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Saturday, January 26, 2013

Tips on exhibiting at a Fashion Trade Show

With the S/S 14 selling season upon us, many designers and fashion labels are in the last stages of preparation for exhibiting at a trade show, whether at  London Fashion Week, or showing internationally.

So this seems a good time to highlight what I have learnt in my 15 years at showing at such exhibitions, as despite the hight cost of showing at a trade show, it's surprising how many brands don't make the most out of their investment.
Define your aims and expectations

As I explain in Chapter 7 of my Design Create Sell book, trade shows give you access to new national and international buyers and build brand awareness with stockists that wouldn't normally know about you.

Trade events offer opportunities to:-

  • Find new trade buyers
  • Find agents/distributors
  • Meet, press, bloggers, /stylists
  • See what your competitors are up to
  • Get inspiration and new ideas.
It's helpful to be clear about what you hope to achieve and why you are showing. Some shows are more about PR than actually taking orders. If it’s your first time exhibiting, don’t expect to recoup all your costs at your first event. Buyers often want to see you for a few seasons before having the confidence to order.

Set yourself measurable goals – eg 5 new stockists, re-orders from existing customers, 20 new leads.

Tips and Check-lists


  • Contact existing and new potential target customers – send them an invitation for the show and follow up with a call – try and get them to make an appointment to see you on the stand.
  • Use your social media presence to promote where you are showing.  Post information, pictures and/or videos (perhaps a preview of a new product or video invitation to visit the stand).  The goal is to let people/prospects know the who, what, where, when and most importantly, the why they should visit you at the stand. 
  • Be constantly in touch with whoever is making your samples to make sure they are on schedule.
  • Plan carefully the sample collection you are taking with you to the show. Don’t make too many pieces as nothing looks worse than a cluttered stand – have some show-stoppers that will attract buyer/press/stylists – they may not be the pieces that sell but will attract attention. Ideally your collection should include entry/mid and high price points to attract a broad base of customers. 
  • Design your stand 'fit-out' in advance. Check what is included in the stand package and order extras. It’s often more expensive if you order on the day.
  • Make sure you've organised  the delivery of your samples/displays to the venue and ensure your samples are  insured on site, in storage and in transit
  • If exhibiting overseas, choose reliable freighters and shipping agents and check they have all the relevant customs / import documentation in place.
 Stand Display
  • Don’t have a physical barrier between you and the buyer.
  • Keep your display simple and minimal.
  • Maximise space especially vertically.
  • Ensure you order enough lights.
  • Have some display above head height so it can be picked out over a crowd.
  • Keep the look of your stand consistent with your brand identity so that buyers recognise you at subsequent events.
  • Allow for a space to sit and write orders. 
  • Think about taking a computer display or tablet to show off your website/videos   and to give  access to your social media pages to allow users to “Like” the brand on Facebook or follow on Twitter.

Paperwork/Info to take with you
  • Order book.
  • Lookbook/marketing materials.
  • Line sheet/Wholesale price list.
  • Business cards.
  • Press packs.
  • Information on lead times and delivery dates/minimum orders.
  • You will be selling your products at wholesale price so it is customary to show prices exclusive of VAT. If showing abroad it is helpful to have prices in local currency eg euro or dollars. You may be asked for the Recommended Retail Price (RRP)which is the price the retailer will sell the product at including their mark up
  • Bulk prices for large orders.
  • Info on your trading terms eg pro-forma, 30% deposit - balance on delivery, or credit?
  • Notebook to record comments and enquiries  from / about (potential) buyers next to business card stapled to page as an aide memoir for follow up phone calls after the show.
  • Make daily notes on the day’s events and feedback from customers so you remember what you should take into consideration when planning next seasons collection and events.
  • Deadline for placing orders.
  • Stationery including plenty of pens, stapler, staples and sellotape.
Staffing the stand
  • Take water – it's often hot and dehydrating at exhibitions
  • Wear comfortable shoes and clothes
  • Brief all staff (as they may be temporary)so they are knowledgeable on the product and terms.
  • Staff should always smile be friendly but not overbearing – not stand at edge of stand and make a barrier.
  • Keep your stand clean, tidy and dust-free.
  • No eating on stands! Arrange someone to cover breaks.
  • Always, always ask for business cards from visitors.
 After the event

  • Follow up order confirmations and chasing new leads. Contact everyone you saw and thank them for coming. 
  • Continue to post pictures and video from the event.  Again social media can also assist with your follow up.  It provides the opportunity to present images, messages, video and other branded content in such a way that will allow potential customers to learn about the brand.
  • Produce a final budget working out expenditure versus sales – was it worth it.? Remember though, with a trade show can’t tell for a while as takes a while to generate orders. 
Finally - make sure you enjoy it. Let me know how you get on!

You can find out more about trade shows and how to decide what other sales channels are available for fashion brands at our forthcoming Routes to Market workshop on 2nd October 2013 .

By Alison Lewy

Monday, January 21, 2013

Exhibition Review: Valentino ’Master of Couture’ at Somerset House

Last week we finally made it to the Valentino exhibition at Somerset House braving the searing cold wind blowing in from the Thames as we crossed the courtyard.

