Everyone has applied to a job before, and everyone (hopefully) knows that when it says “cover letter optional” that the “optional” part is not really true.
As a designer wanting to make a name in the industry, the runway show is like the cover letter; it may not seem like it’s necessary, but in fact it’s indispensable. Think about it, the fashion show does the three main things a cover letter is intended to do: it shows what a designer can bring to the table, it highlights the skills and characteristics that make a designer unique and valuable to the industry, and most importantly it creates interest about the designer. Interest creates customers, customers create sales, and sales create a successful fashion business.
If the cover letter metaphor isn’t helpful enough, think of the designer as an artist and the fashion show as the exhibition. It would be pretty difficult for an artist to gain fans and sell work if no one has had the chance to see what the artist has to offer.
The fashion show is particularly vital in the success of the emerging designer. Many of the larger houses have moved to doing fewer shows or opted out of them completely; however, this is largely due to the large budgets they must part with in order to do them or because their brand awareness has matured to a certain level (usually a combination of both). Womenswear designer Rebecca Taylor mentions in a podcast on Glossy that even though she no longer does runway for her brand, it was the runway that helped elevate her brand’s name into the public eye and create the relevance she needed to bring her brand to where it is today!
Perhaps it may seem more efficient to use a smaller, more remote method of brand promotion like a lookbook or presentation and though these methods do have some effect, the impact of the fashion show is still the largest of them all.
Frances Corner, Head of London College of Fashion mentions in her book Why Fashion Matters:
“In an age of online shopping, instant messaging, blogs, and social media, the catwalk has remained at the heart of fashion. Rather than consigning the twenty-minute spectacle to history, designers and brands have instead embraced its inherent theatricality as never before”.
And Frances couldn’t be more right. The fashion show has remained, through all of the evolutions and innovations in fashion, the backbone of the industry. One of the main reasons being that it brings people together to experience fashion. Devoted fans and prospective ones alike all can meet, if even for twenty minutes or so to share in the extravaganza that is the fashion show. Among these fans are the people that could truly turn an emerging designer into a household name; these are the fashion influencers, the buyers, the celebrities, the magazines.
Still not convinced? It’s possible that one could imagine some brands who have found success without the help of the runway. One of the prominent players of this kind of rise is skatewear brand, Supreme. Supreme has built their name in niche markets through a combination customer loyalty, pop culture, and strategic collaborations. The brand’s latest collaboration might be their most talked about yet, the collaboration with high fashion label Louis Vuitton. Supreme has seen success, however, they understand what it takes to break into a new and larger market, and the runway is the way of doing it. The collaboration with Louis Vuitton was Supreme’s big introduction to an entire population of fashion insiders to whom they may have never been on the radars of.
So in returning to the earlier cover letter metaphor; a person looking to make a great career for themselves wouldn’t skip out on writing an amazing cover letter to make that first, lasting impression with their employer, so the same should be considered for a designer just starting out in the industry. A well-executed show put on by the right production agency can make a world of difference in how the world sees a designer, or if the world sees them at all.
If a tree falls down in the woods and no one is around to hear it, it’s a wonder if it makes a noise; but if there is a front row put next to that tree, then the world can witness just how loud of a sound it can make!