Fashion shows are an amazing platform for emerging and independent designers to grow their businesses. These shows are awesome for increasing brand visibility and awareness, gaining media exposure and potentially getting your garments placed in a boutique or store. Fashion shows are one of the most compelling ways to connect with your audience and to create excitement about your brand.
However, just because you participate in a show, doesn't mean your collection will automatically be featured on the fashion blogs the next day or that your garments will be placed in a boutique. I've talked with many designers who've spent a significant amount of time and money to participate in a show but didn't see much of a return. In fact, many were financially worse off after the show ended than they were in the beginning.
During my years in the industry and working on staff for some of Portland's largest fashion shows, one thing I've noticed is that designers tend to spend so much of their energy on being in the show that they miss key opportunities to use the event to grow their business. They focus on models, and styling, and finishing up all the little odds and ends before the show (ALL SUPER IMPORTANT) but they don't think about marketing or PR or how to use being in the show to grow their business (EQUALLY IMPORTANT). Instead, many designers rely on the show's production team to market their brand for them. Big NO!
With so many fashion shows coming up this summer in Portland and as we move closer and closer to fashion week, it feels fitting to share eight ways you can use being in a fashion show to grow and market your business PLUS, ten super simple and inexpensive ways to specifically promote YOUR collection in the show.
First things first, what is it that you want to achieve from participating in the show? When the lights go off and the curtain closes, what do you want to have gained from being in a fashion show? Do you want exposure? More followers on Instagram? Sales? To have your line picked up by a local boutique? Setting goals is a step that often gets overlooked but it is extremely important to your success. For everything you do, you should have a goal.
Goals are not just a random wish list. They are essentially your roadmap to success. How? Let's say I am a designer and my goal is to get media and press attention from participating in a show. If this were my goal, I would create a to-do list of all the things I need to do in order to accomplish this. Some of the things on my list could be: Send press releases to media about new collection, connect with media over social channels and begin to create a connection, have business cards and a website ready with up-to-date garment and contact information as well as images so that when the media visits my site it looks good and they can get all the information they need. Et cetera, et cetera.
The point of having a goal is that it gives you something to work towards but most importantly, it gives you an actionable to-do list so that you can actually achieve your goals. If you participate in a fashion show but don't have a goal or any idea of what you want to gain from being involved, you can't complain when it's all said and done and you don't feel like you've gotten anything out of the experience.
PICK SHOWS THAT FIT YOUR BRAND.
Every fashion show is not created equal meaning, each show is different and draws a different audience. It's important to make sure that when you're thinking about participating in a show, that it draws your target customer and the buyers that would be interested in your line. It makes no sense to participate in a swimsuit fashion show when you design wedding dresses. That's a pretty obvious example, but you get the point.
It's also important to think about the quality of the fashion show. Everything you do affects your business and people's perception of your brand. Protect your brand image by only participating in quality shows.
DON'T RELY ON THE PRODUCTION TEAM TO MARKET YOUR BUSINESS FOR YOU.
This is a mistake I see designers making all too often. It is not the job of the production team to market your business. Their job is to promote the event as a whole and to sell tickets. They are providing you with a platform but it is up to you to use the hype of the event to promote your business. Yes, they will probably invite the media and buyers to the show, however, it is your job to market yourself and find ways to get their attention. Here are 10 super simple and inexpensive ways to specifically promote YOUR collection in the show.
- Put the event in your email signature.
- Add an events page to your website.
- Add an announcement bar to your website.
- Announce event on social media and continue to share that you'll be in the show by sharing behind-the-scenes pictures and videos of you preparing for the event.
- Create an image header for your Facebook and Twitter to promote your event.
- Blog about it. Share a behind-the-scenes look at the process of preparing for the event.
- Personally invite media. Yes, the show's production team will likely already have invited members of the media. However, I recommend also sending them a personalized invite. What this does is it makes you stand out. They'll remember your name and that you sent them a personalized note so when you're collection is walking down the runway, you're no longer just another designer on the program. It's a way to create a connection and to stand out.
- Personally invite buyers and boutique owners. Again, the show's production team will probably invite buyers to the show, however, it's still beneficial to invite them personally. Plus, it's another way to ensure that the buyers YOU want will be introduced to your collection.
- Use your email list to share the event with your community.
- Run a giveaway or contest that relates to event.
Just as it's important to properly prepare for a show, it's equally important to prepare for what happens after the show. Make sure that your website is updated with your most recent collection, lookbook and product information. Have business cards ready to give out and your media kit (printed or digital) ready to share. Audit your social media accounts and make sure they accurately portray your brand. The exposure from being in the show will drive a ton of traffic to your social media platforms and website. You want to make sure that when people visit your platforms that they A) look good and B) you make it easy for potential customers to buy or press to want to work with you.
ADD A PERSONAL TOUCH.
I recommend putting a handwritten note and business card on the chairs of the media and buyers prior to the event. Again, this is just another way to stand out from the other designers and to get their attention.
After the event, follow up with the buyers and media. Send them an email and thank them for attending. Offer to schedule a time to show them the collection in person. Pitch them a story idea. Spend time on social media commenting and liking pictures from attendees who posted about your collection. Thank them for coming, thank them for their kind words, etc.
KEEP THE MOMENTUM GOING.
After the event, post pictures from the runway, blog about the experience, offer a special discount to celebrate the success of the show. Don't let the momentum die so easily. Find creative and fun ways to keep it going.
HAVE A TEAM.
The day of the event you'll most likely be running around trying to finish up little odds and ends. Ask a friend to tag along with you and take behind-the-scenes pictures and video of you and your models preparing for the show. This is great content to post on Instagram or Snapchat to get people excited for the show.