In our global world, it has never been easier to discover, communicate with and trade fashion goods from all corners of the world. The Internet, social media and online retail platforms make the choice very wide, and – due to distribution – goods are delivered worldwide. Competition may be very hard, but the opportunity is there for new designers, new businesses and new business models.
The ever famous fashion capitals as London, Paris, Milan and New York are seeing new fashion capitals from all over the world claiming their own fashion weeks with local designers and creating quite a buzz about the novelty. Nothing in the whole world can ever replace Paris; enchanting, dark, sensual, Paris, but the new entries are indeed very refreshing. So how do these newer cities actually go about earning their right as new fashion capitals?
A lot of things have to be in place. First of all there shouldn’t be a historical tradition of being a fashion country – otherwise, quite logically the place wouldn’t be new. Secondly there should be a desire between young people to express themselves in terms of fashion, and the designers of course play an important role. Often they mix local traditions of handcraft with global tendencies, and the outcome is often very curious. To support the designers, decent education should be in place to help preparing them for their future with all its challenges.
A stable political situation is – for obvious reasons – also very crucial. Terrorism and political conflicts aren’t very beneficial for attracting the international fashion crowd, obtaining investment for the new brands, as well as earning in popularity abroad. I remember flying to Kiev in April in 2013, when the conflict was at its height. The team behind the Kiev Fashion Days made a proud job to go through with their schedule and promote Ukrainian designers under the powerful slogan ‘Fashion for Peace’, but the conflict surely made their work harder. If you were a shop in NYC, would you run the risk and place an order from a conflict-struck country? Probably not – who knows if they can deliver six months later.
The support of the government is necessary in order to offer the right education, support the fashion week and business in general, as well as the legal aspects affecting for instance trading agreements, tax etc. Hopefully they can see the benefit of the business as well as the value in creating a fashion culture.
Having an established fashion week requires mainly two things: a team organising everything from scheduling the shows, to inviting the right guests, and a sponsorship with a budget. This isn’t easy, but someone needs to take the first step and putting the energy, desire and aspirations of the young designers into a structured plan with local and global reach. Often fashion magazines will follow, and they help promoting the new vibe – while now also now having more to write about.
At this point, only two more things are really crucial: the first one is mentors or consultants to guide the young designers through the first, difficult, period on the international scene, and this should definitely be someone with global experience – from brand identity and marketing to sales and retail strategy. Such support can also be offered in connection with the organisation doing the fashion week.
The second and last thing are showrooms. Showrooms can either be mono- or multi-brand, and very often smaller designers gather in multi-brand showrooms, as a way of making a stronger statement, present more garments together, and making it easy for the buyers to see more collections. There are other ways of selling, but showrooms are popular in fashion. As with the actual shows, designers can choose to show in their own country or abroad, and, as currently a lot of buyers place orders in Paris, and this is then where the money is, even independent designers from London chose to show in Paris despite London having a fashion week of its own.
It will be really interesting to see, how the fashion world and fashion weeks develop in the future. At the same time, they need to be practical and time-efficient, while still maintaining fashion’s magical allure. There will be benefits of showing in the big cities, though the cost is also higher, and accommodating to the schedule and travel plans of the important people. This means, that while new fashion centres emerge with fashion weeks of their own, the new designers nevertheless support the traditional ones in a cultural fashion mix.