Working in the fashion industry – How does a small luxury brand get noticed?

Setting up for a fashion fair in Paris.  When we arrive there are three display walls and we have one day to prepare for the show.
Setting up for a fashion fair in Paris. When we arrive there are three display walls and we have one day to prepare for the show.

After my maternity leave my job has changed considerably.  I now work almost exclusively from home.  I think that next year that may change, but for now it is a welcome pleasure.   I want my son to speak English and the only real time I have with him to give him a good solid English foundation is now,before he goes to school and becomes fully immersed in Italian.

 

But this wasn’t always the case.  For the last five years I have had a really interesting job here in Italy, representing a super luxury accessory brand, that was relatively unknown.

Italy is filled with fashion

 

How do all of these small artisan companies get their products out there in the real world; in front of buyers, customers and retailers?  FASHION FAIRS.

 

If you follow any of the Fashion Weeks from New York to Milan to Florence to Paris or London, you may be well aware of all the street style trends and the big names that do the runway shows.  But did you know that there is a whole other side to Fashion Weeks?

The Tradeshows!

The Fashion Trade Shows otherwise referred to as Fashion Fairs,  work just like any conference or fair, but with a lot more wine and champagne and style!

As a brand you choose which fair you want to attend, most of the time there are numerous in every major fashion city around the world, and they all happen during the Fashion Week of that city.

A brand decides which Fashion Week is best suited to them. For example in Europe January and June are reserved for Menswear. We participated in these European Fairs WHITE in Milan, TRANOI in Paris and PITTI in Florence.

Then there are the women’s shows.  The only women’s show we participated in was in March and October every year in Paris.

After you know which trade show you want to present at, you contact them, present the brand, wait for approval, pay your fees and prepare your stand.  Then the rest is just like any other trade show except for one small difference.

 

Selling fashion is NOT like selling anything else!  What you put on your body can greatly affect how your clients perceive you and your brand.  Whereas with any other trade show a business suit and pumps are ok, people working the fashion trade shows often show up to work in tank tops, head to toe black, 7 inch heels, capes, veils…you name it I’ve seen it.

 

Fashion Buyers

 

I remember going to New York once and having a meeting with a fashion buyer for a major luxury retailer.  I was sitting in his office and he was wearing a normal grey suit.  The same buyer came by our stand in Paris the following season to say hi, and he was in a silk flowy tanktop, several chain necklaces, nice chino pants rolled to the ankle with designer shoes (no socks obviously) and his hair was similar to Beiber’s!

 

The fashion trade shows represent the opportunity to all these major fashion types to show off to the bloggers of the world, other buyers, brands, journalists and other fashion types that they have been doing their homework and have invested in the latest styles, the most daring trends and the most cutting edge fashion statements.

 

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Me in our stand during our first time exhibiting at the TRANOI fashion Fair in Paris.

 

Faking it.

 

So how do you dress to impress these people when they are wearing shoes that cost what I pay yearly in rent and tops (no less see through with no stitching) that cost like 6 months of groceries?

 

You fake it.  You research. You use creativity. You guess. And you develop your own personal style that is a million times cooler than looking like everyone else.

So, for those of you who don’t know, in Italy a Manager earns like a fast food worker in North America…..next to nothing.  This is why I invented my own fashion philosophy and the concept of Fashion Foresight™!

I would study fashion magazine “trends” and tendencies but not to understand what I should be wearing today or tomorrow, but to try to guess what I should be wearing a year from now.

Just like  fashion designers try to guess what people will want to wear, I tried to guess what I should be wearing.  Sometimes it was a hit and sometimes it was a miss.  But I had no other choice.

I was already  wearing feathers when the feather trend hit the Paris boutiques.  Once, I actually had a store clerk from the most expensive boutique in Paris ask me where I got my purse (an off-white feather clutch) and who the designer was.

I had paid 25 bucks for that purse (to tell the truth my mommy bought it for me!)  a year earlier.   I was visiting Canada, and in the suburban neighborhood where my mom lives we got a flyer in the mail saying there was a sample sale going on in a hotel around the corner.  All the bags were between 10 and 50 bucks, and I choose this great feather covered clutch.  Of course in any normal situation a feather covered clutch might not be your first go-to accessory, but I had been studying and noticed a feather tendency was coming up.  It was a total hit!

 

Stress

 

Working in Fashion isn’t always glamorous.  I bet most bloggers, buyers and sellers totally stress over what to wear.  Lest we forget that working in an industry where image is everything, means you are constantly aware of how others see (*cough* ahem judge *cough*) you.

 

I think it is important to remember to stay true to your personal style, and also to your personal budget.