Lessons learned from Fashion Week LA

It was my first time participating at a fashion week event. I am Si Jie Loo, a visual and performing artist, and a new contributor of the EDGE team.  I owed it to EDGE for allowing me to assist in viewing and identifying innovative designers and see the nitty-gritty of carrying out fashion shows.

There’s no shortage of good writing and commentary about the content of what was shown during the Fashion week. You can refer to the fashion bloggers such as Tatiana Wilcox-Ha of society805.com or the fashion maven, Rhonda P. Hill of EDGE, for fashion insights. Here are highlights of what stood out to me and what I learned at LA Fashion Council Fashion Week Fall/Winter 2015.

LAFCFW2015 © Rhonda P. Hill
Photographer pit

1) My renewed appreciation and respect to photographers

Kudos to the photographers as they were always quick at positioning themselves in front of the runway to get the best shots. Many fashionistas and bloggers dressed to impress at the event, bringing with them their huge cameras, however most of them do not know how to work their cameras! I often caught them asking them on how the settings of their own camera right before the show!

LAFCFW2015 Vilorija © Rhonda P. Hill (3)

2) Fashion is business!

Many new and emerging designers have held successful shows, but might not end up with an order from buyers! Some do not seem to have samples for mass production. Executing a new idea on the runway for many might be it, but it could be argued that it is just the beginning. To be able to sustain themselves as fashion designers, they have to get attentions of retailers or an online platform to push sales.  As such, many collections could be read as conservative.

LAFCFW2015 © Si Jie Loo
Rhonda P. Hill at LAFCFW 2015

3) Media frenzies (and hashtags) are just one of the many Marketing strategies

Right, the word is exposure, getting people talking, but ultimately the creation of a fashion line is equal to a creation of a brand. And with that, a designers need to think about their identity, targeted audience, age groups, gender, culture , lifestyle pretty early on to engage in a successful marketing campaign. Business savvy people might put it this way: one may create an unexpected audience base on creative marketing; social media and news outlets are merely a tip of the iceberg.

LAFCFW2015 © Si Jie Loo Michael Ngo designer
Michael Ngo, finale

4) Good presentation is crucial

Besides wowing the audience with attention grabbing designs, a good presentation/ cat walk have to make sure their collection is coherent, concise, clean (detail-oriented design) and crisp.  That means lighting, selection of models, selection of music, the catwalk itself, brochure, booth, timing all working together within the short attention span of the audience. I was really surprised by how many details (inner hem, folding, materials, sewing of fabrics etc.) I can see under those dim lights during the fast paced catwalk.

5) The LA Fashion Council aka the organizers aka the curators

This is another group of fashion lovers who are dedicated enough to set the ambiance up to showcase the full potentials of the designers. From choosing of the grounds, hiring the right bartenders, hors d’oeuvres, sectioning the event areas into rest area, show grounds, atelier showed a lot heart. The amount of planning that took place is almost equivalent to a wedding planning.

LAFCFW2015 Vilorija © Si Jie Loo (10)
Vilorija, finale

Sometimes I wish that the Art world is as clear-cut as the Fashion world in terms of the facilitation and infrastructure. Perhaps I have not earned the access to see how things are run in the Art world yet, but what I see in the Fashion industry are clear players and a system that is put in place for it to run. We know who the designers, distributors, facilitators, press, media, buyers, fashion enthusiasts, make-up artists, stylist, writers are almost instantly in one setting.

Screen Shot 2015-01-02 at 2.51.31 AMWhereas on my end, I am my own manager, I run my own website, social media, and sometimes my own show. There is barely enough help and support in terms of facilities for new artists after college to know the business of art. I make art because I find value in myself to create. I hope that my art will generate value for the world, but at the same time, I also hope to receive something in return to sustain my passion. But the mere mentioning of money seems to be an insult to artists who make art for the sake of art.  So, it became the norm to take up odd jobs, unpaid internships just to get one foot at the door. Many of our hours are spent networking with the right people at the right event in hope to expose our work to an audience (who are not necessarily buyers), but in the fashion industry, the format is set: studio session, catwalk, event launch.

Loo Winds of Change | 54 inch by 27 inch. sumi ink and water color on rice paper
Si Jie Loo, artist | Winds of Change

Perhaps new artists can follow the format of the fashion world to run their art business?  First we generate the ideas, find the materials, find the right technique and design to execute the ideas, find ways to showcase them, find ways to mass produce, find ways to create variables of the same product so that we can create price discrimination for consumers from all levels, market them, get paid, creation get used/promoted in various media outlet and generate more conversation, create a new culture, new conversation, create new body of work and the list goes on….

Feature image:  Debbie Talanian of Stella Proseyn, finale

EDGE contributor | Si Jie Loo | artist