This glamorous retrospective was created by Somerset House to celebrate Valentino Garavani’s 50 years of being in the haute couture business, and as you walk in and see the timeline’s mounted on the walls, you really get a sense of Valentino’s tremendous output having clothed so many ‘glitterati’ during the last 5 decades.
Valentino with models 2007 c Lorenzo Agius
The first section features large glass cabinets mounted on rows of Louis XV style chairs, such as those used during couture presentations – a simple but imaginative display tool. The cabinets house a selection of invitations to the Valentino couture shows, press cuttings, numerous thank you letters from his celebrity and Royal clientele, and also some original sketches.

The upstairs gallery housed the 130 pieces on show and formed a dramatic entrance. The Valentino clad mannequins seem to be arranged in day wear or evening wear clusters either side of a long 60m carpeted corridor which runs the length of the gallery thus giving them the appearance, that they are the audience and you, the visitor, are the model walking down the catwalk of a fashion show.

The clothes were interspersed with chairs reserved for luminaries such as “Audrey Hepburn” "Gisele", "Iman", and “Julia Roberts". The mannequins had numbers on the wrists and were grouped together by colour – each colour representing a decade from the 1950s onwards.

The brochure is essential to identify the pieces (hence the numbers), and to see if the garment was worn by anyone famous, as there isn’t any interpretation information within this section of the exhibition.

Back downstairs to the lower gallery in the third room there was a show piece wedding designed and worn by Princess Marie Chantal of Greece. A spectacular pearl-encrusted ivory silk wedding gown with a four and a half metre train and 12 kinds of lace, made in 1995 by 25 of Valentino's seamstresses.

The last room was particularly interesting for me. Large glass cabinets housed samples of fabric giving a close up view of some of the different sewing techniques used in the garments – some of which are exclusive to Valentino’s atelier. This included Drappeggio: chiffon and silk draped on the bias, Nervature: double seamed organza silk with line detailing and Budellini: double charmeuse silk rolled and sewn around lopped wool strands. A useful glossary of all the techniques is at the back of the brochure. There are also videos running of ’ Le Regazze’ (the girls) at work in the studio stitching these techniques.

As you’d expect the evening wear is the strongest part of the exhibition. Valentino’s collections could not be classed as cutting edge and he’s never particularly followed fashion, however his timeless couture creations, epitomise glamour and high-end craftsmanship. This is why year after year celebrities flock to him to for their red carpet fix.

My 5 favourites – a hard task but here goes...

  • #31 A/W90/91 Autumnal coloured chiffon evening dress with drappeggio detailing
  • #51 S/S1993 White chiffon evening gown with budellini detailing
  • #52 S/S 2003 White charmeuse evening dress
  • #64 A/W 92/93 Black velvet and tulle evening dress (as worn by Julia Roberts at the 2011 Oscars)
  • #69 A/W 92/93 Black velvet and satin evening dress

I really enjoyed this exhibition and would recommend  a visit to anyone with an interest in couture and craftsmanship. If I have any criticisms, it would be the lack of information on display within the garment part of the exhibition, it was a bit irritating to have to keep referring to the brochure - and I would have loved to have seen images of clients wearing the clothes alongside the mannequins.

Do let me know which were your favourite dresses!

By Alison Lewy

Running until 3 March, 10am-6pm daily.
Late night openings Thursdays until 9pm.
Admission £12.50, Concessions, £9.00

Friday, January 18, 2013

Video of the week - Behind the Scenes at Vivienne Westwood

Ever wanted to see what it is like backstage at a Vivienne Westwood runway show? Then watch this....
Vivienne Westwood’s Milan menswear Fall-Winter 13/14 show was held on Sunday 13th January this year. In this video we get to see backstage and hear from the models and Vivienne herself. Vivienne talks about how her menswear ideas are sometimes evolved from her womenswear designs as well as discussing her views on climate change.
Also in the video, some of the models show us their outfits, and overall looks including accessories, hair and make-up. The garments shown show the upcoming trends such as dark colours, with pinstripes, check and plaids.
This is a photograph of Vivienne Westwood, flanked by husband Andreas Knonthaler and models at the show.
What do you think of the show?
By Sophie Gunn

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

London Collections: Men

London Collections: Men is being showcased this week, from 7th-9th of January. London emphasises British brands and emerging talent during this period showing their creative and commercial importance. With designers, such as Christopher Raeburn, Alfred Dunhill, Tom Ford, Lee Roach and Burberry, it is going to be a showcase to remember. Menswear has suddenly grown so quickly in the industry so it is a great way of showing equality in the way womenswear is portrayed.

Vivienne Westwood’s show is later on today but she has already been tweeting some of her sketches giving us all a sneak peak of what is yet to be seen. 

Vivienne Westwood's Sketches

Lou Dalton's AW13 collection at the fashion event had a grungy 1990s feel to it. It included tartan and PVC features, wool knitwear, welded toe capped boots, contrast panel jackets and slim-fitting tailoring. I love how the Scottish heritage fabrics are used in a tailored way to create a different way of looking at tailor-made clothing. I think the mixture of fabrics and styles work well together creating a focused and tight showcase. What do you think?

