Tom Ford and Thakoon Give Up on See-Now, Buy-Now

Fighting the fashion system is hard.

Or so it seems, given the announcements this week that Tom Ford and Thakoon, two of the more vocal proponents of the recent shake-up to see-now, buy-now, have decided it wasn’t such a good idea after all.

A little more than six months after debuting an in-season collection at the former Four Seasons restaurant in New York in front of friends and clients like Julianne Moore and Uma Thurman, Mr. Ford told WWD that he was returning to the old see-now, buy-six-months-later cycle of fashion (that is: have show, let everyone digest, sell the clothes in the next season).

Earlier, Thakoon Panichgul — whose first see-now, buy-now show for his namesake label was held in September under the lights of the Brooklyn Bridge — announced he was “taking a pause” in the light of an “eventual restructure.”

Both designers say that they still think the show system is broken in some way, to be sure, but that they no longer think see-now, buy-now is the answer.

The problem, apparently, is the market: It just wasn’t ready to accommodate that kind of change.

It’s not us! It’s them!

Mr. Ford, for example, told WWD that his fall collection was delivered in July/August, as are most fall collections. But since he wanted to keep it under wraps until the show — held in September — he lost a month of selling time.

Tom Ford, fall 2016.

All those other designers who showed their spring collections in September had no issue with selling fall clothes in August because they’d shown those collections in February. (Got that?)

So even though Mr. Ford claimed a big sales bump after the show, it wasn’t enough to offset the loss of that month.

A spokeswoman for Thakoon said, “We have recognized that the business model is ahead of the current retail environment.”

This is, as it happens, the same thing that Tamara Mellon said about her decision back in 2013 to go to a straight-to-consumer in-season selling model. At the time, when she raised the idea, “People looked at me like I had an alien growing out of the back of my head,” she told The New York Times. That hasn’t stopped her from trying again, but in her new endeavor she has cut wholesale partners out of the equation.

Which points up the biggest difference between the brands sticking with the revised structure (at least at the moment), like Burberry, Tommy Hilfiger and Ralph Lauren; and those that are not, like Tom Ford and Thakoon. The bigger names have their own enormous global store networks through which they do a majority of their sales. Tom Ford and Thakoon do not, and that puts them in a codependent relationship with department stores and independent retailers, who are caught up in the traditional six-months-ahead pattern.

Given the complicated web of different brands offered in such stores, a drastic change in the cycle was probably never going to work unless the industry as a whole shifted its showing-selling season. And you can imagine the likelihood of that. If designers can’t agree on the basic concept of all having fashion shows in a centralized place, how are they going to agree on switching the classic production-delivery-marketing plan?

Yeah, that was my conclusion, too.

As a result, Mr. Panichgul is assessing his options, Mr. Ford has said he will return to the established show schedule in September and will present his spring collection in New York, and an industry predicated on newness has discovered that it is actually pretty deeply stuck in its old ways.