At Mercedes Benz Fashion Week this past week, the designers were nervous, the models thin, and the lights bright.
Fashion has always been a cut-throat business and the latest season is certainly no exception. One key noticeable addition though, is just how front and centre bloggers have become in the world of fashion commentary.
That favourable coverage from bloggers is just as important as mainstream press is a point not lost on up-and-coming designers.
Exhibiting for the first time at Fashion Week and as part of the New Generation show, Rukshani Gunaratne of her self-titled label, Rukshani, told Dynamic Business that fashion remains a very difficult industry to break into.
“It’s a known fact that it takes at least 2 years to break through. Social media is essential, and bloggers play a very important role in the fashion industry, so being on Instagram and Facebook are very important tools,” Ms Gunaratne says.
“As a new designer it’s very hard to make a name for yourself, and I think you need to be strong and really believe in yourself because it’s such a tough industry. So I think the thing is that for your first season you need to try and get as much exposure as you can, and at the moment I’m focusing on hiring a PR agency for me to do that. Secondly I’m actually doing my new season, because the timeline is so quick that we need to try and be ahead.”
Hong Kong based designer Doris Qiu is confident that her label, Doris Q will always have a home among buyers looking for unique pieces.
“Designers will always have a market in anyone who is looking for something unique and well made. I don’t think it’s a competition against fast fashion, I simply think the target market is different,” Ms Qiu says.
“If you’re 18 years old, you want something that is really fashionable you might go for Zara or Forever 21. But if you’re a bit older and you’re looking for something really well made and unique, and something that will last a couple of seasons and not just one, you’re probably looking for designer-wear.”
Anna Hoang, the designer behind label Anna Quan, also believes that quality design will always have a market. One way to get the word out there is to use social media to create a brand identity and following around more than just the clothes.
“I think that for getting the word out there, social media is obviously quite important, but it’s also about personalising your story and your message and what your label is about,” Hoang says.
“So with Instagram, some designers like to keep it all business and it’s clothes, clothes, clothes – but I like to put a few personal things in there so people know who I am too. It can be dorky, but I put in some of my fitness photos, because I’m training for a half marathon at the moment, and so if I’m on a long run I’ll take a picture of the scenery, because these are all things that inspire me and get me in the mood for designing and people like to see and understand where it all comes from.”
Ms Hoang adds that when it comes to fashion and design, the elephant in the room can be actually making an income. At this stage, Ms Hoang still works part-time using her law degree and doing legal work, and hopes to do design full-time in the future.
“I try not to make my plans too grand, and just go one step at a time. So like with this season, I’ve said I want to increase my exposure by x amount, or I want to hopefully take on another stockist or two, so it’s small steps. I think that if you break it down, it’s more achievable and you don’t get so overwhelmed about how to do it.”