just a thought – the value of a fashion show

… or, when a designer should do a runway show, where, and why?

Not that I’m an expert.  Yet, I am a fashion blogger who has attended a few seasons of fashion weeks here in Toronto and in New York City, a mediaphile who has followed the coverage of each season closely for over five years, an entrepreneur who is interested in choices available for promotion, and a fashion illustrator who is lucky to count many fashion designers among my clients.

Two designers in Toronto have piqued my interest in this regard – while they both debuted with fashion shows, since their first season they have eschewed the runway for other avenues of promotion. Despite their absence from the catwalk, they’ve managed to achieve both sales and praise.

Juma debuted their line of cool sportswear for Spring 2007 at fashion week in Toronto, and since then they have focused on sponsorships, trade shows, and have experimented with online promotion.  These alternate tactics have won them much success – many press mentions, and a roster of retailers that grows every season.  I asked Jamil, who focuses on the communications for the line, why Juma hasn’t shown on the runway in recent years, and what circumstances would persuade them to show again.

we have stopped doing fashion shows because we only want to focus on showing our collections the best way we can and that is through print and online mediums.  we would only return to the runway if we had the resources to show in a platform with international reach.  even then, i question the use of runways shows while there are less conventional ways to show a line these days that can have similar impact if executed properly. ie installations, web presentations, marketing collaborations

Ashley Rowe debuted her sophisticated collection at New Labels for Fall 2008, though since then she’s been focusing on photo campaigns and videos to communicate the essence of her vision.  Ashley’s designs have been featured in some of the best fashion magazines in the country, and she serves an elite clientele.  I asked her the same thing I asked Jamil, and she tells me…

I would show again with the proper financing in place to produce a show on the scale to which I envision it.  Currently, I am finding more creative ways to show each collection off the runway.

An ideal show for me would be: an appropriate venue for the theme of the collection, great models, lighting, music, and an interesting twist to the regular Fashion Show (not sure what that would be at this moment).

I’m impressed with both of these designers for thinking of resourceful, clever ways to get their lines out there – and what gives me a lot of confidence in them for future seasons is their clear-eyed assessment of the value of a fashion show versus the cost.  All one has to do is look at programs of previous fashion weeks to see how many new designers fall into the deadpool after one or two fashion shows.  I have mused before on why that is in my post designeritus.

Whenever I find myself in conversation with a designer, runway shows are a common topic. Especially newer designers are curious about what I think of the value of a show from the perspective of media.  Here are the basic points that make up my opinion on the subject, for what it is worth.

  1. Should I have a fashion show? The perceived prestige of having a fashion show is considerably lower within the fashion industry than it is to the general public.  In general, I believe that if you don’t have the promotional budget to afford an ad in a magazine, you don’t have the budget to do an exceptional fashion show.  For new designers with limited cash flow, I believe that the only things worth spending money on are PRODUCT and SALES. At the beginning stages, a fashion show is an expense that most small businesses won’t have the means to bear, and the results are too intangible to risk borrowing money for.  Read designeritus for more of my thoughts on this.
  2. What is the goal of having a fashion show? A fashion show is for PR and branding, not sales, so the real question to ask yourself is what members of the media or celebrities will be in the audience of that fashion show, and who their audiences are.  If the answer isn’t “the same people who are or should be my customers”, then reconsider.  Also, are you in a position to capitalize on buzz from the show – is your line available in stores already, so the coverage you receive can help you sell product?
  3. Where should I show? Choose the location of your fashion show to coincide with the markets that you would like to have more press in.  If you want to be picked up by Toronto press (and to a lesser extent Canadian press), show in Toronto – but if you want international press, you’re going to have to show in New York, London or Paris.  If your line appeals to a certain geographical market – say, Vancouver or Miami – you’ll get more bang for your buck showing in those places.
  4. Should I show on the official schedule or off site? This depends on how familiar you are with the city you are showing in, and what your budget is.  If you are showing in a city you don’t live in, showing at an official venue will make it easier for press unfamiliar with you to come. Either way, it is critical that you work with a well-connected PR firm located in the city you are showing in or it is unlikely that anyone you are trying to reach will come at all.
  5. I can’t afford my ideal fashion show – should I show anyway? I agree with Jamil and Ashley, runway shows shouldn’t be something you are willing to compromise on.  An exceptional fashion show needs be a spectacle, communicating your story and vision in a compelling way to an audience who is already jaded by seeing a million fashion shows – if you are unable to muster the resources make their pulse rise, don’t risk boring them. If you do, you may not get a second chance for their attention.

Have you had a fashion show or considered having one?  Are you a member of the media?  What is your opinion on the value of a fashion show to a designer?

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on TumblrEmail this to someone

4 thoughts on “just a thought – the value of a fashion show”

  1. Seems like we have to adapt to reality, and there are designers who have found creative alternatives to showcase their collections.

    Gareth Pugh showed a really cool VIDEO in Paris, Viktor and Rolf uploaded pictures to their website, offsite venues provide a more intimate interaction with the clothes and the designer.

    I’m an accessory designer so its a bit easier for me to showcase my pieces, I’ve always wanted to put my hats on statues found around the city, photograph it then showcase them in a gallery…perhaps I just might 🙂

  2. It is very easy to understand how a new designer may be lured into the idea of having a fashion show prematurely as shows can be very exciting. However in the early stages of developing a collection, without sponsorship contributing funding a show is very difficult to pull off and further more one worthy of garnering any attention.

    Like the previous post I recommend designers take a look at new ways to reach out and showcase their designs. Another great example is Rami Kashou’s eight minute film presentation of his collection entitled “Between The Lines”.
    Budgeting is a very important part of business therefore exploring options in alternative media is more than worthwhile to those in the industry.

    Thank you for this most recent blog post as I believe you have brought up some very important points for new designers to consider.

Comments are closed.