Smets recently launched their in-store collab with PreCouture: you can now shop the Fashion Weeks of Paris, New York and Milan straight off the runway at Smets Concept Store in Brussels, sounds like a future proof plan! But what does this mean for the future of the classic catwalk show? Will it stand the test of time? Are we looking at an even more democratic fashion world or will everything become smaller and more private again? We asked Pascaline Smets, creative director and buyer at Smets Concept Store:
YAYZINE: Smets is known for its more than up-to-date concepts and (young) designer support. Something tells me you, as the creative director, are for a great part responsible for this and you’re doing a great job! In the light of your latest collab with PreCouture I’d like to ask you a few questions about the future of fashion, fashion shows and the retail industry:
As a buyer for Smets, you’ve witnessed the recent changes in the fashion industry from the front row. You must have heard the whispers about change, the end of the catwalk show and the fading lines between the seasons. What do you predict for the future of the classic seasonal fashion weeks?
Pascaline: It’s quite hard to predict the future… Marketing is taking over the business, now everything is happening on Instagram and all the social networks. Runways are not a privilege anymore for buyers to discover the collections, but a way to promote the brand on a marketing level and to create image. Image and identity are definitely one part of the future and it will become more and more important to succeed. However, I’m quite convinced that we will again need to feel the quality and the craftsmanship behind a collection, something more close to reality, humanity and that might not be obvious on the social networks but all the more during the shopping process.
YAYZINE: Do you think fashion shows, as they’ve been in place for many years now, are still relevant these days? They used to be about showing your collection to potential buyers the season before it hit the stores, now they are a full blown image and marketing tool. Power to the people instead of the happy few? Do you believe in a democracy for the fashion imperium?
Pascaline: Fashion shows are still relevant as they create image, content and build up brand awareness. However we will see the emergence of new forms of events that will allow to construct the image. Those events are no longer targeting only the buyers, but the entire brand community. I don’t think we are facing a democracy of the fashion imperium properly, but with the contemporary marketing and communication tools, information is spreading at an incredible speed and reaches more and more people every day. This is the main reason why so many people can get involved now in the fashion creativity. It’s exactly the same process with the art business. I remember 10 years ago, the pre VIP opening was really for the happy few collectors and some rows were even empty. Today it’s fully packed and almost impossible to see the art works on the VIP day. All the major deals are done before the opening thanks to the internet and the opening is for showing up and making business connections. We don’t need to fight against this trend, it’s a reality we need to accept and find the best way to deal with it in respect of our own vision of the business. You can look at every kind of event from different sides, it’s up to us to find our own best way to deal with that…
YAYZINE: As a buyer, is it still useful the go and see the shows, apart from the obvious buzz, energy and networking? I can imagine that a well organised showroom where you can actually touch the garments and look at the quality and the detailing could be equally convincing.
Pascaline: Those are two different parts of the business. Runways are now to see and connect to people involved in the business, showrooms are the place to see the collections, feel the fabrics, evaluate the quality and meet the designer in a quieter environment. If manageable, it is worth to do both. When I can’t do both due to a tight schedule, as a buyer I focus on showroom visits.
YAYZINE: With the new PreCouture collab, you not only offer future collections, but also offer some pieces right away, a few days later at the client’s doorstep. Moschino is selling their collections straight off the catwalk. Do you think this is the future? People are looking for instant satisfaction, not a six month long waiting-room feeling. Do you think more and more designers will cater to those wishes? Do you think it’s a good idea? Or does the waiting only makes hearts grow fonder?
Pascaline: It’s part of the future and it works with the actual visibility level of the runways. But it’s impossible for all the designers to act like that. It’s easy to put a fun Iphone cover on the market right after the show but this is for example impossible to manage for a Margiela x Galliano Couture long gown… So I’m not worried at all about this trend. But yes, I think that preorder based on the runway styles are a wonderful innovations and could allow designers to produce exclusive pieces that may not have been produced if it was based only on the buyers decision.
YAYZINE: Being based in Belgium is also kind of a challenge. We are not the ideal market for luxury designer brands and avant-garde stand-out designer pieces. What is your Belgian compromise when buying for Smets? You do offer more daring pieces than the general Belgian boutique, but the risk is considerable. What is your secret?
Pascaline: No secret, no compromise… Some people really understand fashion as an art and, moreover, we have the online business which is super strong. All the boutiques in Belgium are making compromises, we decided to take another road and to please the shoppers who are looking for something different and exclusive. This is why they are visiting Smets.
YAYZINE: Do you have any first feedback and results on the PreCouture collab? What items do people tend to buy the most? Will you be adding more names to your designer list for next season?
Pascaline: Not yet, it’s too early. We really need an entire Fashion Week season to be able to measure some results. Moreover, the launch was more press-dedicated. Now it needs to reach the fashion shopper. We are very excited about this innovation and are very confident it will be a success in the future. But it takes time to implement a new process. For sure we will add designers to the list next season. This is my tip for life: never stop and always further develop your projects…