Almost every designer dreams of the runway. Having this orchestrated frenzy of lights, models, glamour and photography all centred on your creations as they sashay down the catwalk. And no one can blame them, it is a form of validation as a designer to be able to showcase on such a platform. You aspire for the days when you can show case at New York Fashion Week like Kaveke and Deepa Dosaja, or Mercedes Benz Fashion Week in South Africa like Kiko Romeo and Mille Collines. Closer to home, Nairobi has plenty of opportunities to showcase– from Tribal Chic to Fashion High Tea – begging you to consider if it’s about time your brand joins the Strut It League. But is it right for you? Here are some things to consider before you commit to walking the runway:
The cost of it all.
All the buzz around the event is a great attention-grabber for the media and consumers alike. However, it comes with a hefty price tag that may be too rich for an emerging designer’s or a start-up brand’s blood. You’ve got the participation fee, the cost of creating the collection you’re showing, you may even have to pay for the hair, makeup, models and runway manager. If it’s your own show, there are even more costs to consider. It’s way too much to pay just to get some feedback or for experimentation’s sake.
Your Customer base devotion.
Another reason why a fashion show may not be in an emerging designer’s best interest, is that it works best if you have an existing loyal customer base in place. This includes consistent sales and at least one editor or media personality that thinks you’re the bee’s knees. Having this foundation will improve your chances of convincing buyers, influencers and press to cover your brand. It may even lead to off-the-runway sales.
The slow return on investment.
If you’re already a household name, the question then becomes ‘can I afford to participate in a show without affecting my business?’ It’s like loaning money to a family member or a best friend. They may pay you back immediately, but more often than not, it takes a considerable length of time before you see a lick of that money. If at all. Fashion wise, it could take a month before you see the fruits of your fashion show participation. Subsequently, you’d need to have enough capital to keep the ship afloat post runway.
Show Stopping antics are required.
Runways have been around for a long time; therefore, the typical show can come across as dull and predictable. You want the audience to recall your collection, even more so if you’re sharing the same platform with other designers. In the same way that you won’t compromise of the fabric and execution quality of your clothes/accessories, you shouldn’t start being mediocre on show preparation. However, creative edge isn’t cheap. you owe it to yourself and your customers to do it all justice. If you can’t, remember that the runway isn’t a mandatory investment.
Lanes must be chosen.
There will be several options on the fashion calendar to choose from. Don’t create customer fatigue by being at every single event. Even worse, don’t present the same collection each time. No need for that fashion déjà vu, thank you! Strategize which will work best for your collections and use them to your advantage. If you must be at concurrent shows, be ready with different capsule collections and presentation ideas. don’t forget, the crowds tend to be the same and they all remember (not in a good way) outfit repeaters!!
Can they shop off the runway?
Once the final outfit has done the glamour lap, is that collection ready for sale? There’s no need to showcase if you’re not in the position to create inventory. Only market what you’re ready to sell, be it on custom-made orders or retail stock. If it’s not obviously Avant Garde, it’s positively infuriating to see a design, fall in love with it, and then have the designer tell you the fabric isn’t in production.
Are my other PR and Marketing strategies solid?
Fashion shows shouldn’t be the only way to promote your new collections. It’s just one of the many pieces that make up a brand’s robust communication plan to expand their recognition. This includes content marketing, social media and email marketing. Keep in mind that fashion shows can either do exceptionally well or massively flop. If your haemorrhaging money from all the other strategies to make the runway a possibility, it’s not worth it.
Can my network help?
How healthy is your network and can you count on them? Getting the right editors, bloggers, customers and buyers into those seats can be hard to pull off. But, if your contacts are solid, you could have guaranteed attendance and perhaps even a media mention or two. You can also reach out to them to be potential sponsors. Many designers have relied on their networks to sponsor spaces, PR help, models, hair and makeup artistry, as well as monetary backing. If you’re finding it hard to create a comprehensive supporters-list, maybe you should put the runway idea away for now.
Angles. Angles. Angles
You may be able to spot your pieces in a crowded room or in pitch darkness, but will the audience be able to see them clearly? Whether they are sitting at eye-level or the stage is elevated, you must ensure that your products can be easily made out and not lost in the noise. Some accessories like jewellery can be swallowed up by the runway lights and makeup making those seven minutes a complete waste of time.
As much as fashion shows are in vogue, take the time to consider if it’s in line with what you want to achieve. They are also so physical and emotionally draining; not to mention they can take your focus away from brand business for significant spans of time. Consequently, if you’re going to spend your energy, time and money on it, make sure it’s worth it. With profitability in mind, many established designers have waited at least five years before showing their collections at fashion week, and so can you. Don’t feel the pressure to go with the flow. Do what’s right for your brand at the right time.