First, Chris Benz announced that he'd be sitting out the Fall 2013 shows. Soon after, Peter Som decided to forgo the traditional runway for one of KCD's nifty digital fashion shows, following in the footsteps of See by Chloe and Pierre Balmain, amongst others.
Then last week's Wall Street Journal article about designers forgoing New York Fashion Week hit the real nerve, highlighting several up-and-coming (as well as established) labels choosing not to stage runway shows or presentations.
Suddenly, it's okay—even respectable in certain circumstances—not to show at Fashion Week.
As the fashion calendar inflates to nearly 300 designers, how do the up-and-comers make a mark? Every once in a while a newbie presentation will get everyone talking. (The debuts of Prabal Gurung and Suno come to mind.) But more often than not, independent and contemporary designers are just a blip on Ruth Finley's pink pages.
Sometimes, skipping Fashion Week can even benefit a designer's business. Here are five reasons why it's okay to sit it out.
1. For small designers, market and buying appointments are way more important than shows."You’re just literally the freshman at the senior prom," says Geren Ford, who stopped showing her contemporary collection at New York Fashion Week a few seasons back. "If you can show your clothes to buyers and editors independently and intimately, and you can actually talk about the clothes, then you're in a much better position." One publicist, who would not speak on the record for fear of alienating clients, went so far as to suggesting skipping appointments, too. "Unless you're going to put on a show—I mean Alexander McQueen, Alex Wang, Chanel, etc.—you shouldn't waste the editors' time," he said. "You shouldn't even hold market appointments. Over the years, magazines have downsized. There are fewer editors, more designers, and more seasons. If editors were to attend every market appointment, they wouldn't have time to actually work. Designers should just produce amazing digital lookbooks." (KCD's digital fashion shows are a perfect example of what this could look like.)
2. If you forgo the show, you'll have more money for store orders. When Barneys picked up designer Katie Ermilio last year, she chose to skip her typical presentation and funnel that cash into manufacturing instead. "Deciding to shift my focus to production left less time for press," says Ermilio. "I held intimate press appointments instead of a full scale presentation." This season, she's back on the schedule: this time with a Barneys capsule collection under her belt.
3. Waiting to show until after Fashion Month has ended means more eyes will be on you. Brood designer Serkan Sarier waited several seasons before showing at New York Fashion Week. Instead, he held intimate presentations in early March. The gamble paid off: editors made more effort to attend the shows, creating a slow burn. Today, Sarier produces well-attended runway shows. And his clothes are worn by plenty of celebrities, including Kristen Stewart and Emma Watson.
4. Editors will like you more. "With a magazine background, I've seen firsthand how fashion editors experience fashion week. It's very hectic," says Maggy Frances Schultz, designer of the contemporary line Maggy Frances, which she sells via her very own e-commerce site, MaggyFrances.com. "It seems like there is hardly enough time to give even the most established designers the attention they really deserve." Instead of inundating editors, bloggers and buyers with yet another show or presentation, Frances will hold individual appointments later on in the season.
5. Your customer is more important than any editor. It's easier than ever for a designer to reach his or her customer directly via social media and e-commerce. Frances, for instance, has chosen to put funds into building her own site. Benz, who writes a column for this site, decided to sit this season out while he reorganizes his business. There's little doubt that he'll be back next season, hopefully better than ever.
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