so what is fashion week like for an up and coming designer?

What about the rising stars, the people working with small teams and even smaller budgets? How do they do it? Is it worth it? And what does Fashion Week actually do for these labels?

by Courtney Iseman
04 September 2014, 3:25pm

Istituto Marangoni

The all-nighters designers and their teams pull to prepare for Fashion Week are common knowledge, but no one seems to get down to specifics when talking about just how much goes into getting ready, and just how much it costs. This past February, talked to some industry insiders to break down some of the necessary price tags. Experiences vary based on how designers decide to go about things (like showing at Lincoln Center versus off-site), but on average, the report listed costs like $15,000 to $60,000 for venue, $10,000 for styling, $10,000 to $20,000 for production, $5,000 to $15,000 for PR and $150 to $500 per model.

It's a pretty overwhelming bill, and that's not even touching on the extreme amount of work to get ready to show, all at a pretty breakneck speed. As far as larger, more established lines, these costs and the workload is factored in, planned for and budgeted for. These labels know what they're in for. Their teams tend to be just large enough to handle business, and there's a support system from other teams in the business, too. It's all for the big picture, the fact that these brands have appearances to keep up. They show at Fashion Week to feed into the hunger of the press and their fans for a peek at the new collection.

But what about the up-and-coming designers, the people working with small teams and smaller budgets? There are designers who show at Fashion Week that are rising too fast and becoming too hot to not show, but they're not so established that they can outsource half the workload. How do they do it? Is it worth it? What does Fashion Week actually do for these labels?

Sandy Liang is a New York-based designer who just started her line for autumn/winter 14, but she is already generating serious buzz. This Fashion Week will be Liang's first time presenting. For a designer like her, showing at Fashion Week seems undeniably essential - she needs to keep that momentum rising for her second collection. Liang says she hopes the presentation will allow people to have a better understanding of her aesthetic and her story. But such a new designer won't have the resources at her fingertips that many well-established brands do. Liang's team is just her and her interns, as well as her boyfriend and brother who pitch in to help. She admits that the preparation has been a bit uneasy, and that at times, the build-up can get nerve-wracking. Yet, she's excited, and sees this presentation as an opportunity to meet people and connect. One way Liang is staying sane is not letting the plans get out of control.

"I made sure that my presentation wouldn't be a huge production. The presentation, including the venue and vibe, should reflect my aesthetic - so it'll be easygoing, interactive, funny… I think there is a certain pressure for designers to feel as if they need to make a big production and show off their clothes in the coolest way possible, but if anything, I've learned to just do what feels right for yourself. For me, that means no runway and nothing that feels too sterile. My ideal presentation would be somewhat interactive, where you can talk to people, have a drink, and enjoy the clothes."

It's not technically Hillary Taymour of Collina Strada's first go at Fashion Week, but it is her first time going it alone and showing her ready-to-wear collection. Collina Strada has made serious waves in the accessory realm, and Taymour has shown her eco-conscious bags at Lincoln Center as part of Fashion Week's sustainable event, The Green Shows. But this season, she will show her clothing designs in her own show, as part of Milk Made's MADE Fashion Week. Taymour wants the show to spread awareness about the brand and grow buzz in the U.S. demographic, and evolve the perception of the brand as a clothing and lifestyle company, not just accessories.

"The majority of the business now is actually the ready-to-wear, but people don't even realise. It's still thought of as an accessories brand. So I want to solidify the presence of our ready-to-wear."

Having been a part of the Lincoln Center show before, Taymour had an idea of what she was in for gearing up for her show: "I was prepared. But this is the first time on my own, all on me. There are more things you don't even think about. But I knew - I actually thought it would be even worse, really…I also started getting ready really early. I started preparing in June."

Those things that a newer designer might not think of are the kinds of technical issues that larger brands would have teams to take care of, so the designers don't have to be bothered interrupting their creative processes to worry about the tasks Taymour's currently tackling, like fireproofing everything that will be on set and getting insurance for the show. Taymour admits these necessary chores can "bombard your creativity."

"Sometimes you don't make all your money back. But other than that, it's all good!" Taymour says the pay-off will be the increased buzz around her ready-to-wear and the further establishment of Collina Strada in the fashion and retail world. And seeing her collection on show day makes it all worth it, too. "It's pretty awesome - like, surreal - to see your stuff out there, all lit up in the space. It verifies your hard work."

You could argue over who has more of a need to show at Fashion Week, established brands or young designers. Larger labels do have a presence to maintain, sure, but Acne could stop showing and you'd still know where to find them. Fashion week is an up-and-coming designer's chance to introduce themselves to their base of press, buyers and customers. They have far less resources to put on the presentations they envision, but they work all the harder, knowing so much more is at stake. They seem to have one thing in common: their passion to get it right, to make sure their audience understands who they are. Their need to get crafty and put on more with less often leads to shows that stand out, shows we remember - shows that just might lay the groundwork for these designers to become household names, too.


Text Courtney Iseman

courtney iseman
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