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Who needs a fashion show in 2024?

How to spend 200,000 euros as an alternative to a fashion show

Who needs a fashion show in 2024? How to spend 200,000 euros as an alternative to a fashion show

Just as sustaining an independent brand doesn't only mean knowing how to design beautiful clothes, staging a fashion show during Fashion Week doesn't only involve choosing the models who will wear the looks. When the goal is to project a brand into the fashion Olympus—or simply onto the Milan Fashion Week calendar for FW25—every decision comes with a significant cost. The question is becoming increasingly urgent: is it really worth it for an emerging brand to participate in Fashion Week? The event represents a milestone for success in industry language, but the price to pay remains insurmountable even for those with the support of an investor. In the course of 2023, established independent designers like Dilara Findikoglu publicly addressed the economic challenges they face, but it seems that nothing has changed: subsidies and spaces offered to small businesses wanting to participate in Fashion Week fail to cover the exorbitant costs of a show. Fortunately, today there are endless other ways to advertise; you just need something to say and the courage to break away from a cumbersome framework that, year after year, reveals its flaws without having the courage to fill them. 

Despite the lack of support from institutions, brands can still rely on the strength of their community to overcome obstacles imposed by the fashion system. The expense of a show is not limited to space rental and casting; according to Starting Finance calculations, the overall price ranges from $100,000 to $1 million. Considering that currently, event invitations are sent rather than sold - except for rare cases where true black markets for tickets are launched, but even then, brands don't profit - and that the success of a show does not necessarily guarantee a surge in sales, there is no effective way to recognize the economic impact of a show. If, according to Launchmetrics' MIV, Pharrell Williams' first show for Louis Vuitton Men last June reached a value of $16 million on social media, but the actual results of the collection are only being recorded now with the arrival of the collection in boutiques, it is evident that for an emerging brand, an expense of over $200,000 cannot be cost-effective, at least not in the immediate term. It should be added that the Fashion Week audience does not always coincide with a brand's customer base, let alone with the community: just as influencers are seated in the front row to boost engagement, the designer clothes they wear are often gifted to them.

So, if shows are too expensive and there are more practical alternatives, should independent brands abandon the Fashion Week calendar once and for all? «The system has led us to believe that only a large budget can produce a 'relevant' event; we are proof that this is not true: what is really needed is inventiveness and having something to tell,» say Simone Botte and Filippo L.M. Biraghi of Simon Cracker, a brand launched in 2010 and part of the CNMI calendar since 2021. For them, collaborations are the driving force of independent fashion, even though attending Fashion Week continues to be an experiment to have fun with. «The projects that, from our point of view, have worked better are those we have done by joining forces with others, be it collaborations with other brands, events in stores that sell our clothes, or workshops in schools.» As Botte and Biraghi explain, the issue is not the runway show itself, but the structure that has kept it unchanged until now.«For the shows, we have never received any financial support from institutions; our strength lies in involving people who share our thoughts and philosophy,» add Botte and Biraghi. «We use our clothes and our presence on the calendar as a bargaining chip, but the help that comes from the people close to us is truly incredible and priceless.» Fashion Week has lost its charm because the new generation has different timing and values than the old guard. For independent brands, the community is the real key to success, not in events that exclude it, and if in 2024 it is impossible to find a space within the system, nothing prevents them from looking elsewhere.