It's the unofficial day one of New York Fashion Week and if you're anything like us you're probably glued to your phone watching Instagram Stories and Snapchat videos from all your favorite brands, bloggers, magazines, and models of everything unfolding in NYC as fashion week (aka month) gets underway.
Although we aren't in the big apple for NYFW this season, we caught up with designer of One Imaginary Girl and Project Runway Season 15 Contestant, Sarah Donofrio before she headed to NYC, to get the scoop on what it's really like to show at NYFW and the important questions to ask when you're considering showing. Here's what she had to say.
So, you are invited to show at NYFW. Although it can be very exciting to have such an amazing platform to showcase your collection, there are definitely a few things you need to make sure of before signing a contract, and, more importantly, before paying any fees.
WHO WILL BE ATTENDING?
Not every fashion show is created equal, meaning, each show draws a different audience. It's important to make sure that when you're thinking about participating in a show, you have an idea of the kind of people that will be in the audience.
Bloggers: Bloggers, influencers, and 'It Girls' are really good for the front row and drawing attention to the show. How can you monetize their attendance and translate it into cash?
Buyers: Buyers should always be in attendance when showing at NYFW. If the production company putting on your show actually has any relevance or clout, they will be able to pull some influential retail names. If not, you may want to reconsider showing with them. Make sure you have a realistic understanding of your inventory and production capabilities to make a serious deal with them.
Non-Industry Attendees: Will there be non-industry people attending the show? If so, are they your target customers? (TIP: Non-industry people always feel special when they get invited to a fashion show. Don't be afraid to invite your best customers and followers to your show! What better way to start getting preorders!)
WHERE CAN YOU SAVE?
Does the production company you’re showing with have any leads on hotel deals? Are there any airline points you have yet to redeem that you can use on your flight? Is it less expensive to bring your own photographer versus buying a photo package from the shows production team? Can you use the runway photos from the show for your e-commerce website and skip having to do an expensive photoshoot later on?
It might sound like I’m being frugal, but realistically, paying the show fee is not going to be your only expense when showing at NYFW. Make sure to take your travel/accommodation fees and potential $14 cocktails you'll buy at networking events into consideration when budgeting for your trip. This is New York, after-all. ($$$)
WHAT WILL YOU SHOW?
Once you've decided to participate in a NYFW show, your collection should be as close to perfect as possible. This may be your only opportunity (for now) to show on such a global stage, so make it count!
As a designer, I've found that what starts as a sketch, or a fabric swatch may morph into something totally different as samples start being made. Your collection will speak to you, so don’t be afraid, or too stubborn, to go off into an unexpected direction. Start with what you are most enthused about, and follow that piece to the finish line. For the collection I'm showing at NYFW this Friday, I found that after I made a few of my “star” pieces, I ended up building the entire collection completely around them!
Also, when you're designing your collection, don't be afraid to take your time and “sleep on it”. I know from personal experience being on Project Runway, and working in the industry in general, sometimes you have to step away from something and look at it with fresh eyes after a day or so. Sometimes pieces don’t turn out the way we planned, and our frustration clouds our perspective on it. Maybe in the morning, all it’s missing is a new collar treatment.
Once your collection is near finished (they’re never truly completely done, are they?), it's a good idea to schedule a preliminary fit session. How does the collection look on a real model? How does it move? Will it make an impact on the runway? How should these pieces be styled? What are you missing? Again, the importance of time comes into play. Don’t let the first time you see your garments on a model be at NYFW during the final run-through before the show!
(TIP: Although backstage space at shows tends to be limited, if you have a limit of six runway looks, I recommend bringing at least eight. It’s always good to have one or two 'just in case' looks! Also, being organized is intimidating to people, and everyone that’s showing with you will be impressed by how "together" you look - even if you are nervous inside!)
HOW DO YOU KEEP THE MOMENTUM GOING ?
Although the runway show is the peak event of all of your preparation, it's important to save some mental energy for the follow-up and how you're going to keep the momentum going after the show. If your main goal for showing is to gain exposure and make sales, you need to make sure your garments are accessible once they leave the runway. If what you're showing is for a future season, where and when can the public get it? It’s 2017 and thanks to iPhones and iPads, it’s very easy for you to carry your online store with you to the show. If you already have an e-commerce store set up, bring your portable terminal and let potential customers who attended your show follow through on their “I want everything” exclaims by taking their order and getting those preorder deposits right away!
When it comes to the boutique owners and buyers, make sure that you know your merchandise well. After the show, you'll get asked a lot of questions on the fly, so you need to know your units, the delivery dates, the sizing (down to the leg opening of each pant), color options, etc. Some designers have this information printed to give to buyers but I personally don’t like giving out paper, as it tends to get lost in all of the other literature guests pick up that day. Instead, I get their business card that way the ball is in my court.
Yes, a buyer may have said that they loved your collection and yes, they may have said that they want to place an order for immediates, but you still need to follow up! Once fashion week (or fashion month) is over, send the buyers you developed a mini rapport with an email with a password protected link to your lookbook or wholesale catalog. Buyers get lookbooks emailed to them all of the time, so having a chance to actually meet them in person at your show, with your collection, may perhaps be the biggest benefit of showing on the official NYFW roster.
Much like your fashion career didn’t start with a NYFW show, it also won't end with it. You spent so much time (and money) building a runway worthy collection, make sure that once the show is over, you keep up the momentum and have a plan to get the best ROI (return on investment) after the show is over.