Ask Alexandra: How to Show During Fashion Week

Chanel, spring summer 2012, fashion, advice column, ask alexandra

Front row at Chanel Spring Summer 2012: don't expect these people to turn up at your first fashion show. Left, Alexa Chung and Jared Leto, right, Ellen von Unwerth.

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Hi Alexandra,
I often read about designers who get noticed for their work at a fashion week, but I have always wondered what are the actual requirements for upcoming designers to be in a fashion week and how does it work? I am guessing it might vary from city to city, but how does it work in the Canadian fashion industry?
Thanks,
Holly

Chanel, spring summer 2012, fashion, advice column, ask alexandra

Front row at Chanel Spring Summer 2012. Left, Vanessa Friedman and Peter Marino, right, Cathy Horyn.

Hi Holly,

Fashion week entry requirements vary depending on the city and organization running the fashion week. For a credible fashion week (ex. Paris, London, Milan) you’ll need to apply and a committee will choose who is allowed to to be added to the official schedule. A brand or designer will need to be somewhat established, have a few stockists, and have gotten some media attention. Of course, it seems like a catch 22, since it feels like you can’t get those things unless you have a show.

First of all, anyone can show during fashion week, because there is an official schedule, and what we call “off-schedule” shows. Off-schedule just means you put on a show during fashion week, without being on the “official” list. If you are off-schedule, you will not get the major editors to attend (they are at the on-schedule shows), but most respectable publications and some good stores send people to check out the off-schedule shows because they are always on the look out for the next best thing. Some fashion weeks, like London, even have an official off-schedule.

Chanel, spring summer 2012, fashion, advice column, ask alexandra

Front row at Chanel Spring Summer 2012. Left, Suzy Menkes, right, Stefano Tonchi and Carine Roitfeld.

Second of all, you don’t need to do a fashion show to get your stuff noticed. There are many other ways (showrooms, small press events, great mailouts, an effective PR strategy) to get attention to a brand. Sometimes a fashion show is a really bad idea: it is super expensive to put on, and if you can’t guarantee that the right people are going to attend it will be a waste of time. Also, empty seats makes your brand look LAME.

If you absolutely insist on showing, then make sure to get yourself established as a brand first (this could take a few years), so you are sure people the right will turn up and the whole thing isn’t a complete waste of money. Another option is to do a presentation, which can run several times, be on for a few hours, or even a few days. That means journalists and buyers can come by in between major shows.

In terms of Canadian fashion weeks, you should go to the website of the organizing body (Toronto or Montreal) and find out what it takes to show there. Those are the only two fashion weeks that I’ve heard are truly worth showing in, the rest of the ones in Canada either don’t get enough media, don’t get enough buyers (and let’s face it, the ultimate goal is to sell clothes) or are just a complete farce (Vancouver Fashion Week.)