Designers Speak Out | Alternatives to Fashion Runway with Commercial Viability

In ten minutes the past few months of working on something is presented to the world.  The show itself is over so fast, and for myself, I only see it on a playback video after it’s over. – Brendan M Combs, designer.

With each show available for the viewing public, digitally, designers question where is the magic, the engagement, the intimacy and exclusivity?  They go on to say ‘the physical show goes by so fast and we are backstage’. They miss it all. They miss the engagement, the reaction, and mostly the dialogue with industry professionals. 

Emerging designers speak of alternative avenues for commercial success other than Fashion Week.
Tyra Banks Wears Marion Ayonote, Courtesy of Marion Ayonote

Exposure is the key in building brand awareness. A fashion business has many options of exposure. How do you communicate your brand to your audience and what means of exposure is most effective – fashion and trade shows, trunk shows, celebrity product placement, internet, social media, etc.? ]

Pop-up shops are like mini presentations. I get a chance to showcase the garments up close and personal with familiar and new clients. I find it great because they are able to ask me questions about my inspiration behind the garments. I find them asking suggestions on how the garment should be worn. I’m a people person so meeting my customer is a great way for me to understand their everyday lives – what occasion they are buying the garments for and what colors they find more appealing. Pop-up shops allow me to keep the exclusivity that my clients love so much. – Bishme R. Cromartie

Some have found social media a useful tool. But strange things do happen… I was on a call one morning at an event, when a Lady from California walked up to me and asked, ‘would you like to be in Hollywood’? And naturally, I thought she was off her rocker but a few months later my shoes were on the Red carpet at the Globes. Originality and hard work can pay off. – Marion Ayonote

Celebrity placements are great for exposure and a huge compliment. As you know stylists would only choose what they like, there isn’t much one can do about that. – Marion Ayonote Facebook Social Media

Media – social media, in particular – has tremendous reach, an image of ours can travel the world with a single tap. –Stella Proseyn

Social media and mainstream media with little shell out of capitalization but by reputation of the brand and designer. – Charles Cua and Melchor Guinto

As an emerging designer, I haven’t ventured into trade shows yet.  In due time, I believe. So far my most effective exposure has been word of mouth, fashion shows and the brand’s self or partner organized pop up shops. There is beauty in all these including social media, when you find out someone new has just discovered your brand. It is a fabulous feeling! The brand is continuously working on product placement and partnerships with a few gifted celebrity and influencers. I believe a steady mix of all these is always important.  I am thankful to God for his continued blessings. – Maryanne E. Mokoko


Finding the right showroom that can sell your brand and having smaller trunk shows selling directly to the consumers. – Mimi Wong 

I used to have runway shows but we moved to the trade show (ENK) for a few seasons. – Natsuko Kanno

I am a happy ‘trunk show’ designer (although I prefer to call myself a clothing engineer – but that is another story). I do trunk shows at boutiques around the country, to both get in front of new clientele, and to give the boutique owners a peek at the joy people find in putting on a really well made garment that was Made in the USA. – Laura Tanzer 

TRUNK SHOWS! I think that’s the best way for any upcoming designer to start.  With trunk shows, you get to personally engage with your customer. You learn your market from who walks to your booth and looks at your stuff.  It gives you the opportunity to practice selling your brand, develop a strong sense of customer service, and make a lasting impression throughout the event because you were able to make that connection!   Of all honesty, I’ve made more money doing trunk shows than anywhere else, and plan on continue that way until I find most of my clothes in stores. – Herbert Victoria

To introduce our collections to buyers, we employ a variety of marketing efforts. We shoot a lookbook each season, always with professional models, photography and hair and make-up. We put each new collection on our website and send emails to store buyers directing them to the site.  We also include a couple images in each correspondence, as well as print + mail physical postcards. We set up in-store appointments with local stores whenever possible, and step buyers through the collection that way. We also have shown at trade shows and in showrooms. – Stella Proseyn

Hearing and seeing how people respond to your work only happens if you set up a display and do a retail show. My work requires a structure, which happens to be the human form, for it to come to life. When someone tries on my work, I’m given a moment to view it from a new angle. Sometimes I can see where I want to change the piece or add one more detail. – Elaine Unzicker

Feature Image:  Courtesy of Style Fashion Week, LA [Designer, Richard Hallmarq]

Read more interviews on emerging designers and brands at EDGE Radar and learn more tips and best business practices in the EDGE-ucation category.

Rhonda P. Hill

Founder, Publishing Editor