8 Tips for Making a Successful Impression at Alternative Fashion Week

Discover how a website and social media can maximise your career prospects in fashion.

Written by Amelia Gregory

Alternative Fashion Week Day 5 2010
All photography by Amelia Gregory.

Alternative Fashion Week is a wonderful thing, truly, but as I have written about it over the past week the one thing that has struck me time and time again is the lack of information surrounding the event and its participants. As I tried to research the designers it has, at times, felt a bit like I have adopted the mantle of a detective. I am truly flabbergasted at the lack of facts available to any interested parties wanting to chase up a fashion designer.

Quite often within the arts there seems to be huge support to launch a creative endeavour, and then zero ongoing relationship, including making it as easy as possible for someone to contact a designer or artist. The sheet that I received listing the designers showing at Alternative Fashion Week was almost impossible to read. Not only did it bear no relevance to who showed on what day (understandable – I am sure things changed around at the last minute) but the designers weren’t even listed in alphabetical order. I mean c’mon folks, I know money must be tight, but this was an unforgivable error. I tried to be as accurate as possible in my reviews but it took so long to cross check the names that a lazier journalist would simply have given up, thus denying the designers promotion.

Alternative Fashion Week Day 5 2010 Immani da silva
This is not fashion by the way, this is glamour modelling.

I imagine sponsorship money was quickly prioritised for other things: a (naff) band, a proper stage, marquees etc. But in my opinion the part that was neglected is one of the most important, and that is providing the selected designers with the knowledge and networks to ensure that their catwalk show wasn’t a one-off shot at recognition. This should come in the form of advice not only of how to maximise impressions on the day, but also before the show, and well beyond. Alternative Fashion Week doesn’t even have it’s own website, but a grotty html page on the Alternative Arts website. It’s pretty pathetic, truth be told. Alternative Fashion Week should at least have it’s own blog: hardly a costly thing to set up. It should be on twitter, and it should have a website presence of its own with profiles of every designer involved, with links to their own websites.

And this is where I get really irked: almost none of the designers involved had a website, or any kind of web presence. Believe me, I spent enough time googling all of them to know what is out there. There’s really no excuse for this – the first thing anyone does if they want to find out about something – anything – these days, is to google it. It takes moments to set up a blog, twitter feed, LinkedIn profile or Facebook fan page, and it’s such an easy way to let people know what you do and how they can find you. Neither did many of the designers have a business card on them ready to hand out. And there’s more…

Alternative Fashion Week Day 5

In the absence of any visible web support from the people behind Alternative Fashion Week, here then is my DIY guide to fashion designers who want to make an impression, based on my observations backstage at the 2010 shows in Spitalfields Market. I don’t by any means offer this as a conclusive list, but something that will hopefully be helpful for anyone taking part in a similar event in the future. And this applies to any catwalk show anywhere in the world, or at a push, to almost any creative event (apart from the model bit obviously):

8 Tips for Making a Successful Impression at Alternative Fashion Week:

Beforehand:
1. I know you’re busy, we all are. But if you are going to do a massive promotional event, make sure that you take a tiny bit of time to set up some kind of web presence beforehand. It takes MOMENTS to set up your profile on a social network. You should really have a professional presence on your own website or blog, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, but if you’re too busy to get your head around all of them I would absolutely implore you to set up a twitter feed with a good url that reflects your professional name. It literally takes no time at all. Start twittering about everything that is happening in the run up to your catwalk show – all the hard work, who you are speaking to, where you source your materials from, all of that kind of thing – a few weeks before hand. And set up a blog to post photos of your work. This is also really simple, and you can link it to your twitter every time you post something.

Alternative Fashion Week day 3 2010 Am Statik
Models for Am Statik.

2. Send out a promotional email to anyone you think might be interested. Amy Day of Am Statik sent me an email a week or so before Alternative Fashion Week which I skim read. I’d never heard of her before but she included some nice photos, which not only reminded me to attend all of the shows, but meant that I remembered her name when she presented her clothes on the catwalk. She was also there handing out business cards and being photographed with her models at the end. And she has a website, a Facebook page and a twitter feed. Take note: this is how it should be done.

