An open letter to Indy's fashion industry and the top tips I've learned from Fashion's big boys
Model Reine Abahala walks in Trendianapolis, a fashion show I produced in February.
Photo by Jordan Irwin.
Dear Indy's fashion community,
You know I love you. I love you so much that I participate in countless events, attend endless fashion shows, and blog about you constantly. I love that you're growing, I love that you're optimistic, I love the constant support and praise you give to one another. It makes me so excited about your future and I love being part of your network.
But in order to grow and improve, the Indianapolis fashion community needs criticism. Every great designer has had a negative review, and that's what makes them strive to be the best they can be. They learn from their mistakes, make necessary changes, and do better next time. It seems to me everyone is so busy being positive about Indy's fashion industry, that no one wants to talk about what we can improve upon. In my opinion, it's fashion shows.
While I have seen some very well produced shows in this city (Project IMA comes to mind), I have seen more bad ones. I have only put together a couple myself, but I have learned a ton from watching an insane amount of shows from NYC, Paris, London, and Milan. I realize Indy shouldn't just try to copy other peoples' fashion shows and we should be ourselves, but at the same time it doesn't hurt to learn some things from fashion's big boys. At the request of my lovely friend Kessara Dhana, I've put together a helpful list of some dos and don'ts we can all think about when producing a fashion show.
Alexander McQueen's S/S '04 show, Deliverance, was a choreographed fashion presentation based on the dance marathon movie They Shoot Horses Don't They?
Do: Be creative. For some reason, the standard formula for most Indianapolis fashion shows seems to go as follows: A tall white runway + DJ blasting techno and top 40 dance hits + emcee + three or four rows of white chairs on either side of the runway.
Not every fashion show should look the same! Alexander McQueen was famous for his eccentric venues including a specially constructed mental hospital, a 19th century Parisian dance hall, a giant chessboard, and my personal favorite, the Conciergerie, the spot where Marie Antoinette was beheaded. During one of Missoni's best shows, all of the guests sat on giant Moroccan pillows. It can be risky, but outdoor fashion shows can also be incredibly fun. While the locale doesn't have to be extravagant or exotic, thinking outside the box will set your fashion show apart from the rest.
Anna Wintour left Marc Jacobs 2007 fashion show early because it started late
Do: Start on time. Running 15 minutes behind is one thing, but a half hour late or more is flat out rude and inconsiderate to your guests. There is literally NO reason to be late, unless Beyonce is your guest of honor and her limo got caught in some traffic. I kid, I kid. There is no reason to be late. Even Marc Jacobs got torn to shreds after starting his show super late in 2007 because he was waiting on dresses to arrive. Anna Wintour walked out early and his other celebrity guests were pissed. Now the designer notoriously starts every show right on the dot. If he can do it, so can you.
Do: Prepare. Have fittings before the show. Make a descriptive list of the order of your looks, and which model is modeling which look. Make copies so every model knows his or her order. Do a run through. Give the model tips on how you want them to walk. Organize, organize, organize.
Do: Make an appropriate playlist. The songs you choose for your show should enhance the clothes on the runway. Most fashion shows I attend in Indy sound more like a Jersey Shore dance club than a fashion show, with DJs blaring overplayed techno tracks. Unless it's a club themed fashion show, this makes no sense. I know it's fun to get the crowd revved up, but try to do so in a more appropriate way.
Do: Make sure that photographers and/or videographers are attending your show. You will want to document all of your hard work!
Do: Edit your show. There is no need to include every piece a designer has ever made in your show. Also, if a piece is not quite to your standards, feel free to give the designer some direction. Again, constructive criticism can be a really good thing.
Chanel's Spring 2013 Couture show, a Neoclassical forest-theme extravaganza set in Paris' Grand Palais, boasted 68 looks and only took 18 minutes.
Don't: Take an intermission. For the love of humanity, a fashion show should not last two hours. Even Chanel's multi million dollar productions, with 60+ looks, rarely take longer than 20 minutes. You want to leave your audience wanting more, not wanting to bolt in the middle due to sheer boredom. A fashion show should be fast paced. If you want to turn it into a longer affair, have some pre-show entertainment or a cocktail hour. An added benefit of a cocktail hour is that guests will definitely get to their seats on time for the show.
Leave the sexy poses to the Victoria's Secret Angels, please.
Don't: Expect your models to pose like Victoria's Secret Angels. I can only think of a handful of reasons for a model to blow a kiss at the end of the runway, and chances are, your show is not one of them. I've seen many a good model look like a total tool trying to do a sexy pose at the end of the runway because the fashion show director told them to. Over-the-top posing never looks good. The focus should always be on the clothes. You don't want people paying more attention to how hilarious the models look awkwardly winking at the audience. Another thing I can't stand is when models are told to pose at the beginning, middle, and end of the runway. This takes so long. Again, a fashion show should be fast paced!
Don't: Assign seats. There aren't many mega celebrities attending fashion shows in Indianapolis, so it's pretty pointless to assign seats. It's embarrassing when multiple seats in the front row are left empty because of no shows, and I see it all the time. Unless you have a choice seat you want for a person taking pictures or writing about your event, the seating should be first come, first serve.
Don't: Choose a huge venue. You want your show to look busy and full, not sparse and empty. Only rent enough chairs for people who have bought tickets in advance. If you have more guests than you have chairs, make sure there's a good place to stand. It shouldn't be a big deal if the show is only 30 minutes or less. You don't want a ton of empty seats or your show will look like a flop.
Don't: Take on all the responsibility. Create a small committee in advance. You will need someone handling all the PR and marketing, someone getting sponsors (if you need them), and someone helping you coordinate models backstage during the show.