September 16, 2011 09:28
| Shopping and Sales
There is a noticeable change this year at London Fashion Week. Designers like JW Anderson, Bodyamr and Antipodium are holding presentations rather than catwalk shows. Does this mean that catwalk shows are rapidly growing out of reach for most fashion designers? And does this have a knock on effect in terms of how the brand sells?
I believe a fashion paradigm shift is happening and designers have a chance to think out of the box. Retail – yes, lowly retail – is the key to success and in this current economic climate, there is an opportunity to do things differently.
Retail is exciting but the fashion industry often ignores it with its relentless focus on magazine coverage and celebrity. Let's face it, the famous faces on the front row far outweigh the customers. I worked for a famous designer in the 80s who was obsessed with magazine and celebrity, neither buyers or customers were on his radar. He probably visited his retail outlet once at its launch, it was considered commercial and uninteresting. It was not rock n'roll enough!
I have been in fashion retail for many years selling high end brands such as Vivienne Westwood and Martin Margiela, alongside up and coming brands to my client base at Designer Sales UK. I studied fashion design, and worked for French Connection and Warehouse whilst studying. I designed a collection which I sold at Camden market, it sold out in two hours! I have also taught in fashion schools, held catwalk extravaganzas in the UK and abroad, been a stylist and appeared on TV.
Faced with my clients, I find the most rewarding part of my job is to help them find that piece of clothing.
I dig through the rails for them, hold up ideas and slowly get an idea of what clothes and designers they like. I get to know quite a lot about that person and feel quite honoured to share these intimate moments with them. Let's face it, in our world of technology, it's great to get real with other human beings. Every day and every customer is different in retail, it’s a joy.
I passionately believe that people like Mary Portas and Alan Sugar are changing the weather around retail. Portas is putting some much missed razzamatazz back on to the rails, while Sir Alan is showing how brilliant selling can be when people get it right. However, designers themselves are still too snobby about getting their hands dirty on the shop floor. I would like this to change. And see it as a vital component of new designers' success.
At Designer Sales UK I take stock from up coming labels and student graduate collections and sell them alongside big labels like Bora Aksu, Vivienne Westwood and Martin Margiela. I have been very successful with this formula for well over two decades. This is a tried and tested formula and can be seen in many retail outlets, however I encourage new designers to use DSUK’s
selling space, to meet the customers in order to find out what works and what doesn’t.
One particular brand I sell has recently relaunched with great success. I put this down mainly to this particular designer's interaction with my clients. He is always at the sales serving, and really enjoys the relationships he has with the customers. He can be found happily answering any questions, and listening to feedback, then making the changes he needs to forward his brand. As a result his collection has evolved and is selling really well. Growing a business slowly step by step needs to be encouraged rather than the popular full speed, crash and burn!
This current economic downturn could be the kick into reality most designers need to begin to see the importance of understanding what makes a garment sell and to understand the importance of this vital cog in the wheel of fashion.
The designer needs to go speak to their clients because a garment - no matter how wonderful, beautiful, crazy, ingenious, stunning - needs to be worn. Quite simple really!
Elaine Foster-Gandey is founder of Designer Sales UK, designer sample sales held in London. The next one is at the Old Chelsea Town Hall, King's Road 30 September and 1 October.