Saturday, May 22, 2010

Why designers have fashion shows...

So granted I'm stuck in MN, but I think I have a idea of what happens as far as marketing and promotion, or at least ideally how it should work in a classroom setting, so here goes.

Designers need to be on the cutting edge of fashion, and they need to set trends. This could be either regular clothes for normal people - which would include new styles, patterns, colors - or dresses, and high end clothing which would showcase more of a daring style etc... But they need to keep up with the seasons (time doesn't stop for anyone), and they need a way to showcase each of their lines.

Thus they have fashion shows, and thus fashion weeks, where they can invite the press and/or more importantly all the buyers they are trying to market to. This is why the major shows mostly happen in nyc, la, paris, etc - that's where the buyers are and that's where the market is.

From my understanding of real shows, they are invite only. This is not because the fashion scene is elitist or snobby, (well it is), but more so they understand that the general public, ie Jane Public, isn't their market. They also are writing off the expense as advertising and will make up for it later in sales.

Also, and this escapes most local shows, the real fashion shows are lit very well, since they really do need good images to promote their line. Not something in a warehouse space with house lights...

So we move on to smaller markets, like Minneapolis, and the market is totally different. instead of having shows for buyers they have them for God knows what and charge a cover to make up for the cost. I have no idea why they even do designs since at most shows there isn't a brochure about where to get the clothes, any websites, or any information past maybe "check it out at the local boutique". It's like the whole thing is just an excuse to have a party (at the designers expense, because it's a lot of work), and more of a club event than anything else.

Which is strange, since the same impact can be had if a few designers got together monthly, had a small private show for local boutiques (we have a bunch) and treated it like a mini fashion week where they target the stores rather than the general public.

Also designers need to realize that the show isn't the end of anything, it's just the start. It's like they feel good about putting in a ton of work only to stop when the marketing really begins. Most, from what I understand, don't have a real marketing plan, don't have a mailing list, flyers, post cards, or a system setup to sell their line or if they are in local stores, to expand beyond this city.

So here is what I'd do if I had the time (I don't) or the ambition for this (I'm busy with my own thing).

- Start a series of monthly or bi monthly shows targeting the local botique market, hire a professional photographer to do the runway photos as well as some basic on white or grey shots for general marketing. So that not only can their clothes get in front of people that matter, but they have the material to use later for those people. I'd host it in some basic location, maybe a club before it turns into a club (just need a room that's cheap).

But I'd also have those same designers get together, maybe with the help of local business, and get a mailing list out of more national outlets for sales. So that you have a show, promote your line, and then get it out in front of people.

I understand we do have locals trying to do somethings like this, however they either think the show is the final word and don't followup, or try to make it more of a club event or art a whirl type week than anything else. Sure that looks good in the press, that get's people my age (who don't really have money) out and about, sure you can charge a $20 fee, but as far as getting clothing in stores it does nothing.

But anyway, I'm not going down the fashion road here in town, I'm more interested in shooting shows in NYC, and I really don't have the time or ambition for this cause to jump into it.

1 comment:

  1. Ok, I have to comment on this...
    I will take it down piece by piece why Minnesota fashion shows don't work this way generally.

    "Designers need to be on the cutting edge of fashion....need to keep up with the seasons."

    -Most Minnesota designers keep up on whats in, but it varies based on designer's individual style and taste aesthetic, just like most other consumer lines vary.

    "they have.. fashion weeks... invite the press and/or more importantly all the buyers they are trying to market to."

    -The cost of being able to produce a whole large seasonal line from a single general local designer would be almost impossible to do on your own, therefor trying to sell to buyers is usually out of the question. They simply can't produce the clothes fast enough for the demand if done on their own. They usually work a day job and do designing on the side as the construction takes most of their free time and money. And if done full time they most likely will have a very difficult time keeping up with the middle class standards and would be "working their ass off" for the rest of their career.
    Big designers in NY, Paris, and Milan for example have huge "design houses" where they have up to 25+ people together working on constructing one Haute Couture garment which can take literally up to 1000 hours or more to create. Thus they can charge $70,000 a dress if needed or just ship a simpler Ready To Wear sample garment and pattern to somewhere like China or Thailand to have made in bulk for an extremely low cost (like $3 per piece) to be sold at $100 per piece.

    "They also are writing off the expense as advertising and will make up for it later in sales."

    -Again, since these local designers most likely don't have the capitol that the large and sometimes vary old design houses have in the big fashion cities in the world, there would be no way they could afford to "write off" a whole fashion show and give away free tickets. As I have produced and showed in a ton of local shows I can tell you from my experience that a show will cost most designers or producers about $2-4,000. And generally the designer/producer will only break even with the $20 door costs or make a tiny profit (like $100-200) for all of their work and 50% of the time they lose money doing the show.

    "if a few designers got together monthly, had a small private show...where they target the stores rather than the general public."

    -I don't think you understand the amount of time it takes to make a pattern from scratch, find fabrics, cut and sew and make sure to fit to a model or dressform per garment. It usually doesn't take 4 hours. More like 4 days, if having nothing else to do. I don't know any designer that can produce a new line every month.

    I can't comment on everything... but I will say this. Most local designers do these shows as a way to share their creativity and design as an art form. Some sell in local stores like Cliche as I am doing on June 13th, but they take 60% of the profit so you have to mark up each piece a ton which is hard to compete with somewhere like H&M that you can get something in style for $25 rather than $300.
    If they want to really design for a living they will have to already have the capitol to start out a huge company and ship out the actual construction or work for another bigger fashion house like Marc Jacobs or Betsey Johnson and help make the designs and sew for the company. This is what my design friends do in NYC. Even there it doesn't work like this on a small scale.

    I hope you get out to NYC or Milan sometime for fashion week and see everything that actually goes into the huge shows before giving advice to local designers on how to do it right. Stick to what you know; photography, you're pretty great at it! Just appreciate the local shows for what they are.

    Also look into what the MN fashion space is doing to help local designers.