Tips For Launching Your First Runway Show

Posted by QUANTUMFACTORY on 9/22/2014 to How To

Designers today are expected to be Jacks and Jills of all trades. Not only are you expected to take inspiration from the world around you and translate it into wearable fashion, you're expected to do so within size and price parameters, produce your designs on schedule, be ready to deliver to a client on deadline... Oh, and probably to do your own PR and runway show as well!

In today's 3D printing, YouTube, instantaneous world, marketing your designs may seem like a breeze, but as anyone in the garment industry will tell you, there's a whole other art and set of skills that come into play when you are trying to market clothing that you've poured yourself into for months or sometimes, years. To put on a successful runway show, you've got to completely switch hats and put your best event and party planning skills to use.

As NBC Chicago reports, many new designers "pull the trigger" on a show before they've done any planning at all. This can be the death of your first runway event before a single model hits the catwalk. Here are some of the issues to consider when planning a fashion show.

1) Plan it to coincide with a traditional season, and allow at least a few months to prepare. Do you want to garner some of the panache of New York Fashion Week, or Paris or Milan, but lack the budget or backing for a major venue? Hold your event in your regional location but near the date of the event you wish to emulate. You may gain some serious exposure if you're geographically close enough to get overflow traffic. Plus, private "off site" events are where the new talent is discovered and the movers and shakers frequent independent shows for just that reason.

2) What's your vision? You've likely been inspired by something quite specific in designing your collection. Does it have a specific theme, feel, effect? Like Isaac Mizrahi in the famous documentary, "Unzipped," let the inspiration for the clothes translate into the look, sound, and feel of the show. Dream big. If there were no holds barred, how would you proceed? Then allow your budget to determine what you can actually get away with.

3) Location, location, location. Your venue doesn't have to be a traditional runway. Designers delight in finding venues that feed their vision for the show in some way. You need to consider seating (people like to sit, and especially like to feel they've been accorded "Front Row" status), the path of the runway (is it elevated, at eye level, or meandering through the crowd?), food or drink (not advisable around one-of-a-kind couture, but your audience might appreciate it), lighting, and music (will you need to bring in lights, a speaker/stereo system, a band?). Also important is how much space you have "backstage," behind the scenes, whether in a nightclub or a botanical garden, to prepare your models. Are there plenty of outlets, places for mirrors and racks, and is it secure?

4) Get the word out. Once you've booked the venue, synched the soundtrack, and contracted lights, backdrops, and plenty of seating, it's time to start the PR machine. PR is public relations. It's how you let the world know your show exists. Do you want an exclusive event? Then make it invitation only, and an email will not cut it. You need to invest in real invitations that provide a hint as to the theme and get your audience excited about it. If it's a first-come, first-served public show, you need press coverage in papers, online, and through word of mouth. Make sure you have a photographer and/or videographer hired to photograph the event, too. Putting your runway photos online and linking them to Twitter in real time can generate a trending topic, which is the sweet spot for any event.

5) Thank yous. At the big events swag is the name of the game. It wouldn't hurt for you to emulate the top designers and provide a swag bag for your attendees. It can be a way to help you offset costs, too! Contact local businesses with thematic connections to your show or venue and offer to include a product, sample, or coupon for their business in your swag bag, for a fee. They get unusual exposure one on one with your guests and you may generate some much needed income, while generating goodwill with your audience.

6) Be prepared to take and fill orders immediately. Buyers act fast when they spot something they want. You need to know your production facilities can handle multiple orders and be ready to make garments for you starting the day after the show. It is the ability to deliver top quality product that separates successful designers from the merely talented ones.