Have you ever been to a trunk show? Most of us haven’t. It’s usually where fashionistas get early access to order a designer’s collection. It’s an opportunity for clients to get the looks they want without being beholden to the choices a department store decides to sell on their floors. They want access to choose pieces straight from the runway, sometimes even being able to customize. When clients place their orders, the fabrics are ordered and the garment is made, usually taking 3-4 months to be delivered.
From a sartorialist point of view, you get exactly what you want. From an environmental point of view, this process is a lot less wasteful because what is being produced exactly fits the demand. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 12.8 million tons of clothing are dumped into landfills every year. You heard right, EVERY YEAR. With a See Now-Get Now model, stores have to predict their inventory and if it doesn’t sell, there is a lot of excess inventory. Unfortunately, designers are often forced to succumb to the consumer era of instant gratification, which leads to waste — financially and environmentally. Although, we are starting to see this attitude shift. Shoppers, especially younger ones, are more clued into social and environmental issues and are looking for ways to change paradigms and pre-ordering pieces can be part of that.
According to a recent McKinsey & Company report, Gen Z will account for 40% of consumers worldwide by 2020, which amounts to roughly $150 billion. As brands are starting to respond to Gen Z and the way they navigate brands, they have to keep in mind that consumers, especially younger ones, are becoming increasingly more conscious of the responsibility corporations play on environmental and social issues. If brand values don’t line up with theirs, adios! A survey was conducted and two-thirds of consumers will change their purchasing habits. Consumers have all the power to make change if they demand it.
Fashion and technology are working overtime as the online world is catching up to the brick and mortar methods by also offering online trunk shows or opportunities to pre-order. Many brands are already taking part either directly through their website or through wholesalers like Moda Operandi, Neiman Marcus, Bergdorf Goodman, and Matches Fashion. Even brands that sell direct their consumers like Pat Bo, Lela Rose, Johanna Ortiz, and Ulla Johnson are offering their entire line for pre-order.
For consumers, pre-sales not only guarantee your favorite styles don’t sell out, but it can save you money too. Traditional retail costing is usually inflated to curtail the estimated markdowns that are needed for things that don’t sell. By preordering, consumers are allowing brands to cut out financial waste in not only production costs (20-30% of fabric alone is wasted), but warehousing, insurance, transporting, and costs from damage or theft to deadstock. Without these costs, companies can offer better price points for customers without having to cut costs in other ways that are usually socially and environmentally unethical. Zero-waste production is a win-win! It’s just about changing mindsets and planning a little bit ahead.
Thinking about sandals in February and coats in June isn’t normally how people plan their shopping. This timetable can discourage people from buying, but manufacturers are starting to become more responsive to an on-demand model, cutting lead times to weeks rather than months. Since WWII, fashion was broken up into spring/summer showing in early fall and fall/winter debuting in February. With more manufacturing doing small batch production, this is allowing brands to become more agile to come out with more styles that have limited quantities and not necessarily adhering to traditional seasonal timetables.
So, the moral of this story? It’s really easy to make a change for the better. Pre-ordering helps keep clothes out of landfills and can even help your wallet. Maybe we have to sacrifice a little convenience in getting things right away, but the upsides FAR outweigh the downsides. It's kind of a no brainer.