By Li-mei Hoang
British designer Burberry has sparked a debate at this year's London Fashion Week by skipping the usual six-month gap between putting its designs on the catwalk and into shops.
The move has prompted concern among smaller designers that they will be unable to compete.
Burberry showcased snakeskin trench coats, contrasting metallic dresses and embellished shirts in rich autumnal tones during the fashion expose, running from February 19 to 23.
"The whole collection is already lined (in-store) for people to see and touch and feel. And if they want to, they can order it and we will deliver it as quickly as possible," Burberry CEO Christopher Bailey told Reuters.
Amid fierce competition, luxury labels are having to find ways to bridge a delay between catwalk presentation and retail availability to meet demand from customers living in different climates.
Ken Downing, fashion director of US department store Neiman Marcus, applauded Burberry's move and said he believed all fashion brands were heading towards doing the same.
"Customers buy now to wear now. They understand shopping in the moment and those are the clothes that they are looking for, so I applaud these moves. I hope more do it, it's the future of our industry," Downing told Reuters.
But London's smaller design houses expressed concern about a "see now, buy now" model, saying they needed more time to prepare for wholesale.
"As a small designer brand, we get the orders from buyers, put them into production, wait for the fabric, deliver that, so we need to time to prepare that," said Jackie Lee, a Korean designer based in London.
Her comments were echoed by designers Jasper Conran, Roksanda Illincic, Holly Fulton.
"If you are quite a small operation, it's hard to see how you can make that shift and have access to the funds to make that shift," Fulton said.