This year we have witnessed fewer look books emerging from Ghanaian designers compared to previous, however thanks to Accra Fashion Week S/H17 we had the chance to view collections from over a 100 designers on the runway. All filled with extraordinary, amazing and, in some cases, unbelievable work.
A designer that did not particpate presented the following question to myself ‘What is the point of doing fashion shows in Ghana?’ She spoke on her disappointing past experience and my response to her was simple “You have reached this conclusion because you think you are a designer but infact you are a tailor.”
To elaborate more, here is the problem and this is speaking generally across the nation and other parts of the world as a whole with many designers. After the fashion show or fashion week, after sharing images across social media, and in some cases after selling the pieces they showed on that runway, its fairly over for that collection, and you never see anything from it.
In other words, they do continue to share items of clothes on their profile be it from that which they put on celebrities or on loyal clients, but none of which resembles the style, cuts or uniqueness of that shown in their collection. Doing this totally misses the whole point of creating a collection for a season. Especially if one continues to make styles that are of the clients requests.
In many cases in Africa, designers usually question the importance of a fashion show, well it’s simple, its a platform to expose your latest collection. If, AND ONLY IF, one understands the essence of branding, and pushing a particular trend and style, then a fashion show or exhibition at a fashion week means everything in the world. Alternatively if one works with the mind set of a tailor where they just feel to showcase how good they are, then obviously a fashion show is just a little bit above a waste of time.
First let’s clarify the two words pertaining to a ‘fashion designer’. Designer means one that creates and designs fashion looks. Not copy, not duplicate, not imitate with print, but making something from an original stand point despite the inspiration behind it. Now lets look at the concept of the word ‘fashion’. Fashion is a popular style or practice, especially in clothing. Meaning if your clothes are not being embraced in a popular way you are not a ‘fashion’ designer, a designer maybe, but not a fashion designer. Because you are not setting any trends, nor creating any fashion. And currently with no real trends emerging from designers in Ghana, the title fashion designer is fairly limited.
If all your clients are flocking to your store and only seeking other designs they bring to you to create for them whilst you have previously put out your supposed collection, then you are not following guides of a fashion designer and swinging more towards the actions of a tailor. And when one runs their clothing business this way then obviously a fashion show becomes tiresome and very unnecessary. In fact it’s like Samsung launching the Galaxy Note 8 at an amazing launch party and then putting out a 100 other models which they then advertise and put on billboards during that same period, and even offering and serving clients that request they make iphone models for them.
Fashion shows are not for tailors, they are for trendsetters, designers who are ready to outdoor a design or look that they created and are prepared to push for the next 6 months to a year. Craftsmen who have come up with a style or a design they believe will go far and have vowed to the public, buyers and/or press that this look will dominate a section of society for that time. And the fashion show is that stage to mark the outdooring of the brand’s new look/s.
The more you believe in your collection and it’s ability to trend or become fashion, the more one will put into fashion shows and look books. Ghanaian designers and a large part of Africa need to absorb this style of work. In too many occasions, our designers will create for the runway and spend little to no efforts ensuring that after the show, the runway clothes reach their regular clients. There are no follow up look books, nor efforts to get celebrities flaunt the collections, nor any editorials.
If you believe in your collection, you will fill your store with it, and ensure you build a clientele base of people that wish to buy it as opposed to those that always wish to request that you tailor something else. Work on post editorials, magazine features, give aways, celebrity endorsement, seek outlets for that said collection and more.
Some may argue the limited number of said buyers at fashion shows in Ghana makes one question the essence of participating but here are a couple more points to debunk that argument.
1/ The truth of the reality is asides clients and stores, mega buyers do not exist in this part of the world. And there is a reason for this, because collections don’t exist.
2/ Even if there were mega buyers, they will have no interest in investing in designers that did not worship their collections and turn them into nationwide trends nor create vast demand to some extent. Buyers are not here to put you in demand, they are here to break the walls between you and the client that demands your clothes. In fact if your collection was highly in demand it would create the need for buyers to fly down and source your work. Buyer don’t search for good designs, they search for good brands.
3/ In the comparison to that which is abroad, most designers when making this claim forget that in such cases, designers are usually responsible for organizing their own shows paying for everything from lights, to venue, to pr, to hiring models, inviting buyer and the necessary interested or wanted guests. Don’t expect to see buyers at your show if you have never executed anything previously to arouse their interests.
4/ We live in a world of social media, even if in any case you managed to execute work in the manner of a fashion designer following with the right branding, the chances that you could be spotted by an international buyer is likely. But without the right preparation they most likely could have viewed your profile many times and turned a blind eye as in their field of profession you are not executing the right acts.
This is not to deny organizers efforts to ensure necessarily participants are at their shows, however if this was executed it won’t be worth the buyers time if they were only attending to see the work ethics of tailors.
These efforts are what makes fashion shows worthwhile to designers. Wishing a fashion show will take the wheel of your designs and drive you to success is a misconception a lot of designers (working like tailors) have embraced. Fashion shows are fire starters to collections, but will not be the fuel that keeps it burning, that will come from the designers post branding plans. So if you are a designer reading this and have previously participated in a fashion show questioning what was the point, here are a few questions to revert to yourself, what plan did you have for the collection, was there anything unique about the collection, did you push other designs even more towards your clients after the show? That will answer what the point of a fashion show is.
There are many that have confused their great work of being a tailor with being a designer. Some even have facebook pages with followers in the 100,000s and making a lot of money from custom request and one can even state they are big brands, but it doesn’t take away from the fact they are still tailors!