Here are some more photographs from the 'London Collections: Men,' so far from this week:

Design By MAN

Design By RAKE

Design By MAN

Friday, January 4, 2013

Fashion Business Planning for Success.

As the 2013 kicks in, and the A/W 13 selling season is about to start, I though it would be timely if our first blog for the New Year focused on an important business focused New Year resolution.

If you are thinking of starting up a new fashion related business or are running a business without a clear strategy in place, I'd like to suggest your resolution is

‘I'll make a start on my business plan’ 

This topic is something I cover in my book Design Create Sell – a guide to starting and running a successful fashion business, and one of the most requested subjects I am asked to talk about at speaking engagements.

So why do you need a business plan?

Most budding entrepreneurs have heard of a business plan, however many think it’s something you only need if you are approaching banks for a loan or are looking for investment. Whilst this is true, your business plan is also your personal roadmap, as it will be central to your business development; outlining your goals, visions and objectives. As time goes on, you will use it to measure your actual progress against your projections.

‘Failing to plan if planning to fail’

I can’t stress how important it is to have a strategy in place and to start a business plan at the beginning of your business journey. It is essential for any enterprise, but the diversity of product and customers in the fashion industry means to have a chance of success you must be able identify where your product/idea sits within the overall marketplace. A business plan will help you think this through.

If you are a creative person this could take you out of your comfort zone but it doesn't have to be tackled all at once – most plans take a few weeks, or even months, to build. As you go through the process you will undoubtedly come across some problems you hadn't thought of – by planning in advance you have the opportunity to think of solutions.

Much of the information going into the plan will be in your head so it’s a matter of articulating your thoughts and putting them down on paper to start with and as it will take some time to pull together, the sooner you start, the better.

Tips on Writing a Business Plan

Start by dividing your plan into the sections below and try and answer the following points within each section. (There isn't a hard and fast rule as to how long a business plan should be, but you should aim for one to two pages for each section.)
Executive summary
  • Although this sits at the beginning of your plan, it’s usually something you do at the end, once the rest of your plan is more or less finished. It should be no longer than  two pages, with just a couple of sentences summarising each section of your plan, as the finer details will be in the main body.
  • An overview of the market segment you are moving in to
  • The legal status of your business
The Concept
  • Describe your business – what are you going to design or make?
  • Mission statement – in one or two sentences, state your personal vision for the business.
  • Who is your target market? 
  • Are you filling a gap in the market, or have you found a solution to a problem?
  • What about your designs and/or concept is it different to those already in the market? In other words, what is your Unique Selling Point (USP)?
Sales and Marketing
  • What is the size of the market like that you are going in to? Is it a growing market? 
  • Who are your competitors? What is your competitive advantage? 
  • Have you identified a clear niche?
  • Is your brand identity easy to distinguish?
  • How will you get wholesale buyers or retail customers to find out about you
  • How will you build brand awareness and attract press coverage?
  • What is your background and your role in the business?
  • Is there anyone else involved in the business, and if so what are their roles?
  • Do you have any other support structures that can help such as a business mentor, accountant, etc.?
  • What additional staff or expertise may you need to operate successfully?
  • Where will you run your business from?
  • Are you going to need to invest in any special equipment?
Production and Sourcing
  • How and where will you get your product made?
  • Can it be produced at a competitive price point, suitable for your target market?
  • Where will you source your raw materials from, e.g. materials, trimmings, fittings?
  • How much money will you need to get started? Think about how much your sample collection will cost to produce, include fixed overheads and ongoing costs. If you’re projecting sales orders at a certain level, how much finance will you need to produce your orders? You will need to include profit and loss projections and a cash flow forecast. 
  • Can you obtain this money, either from friends, family, savings, bank, or any other options? 
SWOT Analysis
  • This stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats and is a useful exercise to self-analyse your business.  
The good news is that if you are between 18-30 you may be eligible for a 2.5k loan* and FREE business mentoring with Fashion Angel under the Government’s Start Up Loan scheme. As an official delivery partner we can fast track you on to the programme. To find out more just email info@fashion-angel.co.uk and we’ll send you an info pack and application form.

The key when approaching anyone you want to borrow from is to make sure that your business plan is credible. The financial section is absolutely critical to your plan as it will identify your projections for how the business will grow - in terms of both profits and income - and what financing you will need to make that happen. More information on finance is covered in Chapter 10 of the Design Create Sell book.

Remember - This is not a static document; it needs to be amended as your business develops and changes so worth reviewing at least every three months or so.

You can also get help creating your own business plan by booking a place at our next workshop ‘Fashion Business Planning’ on 22nd January. This practical session will guide you through the business planning process and how to go about the research needed.

One thing I can promise you – once you have a plan in place you’ll  have a great sense of achievement and find it much easier to be focus on your business goals.

Good luck and let me know how you get on!
By Alison Lewy