Well, look who’s back. Balenciaga is reviving the see now buy now, and making it couture. Yes, because the brand presented its second couture collection by Demna Gvasalia on July 6, in the salons at 10 Avenue George V in Paris. Immediately after the show in the same location Balenciaga inaugurated the store where to purchase some of the looks from the fashion show that had just finished. Including bags between €10,000 and €15,000. It is the latest declination of the “see now buy now” sales method.
Which has recently expanded to include the expression “pay later”, very much in vogue in times of crisis like these. The see now buy now was a catchphrase (especially for US brands) in 2015/16. Now it is back, driven by the digital needs created by the pandemic. But it remains divided. Who make it a marketing tool are contrasted by those who, instead, would like to put the fashion show back at the centre. And not accelerate fashion.
Balenciaga makes it couture
First you see the Balenciaga fashion show. Then you go down the stairs and, on the floor below the catwalks, you find the Balenciaga Couture Store, where you can buy a dress, customised in the brand’s workshops. This is what happened on Wednesday, July 6, when the second couture fashion show by Gvasalia, artistic director of Balenciaga, a brand in orbit of Kering, took place.
To WWD, CEO Cédric Charbit described the new retail format as a “gateway to couture, which remains a very closed universe, especially for the younger generation”. And he explained how the new couture store, opened on the 6th, will carry bags between €10,000 and €15,000, while the most expensive product will be around €100,000 (he did not specify which). The location has exclusive rights to all the items in question, which it sells in limited editions.
The (recent) precedents
Driving the return of the see now buy now was the growth of online sales during the pandemic. The method has lately been enriched with the possibility of “pay later”, which winks at younger consumers, enticing them to shop. During September 2021 fashion week in New York, several brands streamed the fashion show on Amazon Live, with the possibility of purchasing on the e-commerce itself.
Tommy Hilfiger has been hosting fashion shows in the “watch now buy now” format with live streaming and integrated AR technology since 2016. Jacquemus too has long espoused the method: at the last fashion week, several pieces sold out immediately after the streaming show. After experimenting a few years ago, Hugo Boss tried again last February by presenting the SS 2022 collection in Dubai.
But not everyone agrees. As Vogue reports, Ralph Toledano, outgoing president of the French Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode, has taken a strong and clear stance against the “see now buy now” model. Toledano defends the importance of physical fashion shows and the official calendar.