Cruise Control

As fashion awaits its spring awakening, we set sail into pre-season territory and discuss its pivotal role in the global market.

The term “cruise” takes us back to a time before the prevalence of budget airfare when affluent blue bloods would jet set to exotic warm weather destinations for the holidays. A cruise collection is essentially a pre-season line of ready-to-wear pieces produced by fashion houses and brands to bridge the seasonal gap between fall/winter and spring/summer. Now pre-season fashion has widened its scope to a broader market by providing stylish all-weather options not only for the rich and famous, but also the everyday shopper.

Pre-season clothing assumes a vital role that supports and sustains the fashion business. It ultimately provides the woman with shopping options wherever she is, whatever the weather. It has as little to do with directional trends; it’s more about being wearable and sustainable. With the addition of a pre-season line, designers are able to do profitable collections with accessible ready-to-wear pieces, while maintaining their artistic point of view through their spring/summer and fall/winter collections. “Cruise collections are available from the end of fall in November and overlaps with summer. It’s the longest-selling period at full price,” fashion designer Michael Kors points out. “Now that there is a longer season for selling, cruise collections can be easy to produce and profitable for designers,” injects Hamish Bowles, editor-at-large of Vogue.

With today’s real-time availability of information through fashion websites, the market gains up-to-the-minute trend awareness of the trends months ahead before the actual merchandise hits the stores. Pre-season fills the void by supplying transitional merchandise between seasons. The concept keeps fashion fresh and constantly relevant to the demanding consumer. More often than not, pre-season collections are more functional and sustainable compared to fall/winter and spring/summer. These are key pieces women will be able to use all year round and wear with their individual season-specific must-buys.

Industry insiders attribute the importance of having a pre-season collection to global climate change, which has shaken up the eco-balance with unpredictable weather patterns. New styles are emerging to satisfy the demands of all-weather clothing. “There is no strong difference between summer and winter any more. The whole fashion industry will have to change and adapt to that reality,” says Beppe Modenese, founder of Milan Fashion Week. Today, big fashion brands such as Liz Claiborne Inc., Target and Kohl’s are even consulting climatologists to help plan their collections. “People want all year round garments because the seasons have become so erratic. The season shift has become a very real part of our work and it has definitely affected how we design and the way we go about doing business. The materials we used to work with aren’t cutting it, so we try to find new ways to address the issue,” adds designer Narciso Rodriguez.

The global market shift into producing all-weather clothing is ultimately beneficial for tropical countries such as ours. Say a decade ago, a sharp boxy blazer from an international brand would have been made entirely in wool, a fabric too thick and heavy for a warmer climate. But these days, through technical advancements and the demand of the general mass for all-weather clothing, a similar looking piece would be made in light-weight breathable cotton that would be appropriate for most types of climate. Now local brands are able to produce extensive and directional collections that are Philippine-appropriate without sacrificing important technical details that follow global trending in the fashion business. In effect, you can go to your favorite retailer and purchase a previously season-specific clothing item like a knit cover-up that’s now made to be versatile enough to wear in most conditions whether for a meeting in an air-conditioned boardroom or a stroll around the park on a humid day. The timeless and multi-purpose appeal of pre-season clothing ultimately allows fashion to produce long-lasting viability for a wider range in a global setting that transitions seamlessly season after season anywhere around the world.