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Altuzarra on Why Runway Shows Are More Important Than Ever

Designer Joseph Altuzarra and Altuzarra CEO Karis Durmer discuss why fashion shows are worth it, their recent collaboration with Target and the brand's backing from Kering.

Do runway shows still make sense? That's a question CEOs, designers, retailers and journalists have been asking in recent seasons, given that the bulk of sales now take place in the pre-season (i.e., pre-fall and resort), how expensive shows are to produce and debate about whether marketing dollars could be better spent elsewhere.

"From a commercial standpoint, you could argue that today, a fashion show isn't necessary," Karis Durmer, CEO of Altuzarra, said in an interview with WWD Executive Editor Bridget Foley at WWD's Apparel and Retail CEO Summit in Manhattan Monday. "Joseph and I agree that it's more important than ever to have a fashion show. If you're a brand around our age, it's the only environment people can see Joseph's vision — we don't have a store, a retail environment. For the industry as a whole, it's a month the world is watching all the genius that comes out, and collectively everyone benefits from that moment. Tomas Maier is launching without a show... but we're very strong believers in that moment."

Just how much does Altuzarra believe? The designer noted that the company doesn't advertise, and that its bi-annual shows are the company's only major marketing expense each year.

Altuzarra is now an six-year-old company with a large ready-to-wear assortment, a shoe line, a handbag line (launching February), a powerful backer (Kering) and a big-time retail collaboration (Target). So a store should be on the way… right? Eventually. Durmer said that a big part of Altuzarra's DNA is taking a "slow and steady approach" so that the company (and Joseph) have time to explore and make mistakes. "Just because x brand did it here or y brand did it there doesn't mean it's right for us," said Durmer. "We're still in the process of building out our ready-to-wear assortment, shoes this year — we're excited about handbags coming out in February. Once those are more mature businesses, certainly we'll be entertaining the calls we get from real estate agents."

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Foley asked Altuzarra and Durmer whether the collaboration with Target damaged the company's upscale image. "For us, Target was an incredible opportunity," said Durmer. "When we talk about marketing budget, and what we do or don't have, one of the strategies we have is to leverage partnerships to broaden name recognition. People in this room know the name Altuzarra, but beyond that, it's relatively unknown, we know that about the brand. Through Target, we were able to generation 3 billion media impressions." Altuzarra added that he and his team were also able to have a lot of control over the end product, especially the campaign.

And what's it been like to have Kering as a backer? "There have been no drawbacks," Altuzarra said. "I've been able to focus more on the design component of my job, it's allowed me to work with some incredible new factories and artists. They're helpful, and also hands-off."

Note: This story was updated to reflect that Altuzarra is a six-year-old, not an eight-year-old, company.