31 Jan Breaking into Fashion: Beyond the Runway
Project Runway has launched a whole new generation of girls that dream of the runway. Not walking, but watching their fashions grace the runway. For many, those dreams are coming true. We live in a time when fashion is fluid, and there is always something new and fascinating on the horizon. Traditionally, new designers had to get eyes on their designs to make a name for themselves, and that usually meant a large investment into a fashion show. However, this is no longer the case. Now designers have a lot more options and making a large investment into a show is no longer the priority a designer should have. Like in all things, times have changed, and social media has change the face of the fashion industry.
While not required to have a degree to be a fashion designer, like most jobs, it makes a difference when it comes to the competition. While the numbers can vary quite significantly, the average cost of a Bachelor’s degree in the United States, including living expenses, can easily reach $100,000. Most of the jobs in the fashion industry are in California and New York, neither of which are known for their low cost of living. So, it’s easy to see how many fashion designers are struggling as they start out their careers. In the past, for a designer to get noticed, to get eyes on their designs, the go to method was to participate in a fashion show. There are hundreds of these types of events that take place, especially in New York City. Unfortunately, the cost of participating in these types of events can cost anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dollars. For designers trying to break into the industry, this type of investment is a hard nut to swallow. They can spend hours preparing, spend all of their savings, and the event may end up with limited publicity, a low turn-out, and little potential.
To optimize the returns on investment into a fashion show, it’s important for designers to ensure that they have a social media presence. A social media presence serves multiple purposes. It gives potential customers or sponsors a way to contact the designer after the event. It provides a way to advertise for upcoming events, but most importantly: it gets their designs in front of the public. It gives potential customers the opportunity to “like,” “share,” and “pin” styles that they like. A social media presence gives designers the opportunity to expand their brand with very little additional investment (if any). Knowing this, it would be counterproductive for a designer to invest in participating in a fashion show. Participating in a fashion show without a social media online presence is like to purchasing a very expensive lottery ticket and hoping that it pays off. Without the online following, a designer is essentially praying that the right person walks in, falls in love with their designs, and gets in contact after the show. For these designers, media coverage is what is paid for, there’s little social networking involved in the event, and little of the general public gets eyes on their designs. There is little buzz about the designer or the event beforehand, unless the designer themselves is well connected.
In order to develop an effective online social presence, a designer needs to focus on creating a brand for themselves. Luckily, this type of creative endeavor is one that will come easily to fashion designers. Creating a personal brand is not only effective, but it’s important in the world of design. It takes their passion and creativity, and it intertwines it with the story of who they are. It shows the public the value behind the product, it was created by a person. A brand gives the designer the opportunity to be authentic. It creates a foundation to build their business off of. It gives their customer base a name, a face, and it builds trust. Braveen Kumar has written an article on building a personal brand. In this article he lists a lot of important tips, but three of those stand out significantly:
- Origin Story: This is the background of how the designer got started, where they came from, what inspires them. Without knowing where they’ve been, they can’t know where they are going. This origin story will follow their brand throughout their career, so it needs to be authentic, true, and well thought out.
- Presence: People are naturally inclined to censor themselves. The same person one is with their family is rarely the same person they are at work. Their online presence works the same way, and many tend to over sensor publicly. Designers should be authentic, but also be present. Being present means being public, allowing their target market to see content that supports their brand and the image (or story) they want to project, ideally one that is true to who they are.
- Consistency: It is estimated that 90% of social media usage is passive, which means that people see posts, videos, tweets… but they don’t engage with it. Lack of engagement is not a death toll. Being consistent with authentic content that represents a brands origin story will make a designer stand out from the crowd. The best way to build a following is to be consistent.
It takes 9-10 successful fashion shows before a designer “breaks out” in the industry. By ensuring that they have an effective social media strategy beforehand, designers can make the most of their investment in a fashion show. As important as their online presence, a designer also wants to ensure that there is high quality videography and photography present at their event. Often organizers don’t provide this service, or if they do, it may not be the quality necessary for a designer to truly highlight their designs. While coordinating for the fashion show, it’s important to find out what type of documentation will be taking place and may even be possible to request it. However, it may be prudent to hire a professional photographer that can guarantee their quality of work for the event. At this point the aspiring designer should have significant buzz about their name and their quality of work. If these things are all in place prior to the event, then there is no reason that a designer’s runway dreams can’t come true.
“How Much Does It Cost to Study in the U.S.?” Top Universities.
“Importance Of Online Presence For Your Brand” This We Know.
“Paris fashion week: how it rewrote the rules” The Guardian.
“The 90-9-1 Rule for Participation Inequality in Social Media and Online Communities” Nielsen Norman Group.