow anytime soon. Fendi is planning a New York show this autumn, according to sources, although the company did not respond to a request for comment. And other megalabels are likely to announce new runway events in the weeks to come.

Fashion's Content Factory.

Why the boom?

Pre-Covid, there was less enthusiasm for such a packed schedule. Major brands including Gucci, Burberry and Celine scaled back the number of runways they staged in recent years, with some showing men’s and women’s together and others merging pre- and main collections. Gender fluidity, sustainability and the breakneck pace of the fashion cycle were among the stated rationales.

Pandemic lockdowns put a temporary stop to runway shows altogether, forcing brands to experiment with digital formats. Others, including Saint Laurent, announced that they would show off the traditional schedule. Many spoke of a reset. But as soon as restrictions were lifted, the likes of Chanel and Dior quickly snapped back to staging big-budget physical runway shows. Gucci, Balenciaga and Saint Laurent soon followed. While the pandemic underscored that there were other creative ways of presenting fashion collections — Loewe’s “show in a box” gained traction — the marketing impact of live shows remains unmatched.

Once aimed at buyers, journalists and other industry insiders, fashion shows have become major brand-building spectacles. While top spenders are flown out and seated in the front row in the hopes that they’ll drop six figures on one collection, the content those VICs — very important customers — and other attendees create reads as far more authentic than content conceived solely for the internet. The physical presence of the “right” people in the audience gives the event more cultural weight, and the masses get a virtual front-row experience through social media.

For instance, Balenciaga’s star-studded couture show this week, staged for 150 guests at the brand’s Avenue George V salon, generated more than 72 million social media views and 3.5 billion conversations in the first 48 hours, according to the company. The tactic can work for smaller brands, too. Jacquemus — set to reach $200 million in annual sales in 2022, according to a source familiar with the business — has consistently punched above its weight with picture-perfect runway shows held everywhere from the lavender fields of Provence to the sandy beaches of Hawaii. Today, 70 percent of the company’s sales are generated digitally.

However, spectacular fashion shows typically cost millions of euros to produce, so the biggest brands have an advantage. It’s perhaps no surprise that Dior — which generated around $7 billion in sales in 2021, according to estimates, and is thought to be the fastest-growing megalabel over the past 12 months — has staged the most shows of any other during that same period.

But how much is enough? At some point, there may be dwindling returns on such efforts if consumers become overwhelmed by the content avalanche. Right now, though, they are hungry for entertainment. Social media conversations about fashion have increased by 40 percent since 2019, according to tracking firm Launchmetrics, with Dior (144 percent), Louis Vuitton (86 percent) and Prada (52 percent) outpacing the average. Buckle up for more.



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Compiled by Joan Kennedy.

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