The Business of Fashion Fatigue

New York. London. Milan. Paris.

So the circus goes. For four weeks, twice a year, fashion journalists, buyers, photographers, models, bloggers , stylists and hangers-on do the circuit of fashion capitals. And every year it season it seems to get a bit crazier. There is so much noise that it is hard to sift through all the shows and separate the wheat from the chaff. With more than 200 shows during this year’s NY fashion week (which actually runs nine days), running virtually all day from 9am to 9pm, everyone is getting a bit of fashion fatigue.

Even WWD, the business bible of the industry led today’s paper with a plea for sanity going forward instead of other important goings-on, not least of which was the prospect of private equity investors talking to Peter Som, Jimmy Choo‘s announcement of its move into fragrances and eyewear, and of course reviews of yesterday’s shows, including new collections from veterans like Michael Kors and industry darlings Proenza Schouler.

WWD’s challenge in covering all the goings on is mirrored by the choices that buyers and presss have to make every day during the shows. If there are 5 shows going on in one time slot, which one should they attend? Most likely, they will choose a designer they have been buying or covering for many seasons, as opposed to allocating their time to some unknown hopeful emerging designer.

So, if you’re a young designer, how do you stand out from the crowd? One answer is to bolt from the NY fashion week scene and show in a city that is less competitive. Milan doesn’t really seem to welcome emerging designers (there are all those Italian heavyweights and global brands to pay attention to) and Paris is a notoriously clubby place where getting a show slot from the Chambre Syndicale is notoriously difficult.

So that leaves London, the much maligned ugly stepsister of the other more important fashion capitals. For years now, London has seen its strongest London-based designers with the most commercial potential (Sophia Kokosalaki and Husein Chalayan to Paris, Alice Temperley, Matthew Williamson, ISSA and Luella Bartley to New York, etc),  flee Londontown for the commercial opportunities in NY or Paris (which has played its part in making New York fashion week the mayhem that it is).

However, of late, it seems that some of the more business savvy designers are choosing to stick to London Fashion Week. For example, Giles Deacon’s show is by far the hottest ticket during LFW and he gets the most attention from the worlds media and buyers, some of whom come for his show alone.  (Now, it is a fair point that not everyone comes to London, but more people are coming of late and the British Fashion Council is working – albeit slowly – on making LFW a more viable, commercial and efficient operation. Back to Giles, if he had gone to another city, he would not get the same attention that he does in London. He still sells the collection in Paris during Paris Fashion Week to ensure that sales follow on the great PR he gets in London. London is also part of Giles’ brand identity, so a London based show reinforces the quirky luxury positioning of his brand.

You don’t have to be Giles to get attention in London. Other lesser known designers also benefit from London’s knack in launching new names. Manish Arora, Christopher Kane and Marios Schwab all get signficant attention from their London shows. They would likely not get the time of day in New York or Paris — not because they lack talent, but because the compeition for attention abroad is so fierce,

It seems that some designers, of both the emerging and established type, are cottoning on to the benefits of showing in London. Nathan Jenden, the designer who works closely with Diane von Furstenburg in New York, is returning to London from New York this season to show his eopymous collection.  Last season, Armani got into the act and was the toast of fashion week as he threw an unprecendented extravaganza with almost 100 models to show his diffusion Emporio Armani collection in London to coincide with the re-opening of his Emporio Armani store. Marc Jacobs is taking a page from Mr. Armani’s book this season where he will close LFW with his Marc by Marc Jacobs collection to launch his new store in Mayfair.

These two shows were coups for the BFC because many editors and press are obliged to come to show their support for these legendary designers (and to ensure the continued flow of cash from their big advertising budgets!). But the BFC would be wise to use this strategy carefully as it is trying to position itself as a launchpad for the best young international talent. If too many big name commercial designers begin to show in London, it could detract from the core of what London is all about: nurturing the great talent that might go unnoticed elsewhere.

London Fashion Week begins on Monday. Lets see what great talents emerge this time.