On the Day:
3. Make sure you have got business cards in your hands at all times (or in a pocket, or in a bag over your shoulders) These should have a contact email and any web presence printed on them. Plus an image of your collection wouldn’t hurt either so that people will remember which one it is. Business cards are extremely easy and cheap to print these days. Try Moo.com. If someone looks interested, for god’s sake don’t wait for them to ask, just give them a business card. Even an interested person will find it really hard to remember your name when they’re watching so many shows. And ask them for their business card, or their name (and remember it). If your hands are full find a willing friend to help you out – maybe they can go around handing out promotional postcards to the audience whilst you are running around backstage liking a whirling dervish?

4. Models: I would highly recommend that you find your own models. Quite a lot of people at Alternative Fashion Week were sharing models which meant they didn’t have time to stop and pose after the catwalk. Yes, it can seem daunting to find your own, but it is possible, and they don’t have to be perfect. Either cajole friends into doing it, or go chat up some cute people on the street (otherwise known as street-casting, a great way to talk to attractive people!) If you have to hand your models over to another designer straight away then they won’t be able to hang around backstage and in the audience, showing off your designs and generally being available for lots of lovely photographs.

5. Make sure your models know that the camera is their friend on the big day – your friend/mum/sister may normally hate posing for photographs but it is their job to make your clothes look fabulous – so tell them to pose like their life depends on it, or artfully continue what they’re doing (photographers like natural documentary style reportage too) whenever they see a camera pointing in their direction, even when they have left the catwalk. Being shy is no good, so if at all possible pick your most exhibitionist cohorts to model. You want as many fabulous photos of your designs to be taken as is humanly possible because you never know where those pictures are going to end up. They could just make the front page. Which is not to be sniffed at, even if it is just the front page of East End Life.

Alternative Fashion Week Elif Muzaffer
Elif Muzaffer makes sure she is in the photo with her models. I would not always recommend this – make sure the photographers are also able to get shots of the models alone.

Afterwards:
6. If anyone showed interest in your collection then you should follow them up in the first few days after the show. Do not rest on your laurels! This is your chance, so grab it. If they gave you their card send them a friendly email to say it was nice to meet them, and if they didn’t go and google them – if they are professional they will have a website presence (as you should do) – and then get in touch. Elif Muzaffer was very proactive in contacting me after I gave her my business card; not only did she email me that very night, but she promptly set up a blog when I asked how I could link to her. She did it there and then, complete with pictures from the catwalk, so that I could link to it from my online review. It’s never too late to get on top of your web presence.

7. Update your social media as soon as possible – get on twitter and start raving about how great your catwalk show was. Post pictures of your collection on your blog. Get into the habit of googling your name and that of your professional fashion brand to see who is talking about you. It’s what every professional does! Use Google Alerts for this – a very handy service that tracks who is talking about you so you don’t even need to. Then twitter about all this lovely press you are getting, so people can see how well you are doing. It’s all about creating that elusive “buzz” if you want to have a stella career in fashion.

8. Don’t ever just expect to sit back and relax. The work never stops in this industry – you’ve got to be constantly promoting yourself, and if you’re serious about becoming a fashion designer this aspect of your chosen career will never let up. Your exposure on the catwalk at Alternative Fashion Week is merely the start. As with every creative industry, it doesn’t matter how talented you are, if you don’t promote yourself then you will never be as successful as you could be. Unless you were born with famous parents of course. Peaches Geldof, Lily Allen, ahem.

Good Luck! and if you’ve got any other tips, I’d love to hear them in the comments below.

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2 Responses to “8 Tips for Making a Successful Impression at Alternative Fashion Week”

  1. Lucy says:

    As a designer who’s shown at all sorts of venues, including London Fashion Week, I congratulate Amelia on such a totally awesome article.

    All I have to add is this – picture editors love either full length images of the model on a white background or a from the waist up photo of two models so do try and get these shots on the day or beforehand too.

  2. Amelia says:

    Hi Lucy, thanks for your comment, I really appreciate the feedback – and thanks also for a really good addition to the article too, Amelia x

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