by Kenneth Richard | The Impressionist

The Impressionist took a meeting with some money men the other day and mid meeting one turned to ask, “Do shows even matter?” . . . Smart money.

It is a fair question in an era of disruption, where a laptop can topple a chain and a newborn blog can reach more than a magazine in business 40+ years. With the ability for designers and brands to reach consumers directly, become their own retailers and publishers, why incur the expense of a show?

Two words:
First word, BUZZ.
Second word, sounds like “honey.”

Fashion shows and presentations cost $15 to $350K. Not chump change, but relatively low compared to other ways to promote oneself. A single ad page in a national fashion magazine can run $75 to $280K. Minimum prices for online ads are $20K a week per site, with home page takeovers costing an average of $50k for just one day. And TV is a rich brands game.

Suddenly the cost of a fashion show seems like a bargain and a low cost of entry. But what does that money get you? Years ago, before the popularity of the device you are reading this on, it got you a review in WWD and perhaps the The New York Times. Neither guaranteed. If you were fortunate enough you could pick up a little regional TV coverage and perhaps a profile on CNN with Elsa Klensch. Beyond that the game plan was simple, get what press you could from the aforementioned, and hope one of the big fashion magazines would pull your wears for a story in one of their monthly glossies.  The financial implications for that monthly: gold, as retailers love the credibility that magazines give brands and buy products magazines promote.

But today is a whole other story. Yes WWD and The New York Times still matter, but aren’t the only game in town. There are countless websites covering all or some elements of fashion shows. Images and videos now have more avenue of distribution than ever before. The megaphone is not only bigger, it is louder and expands faster and wider. And all of these sites help brands/designers expand their reach. For the newbies, these sites give them exposure they couldn’t buy. For the best, technology can shorten their success cycle dramatically by giving them millions of impressions to make them an industry name fast.

For many designers such as Dries van Noten, runway shows became their sole vehicle for marketing. Young designers started to dissect the system and also joined catwalk’s low cost of entry. The reward – if done right – is countless dollars’ worth of earned media. Name recognition, buzz, goes a long way in promoting confidence to buyers, thus increasing brands’ sales, money. Honey.

Today, the established brands with strong distribution and sales are able to amplify their volume for the same expense they would incur otherwise. Jumping in are J. Crew, Coach and Kate Spade, who have decided to present during fashion week, recognizing an opportunity when they see it. The big get bigger.

And the small get to shout through the same microphone. Their success is now dependent on the quality of their voice.

The Impression and The Imprint cover all shows from big to small. And while we recognize there are bigger players than us, we’d like to think our hunger, nimbleness, and viewpoint can make us better. If there is disruption to be had, it is off the catwalk. Although we’d welcome a little more of it on the runway, as the abundance of shows hasn’t translated to better shows. But that is another story.

For designers and brands, they live in an era with an oversaturation of supply to demand, and more clothes per person available than any other time in history. But the tools are out there to shout louder and faster than ever before to help the best break through. So to answer the question if shows matter: Now more than ever.