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How to Shop Fashion Week

This season, designers are getting serious about selling directly to customers.

A model walks the runway at Topshop Unique's fall 2016 show wearing an army green jacket with fur trim.
A model walks the runway at Topshop Unique’s fall 2016 show. Photo: Justin Tallis

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As designers rethink their approaches to Fashion Week — and question the purpose of the industry event entirely — many are starting to use their twice-yearly runway shows as an opportunity to cater directly to customers. Last February, brands like Rebecca Minkoff, Michael Kors, and Proenza Schouler started experimenting with selling product right off the catwalk, and counting down to the start of Fashion Month next week, that number only continues to rise.

IMG, the owner of NYFW: The Shows and MADE New York (i.e. a significant portion of all the shows that take place in this city), announced on Wednesday that it will be opening two pop-up shops during New York Fashion Week, for instance.

“The Shop @ NYFW: The Shows” will be held at 875 Washington Street from September 8th through 11th, and sell product from brands like Fallon, Lizzie Fortunato, and the direct-to-consumer T-shirt brand Monogram. “F.Y.I. @ MADE New York” is open from September 12th through the 14th at 449 West 14th Street, and will feature clothes and accessories from designers like Andrea Jaipei Li, Krewe Du Optic, and Pyer Moss — including some pieces coming straight off the runway.

The point is to drive brands’ sales at a time when they’re already pouring money into a massive marketing moment — that is, the runway show. For young brands, especially, it’s a chance to get in front of shoppers for the first time.

Topshop also announced Wednesday that a portion of its higher-end Topshop Unique collection, which drives home its elevated positioning by showing at London Fashion Week, will go on sale online and in select stores right after its runway show on September 18th. Previously, shoppers would have to wait a few months for merchandise to hit stores, in the same way they would for other brands.

“Bringing our customers closer to the London Fashion Week experience has always been a focus for us, but now, more than ever, in a rapidly changing global marketplace where consumers demand immediacy, we recognize the importance of disrupting the traditional model,” Topshop managing director Mary Homer says in a statement.

The change, ironically, brings Topshop Unique back to its parent brand’s fast fashion roots, which did disrupt that traditional industry model.

Like Topshop, designer Thakoon Panichgul is leaning into a “see now, buy now” runway show format for his eponymous clothing line, Thakoon. As Business of Fashion first reported, the brand wound down its wholesale relationships and relaunched this month with a new direct-to-consumer business model. In addition to selling through its e-commerce site, Thakoon opened its first standalone store on Monday in Soho — an airy space finished in concrete and white oak, with ceilings high enough to make any New Yorker swoon.

Since fashion week is no longer about selling to department and specialty store buyers for Thakoon, the brand will show its fall 2016 collection at New York Fashion Week this season, right in time for it to become available to shoppers. During a store walkthrough, Panichgul told me that he expected the presentation to be an intimate affair, with friends of the brand (even including certain retailers) present.

Gigi Hadid walks Tommy Hilfiger’s fall 2016 runway show. Photo: Paul Morigi/Getty Images

That’s a far cry from what Tommy Hilfiger, another label to jump on the “see now, buy now” train, has planned this season. WWD reported last week that Hilfiger will be turning Manhattan’s Pier 16 into a massive branded fairground for his runway show on September 9th, complete with a 40-foot Ferris wheel.

The centerpiece of the presentation is Gigi Hadid’s fall 2016 collaboration with the designer, which will be shoppable right when the show goes live. Half of the 2,000 guests invited to the blowout party are consumers, and for those who don’t make the cut, “Tommy Pier” — featuring two Tommy x Gigi pop-ups — will reopen the following day at noon.

Update: According to WWD, the German e-commerce site MyTheresa.com has paired up with a handful of designers adventuring into the “see now, buy now” space — namely, Tom Ford, Tommy Hilfiger, and Burberry — to be one more destination where shoppers can buy those brands’ goods hot off the runway.