Fashion Week season is upon you. You have nailed most of the known events in your country, and you want to show your designer peers you are miles ahead of them. So what’s the next thing you do…..waste a lot of money going to showcase in London, Paris or USA.
And we will gladly repeat….waste, and here is why. For most who don’t know how it works, in the west, or atleast with the fashion capitals, a fashion week is like a festive season of various events (mostly fashion shows and exhibitions) organised by various different organizations. In fact anyone can showcase at London Fashion Week or New York Fashion Week, all you need is a venue and a few fliers with your name on it and you can state to the world you are part of this fashion week. There is no badge of honor or acceptance or approval needed, unlike the smaller fashion weeks around the world and in Africa where you have to consult a particular organizer to be part.
However, unless you are paying the big bucks and officially registering on the main ‘On Schedule’ shows, where you will literally be on a timeline of top shows for buyers to note, most essentials business men and industry figures will hardly acknowledge your show. So yes, it sounds nice to return to Africa like ‘Mum we made it’ and wave around saying ‘Hi Haters’ but really you have spent a lot of money and a lot of nothing.
Here are a few reasons to why you are far from making use of your time. And this is not to down or discredit those that chose to, this is to let you know what you have to have in place and things to consider before showcasing at such fashion weeks.
First and foremost, the fashion capital countries take pride in their own fashion labels. Unlike Africa where we aspire to wear what is popular internationally, they adore and support their labels and even the wealthiest amongst them proudly wear fashion labels produced in their country despite its local or international popularity. So that is what you are competing for when you assume you are about to enter into the said countries try to magnet clients.
You are going head to head with 1000s of all their native fashion labels, old to new, and those that will consider supporting foreign brands also will do so with the internationally popular. So whilst you are on the plane back proud that you amazed the audience and made a hit with your runway show amongst, designers that are based there and will continue reaching out to them.
Next, you are hoping to get buyers. But buyers are not business men looking for tailors to make a career out of, buyers are the key to chain stores that are looking to make money from your brand (not your designs). Let me explain, let’s say you manage to break through their national love for their home grown designers based on your attractive clothes, and the buyers like your goods, the next question is what’s the point of stocking you anyways. You will not even be around to advertise and market your goods. Meaning by the time they are ready to sell your stuff, you will be unknown again. This might sound a bit far fetched to you, but this is their profession and they money. They do not look out for designs, they look out for brands. What are you doing to keep your name in the market, and keep your label in demand.
In their minds “You think we are just going to buy your product and then our hard earned clients will be driven to you”. Nope they will take no interest in you unless you are capable of running serious advertising campaigns there. Until then you might only get lucky being stocked in a boutique store that mainly focuses on African brands……which you do not need to do a fashion week for.
And that advertisement needs to be able to compete with the 1000s of showcasing designers (on and off schedule) at the fashion week in the said country. Meaning their editorial magazines, social media, TV and other platforms.
In all honestly, to make showcasing abroad worth your while in the West you will literally need to move over there to make sense of it all. Study the market, the outreach platforms, etc. Otherwise you are spending a whole lot of money for nothing in the western capital fashion weeks. It is similar to the guy playing loud music in his car thinking “yeh everyone is going to hear this song”. But to the public they only capture half a second of it as the car passes by and don’t even notice. That is what showcasing at one of the main fashion weeks is like for a young African brand.
It will be more strategic for you to apply that money into solidifying your brand in the African markets which can be sustainable for you, much easier to execute and much cost effective for your occupation. Alternatively, if you feel you have conquered the market in your country and you still wish to tap into the European market it will be adviseable to seek a PR agent that will continue to brand your work whilst out of the country.