Ellie Dyson reports on Bloomsbury Institute’s event ahead of Gill Stark’s book release.

Bloomsbury Institute invited guests to attend a talk with Gill Stark, along with two other industry experts. The panel, comprised of Stark, fashion journalist Julia Robson, and fashion show producer John Walford, provided their expert advice on creating a successful fashion show, pairing it with experiences from their careers. Stark, author and Assistant Dean of Regents University London, is due to release her first book entitled ‘The Fashion Show’, on the 26th July, and is aimed at new designers and anyone wanting to enter the fashion industry. Below are key points from the discussion.

What are fashion shows used for?

London in the 1980s was a revolutionary period, featuring designers such as Vivienne Westwood, McQueen, and John Galliano. Fashion week grew bigger than ever in the 1980s because there was so much money, hope, and they made an impact on the audience. The practices which were revolutionary in this period created the template for what we know today. These days, however, due to high numbers of fashion events all year, we are oversaturated with choice, and consequently loyalty for one particular fashion show is diluted.

The catwalk is a great tool, both promotionally and as a platform to address global issues. Westwood, for example, used it from early on to raise her concerns on climate change, as she knew the major press would be there to report on that as well.

The fashion show is a powerful way to promote a brand, even more so with the rise of technology. In the 80s, the emotion created by the music, set and lighting is lost on the general population once it has been confined to a small article in a newspaper. Now, however, the show has the potential to be livestreamed to millions of people, allowing the digital audience to experience the emotional connection of the catwalk too. This connection then creates an attachment between brand and customer, a vital component to selling. These days, some shows and designs are even being created purely to look good on social media platforms and as single pictures online, as that is where they will be viewed.

Tips for a successful show

John Walford, one of the founders of Graduate Fashion Week, made the point that to get into Fashion Week these days, it’s more about who you can get onto your front row than how talented your collection is.

He went on to talk about one of his previous shows. There were rumours leading up to the show about how there was going to be a huge star present, and how the show wouldn’t start without their arrival. Eventually the lights dimmed, and a hush fell on the audience as a slight figure with a hat and one glove was ushered in to the venue. What the audience didn’t know was that this was a Michael Jackson look-a-like, but the rumours alone had driven traffic to the show.

People are forever asking why the models never smile. John says it’s because the model must act as a canvas, and any emotion of the model would detract from the clothes. This is the same with the makeup and hair. It is never designed to flatter the model – in fact, it could be very unflattering, but that doesn’t matter in the slightest if it makes the clothes look good.

How will fashion shows evolve in the future – Perspectives from the three panellists

Julia Robson’s view: Alexander McQueen’s SS10 show, tragically his last, ‘crashed the internet’ (Robson) when the site couldn’t handle the sheer number of people watching, and the stream went down. Live streaming will continue to grow to new areas as it allows members of the public to witness what they otherwise couldn’t, making fashion more accessible.    Fashion shows are still very important, but like everything else, they will change. The experience will become more about fashion influencers present on social media platforms. Augmented reality (AR) might become a part of it, for example sitting in the audience could become multi-sensory, similar to 4D films in the cinema.

Gill Stark’s view: Agreeing with Robson, Stark extended on the argument that augmented reality might become prominent, as resources like fuel become scarce, preventing guests from flying from country to country during Fashion Week. She believes there could also be a huge vegan and sustainable fashion boost in the future, in which designers are already leading the way.

John Walford’s view: The previous panellists commented on how technology can engage consumers with fashion in a greater way, but it could also take a U-turn. Fashion could become more unobtainable, with only a small group of people being allowed to the shows, or to buy the product. This exclusivity would drive up prices and interest, and is similar to the original salon shows before the catwalk became what it is today.

Creating a show for the first time

A designer needs to know they’ll have enough money to do a second show before even planning a first, or they won’t be taken seriously. The industry might notice the first show, take an interest in the second, and then attend the third. They need to see potential for progression.

And how much for a show? You’re looking at a tidy minimum estimate of £12,000, which covers everything from venue, models, PR, production and goody-bags. Plenty of designers look for unconventional approaches to saving money, showcasing their collections in carparks, and juggling a whole slew of job roles themselves.

Robson closed the discussion by mentioning the importance of collaboration. It joins the customer base of two brands, and drives more interest and traffic to the shows. Collaboration can happen with a range of brands, allowing designers access to footwear, accessories and even refreshments. Catering, even just drinks, can cost a fortune for a crowd, and cutting the cost of this keeps overheads to a minimum.

The event finished with Stark thanking Bloomsbury Institute for publishing her book, and the attendees were given early access to the book, with the invitation to have it signed.

‘The Fashion Show’ is due to be released on the 26th July 2018.
You can see more of Ellie’s work on Instagram by following @elliejdyson

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