Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Houston Fashion Week and What I've Learned About the Industry So Far

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="180" caption="Image via Wikipedia"]Official seal of Houston[/caption]

Houston Fashion Week has started and true to form, it's coinciding with Fashion Weeks all over the country and world. Paris, New York and a few others are also beginning their own fashion weeks.  I was invited to take part in the first ever Houston Fashion Week, but I had to decline.

I've taken part in two fashion show. One was quite large, held at the Hilton and came with big name people. I've turned down at least ten fashion shows in the last 4 months. I doubt if I will have time to partake in anymore this year and won't be available until February of next year. I have agreed to consider doing one hosted by Denim Down Jeans at that time. Oh, let me be honest. Probably not.

The Bushes at HFW

The former president and his wonderful wife are present at Houston Fashion Week to attend the launch of their granddaughters' Lauren Bush's new clothing line. With such big names behind her, her success  is a done deal. Lucky girl!

Very nice casual collection. Houston Fashion Week promises to launch one designer's collection. Put them in contact with cut and sew shops and retail stores to sell in. This is every designers dream. It's the reason we do fashion shows. Like actors and actresses, it's like we're taking any job (or fashion show) that we can get in for the exposure. All in hopes that we will be discovered.

Other designs

Very interesting design

I love those pants!!!

Ahhhh Haute Cotour!

The problem that I have with fashion shows is that there aren't usually any industry people in attendance. HFW will have some if the Bush's are involved, but if not for a former president and his first lady being in attendance, I seriously doubt there would have been much exposure. So you could say HFW really lucked out in have Lauren Bush's participation. Fashion shows are extremely expensive, with little or no return. I would participate in more of them if shop owners and design houses took part, but they only go to the Paris, Milan and New York shows. They go where everyone wants to be seen. They go there to be seen, not to buy anything. And those women that attend local fashion shows... same thing. They go there to be seen, not to buy anything. I have received not one single sale from a fashion show and many other designers I've spoken to haven't either. Sure, there's some exposure, but it's to the wrong people. (Not including the Bushes and all that come with that set.)

This is how it works. An organization will decide to host a fashion show, sell tickets, and make money. They will invite designers to take part. Fashion designers will take part in hopes of exposure and discovery. They are expected to pay for everything, get their own models, hair stylist and makeup artist. Oh, and lets not forget, provided their designs. It cost each designer $500 to take part in Houston Fashion Week, so you can imagine the additional cost that can be incurred during an entire week of fashion functions. And all of this was to take place during our busiest time of the year. For me, this is the time to pull my business out of the red and a whole lot of retailers are gearing up for the holiday season. This was the reason why I didn't take part in Houston Fashion Week. Another reason is that most designers will be featuring haute couture gowns and formal wear. I just had to be honest. That's not what I design. I would have felt obligated to come up with more formal wear to suit the occasion and I just didn't have time.  Sadly many of the designers that participate in any fashion show will walk away a few thousand dollars broker and nothing to show for it.

Here's another industry secret. Most fashion models work for free. (Obviously, not the Naomi Campbells and Christi Brinkley's of the industry.) Yep, they are exploited. Photographers, hoping to make a name for themselves will ask a model to work "tfp" (time of print = free). He takes the pictures, she gets some copies for her portfolio and the photographer may be able to sell some of the pictures to magazines and such. Or maybe not. Both the model and the photographer will ask designers, people like me, to borrow clothes to take those pictures in. What does the designer get? Once again tfp, so we'd get some of the pictures. Maybe. Hair stylist. Makeup artist. Same crap! Everyone is asked to work for free to gain exposure and hopefully be discovered. Sad, isn't it? I am invited to do a fashion show at least once a week. I am asked to loan out my clothes every couple of weeks. Photographers are the nastiest because they really think their doing me a favor. It didn't take long being in this business to find out how things really work. I now tell photographers and models alike that my designs are for sale, give them a link to my shop and tell them to have at it with their Visa card in hand. Oh, and lets not forget these online magazines and fashion shops that will feature your designs for a small fee. Or the fashion reviewers with Facebook and blog followers that will review your stuff if you send them some free items. Never to be heard from again.

Yes folks, this is the ugly truth behind the fashion industry. I am not talking about the big names. Small fries. People like me, trying to make it in the industry. We are surrounded by people who will use us and give us nothing in return while they manage to make a few dollars for themselves. Hence, I turn down most fashion shows, I find my models on the street and I take my own damn pictures. Everyone wants something for nothing. Don't you? I certainly do.


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