I am over the moon that industry mover and shaker, and industry supporter, Feroz Ali, has successfully bought New Zealand Fashion Week. Ali is a breath of fresh air to NZFW. A well-respected entrepreneur who first came to our attention when he invested in Whitecliffe and NZ Fashion Tech, merging the two to create an education powerhouse. The change of ownership of NZFW brings the opportunity to reassess, evolve and grow into an annual industry event that melds all parts of the fashion industry together.
I've often commented that the path that NZFW chose, which focused on consumers rather than wholesalers and buyers, was ill-judged. A course that ultimately was to its detriment.
Meanwhile, the true meaning of fashion week got lost in translation. Actual industry engagers? Forgotten. The few buyers who attended relegated to back rows. At the same time, models and tv presenters hogged the front row (often leaving their seats empty because they got a better offer or it was raining). I have often seen vacant front row seats with ushers hurrying to fill with bystanders and posers.
Last year, I spoke with a buyer who was seated in the fourth row of a show. I asked why such a high profile buyer wouldn't be sitting in the front row. They replied that they weren't considered important enough. They couldn't see the collection, and the designer had just ignored them. They wouldn't be buying that brand's collection. Networking matters, please note designers: if you have invited buyers, put them in the front row. Your family, models and Instagram posers will be fine in the third row. You, however, will only get this one shot to show and sell your collection at one high octane event.
To continue down the current route is commercial suicide and does little to support the New Zealand fashion industry. However, if this is what the industry wants, we should only show Spring/Summer collections, not 2022 Autumn/Winter. Invite consumers, customers, slap it all over Instagram, because at this point, we are just making social media content. My point is - find the direction that benefits business, engage all players in the sector and talk business - talk about what the industry would like to happen.
A new operator is a fantastic opportunity to halt and reassess so all parties can do business; after all, commercial success is vital for everyone. It's not the number of visitors; it's the quality - buyers must be up-front and centre as they are the lynchpin.
Despite writing about it every year around fashion week, I'll explain again. Consumers don't understand why the garments they see at fashion week aren't available for purchase now. They see it on Instagram or in mainstream media. It's 'Oh, I like that!' - then they turn to the internet and find a similar one at a fast-fashion giant for a quarter of the price.
By the time your collection debuts in-store months later, it is OLD NEWS for consumers. They saw it "last year", it's old to them. Fashion week is a trade show for wholesaling. I don't know when everyone forgot that, but if we ever get back to what fashion week is all about, then on top of the list has to be ROI. Shows are expensive to do, and if you don't make a return, what was the point? A few extra followers on Instagram won't launch your business nor satisfy the bank manager. And if you are an emerging designer, there are more important things you need to tick off your list before chomping at the bit to have your own show.
COVID-19 has impacted fashion weeks worldwide, with some significant changes, including digital shows and no catwalk shows. Finding a path forward will take all in the industry to speak up and out, no point in grumbling inside your business. You need to take this opportunity to spell out what has changed for you, what you need NZFW to be and how you see the two coming together. The pandemic has also significantly impacted e-commerce growth, supply chain issues and a worldwide determined consumer wave of #supportlocal.
So let's do that. Let's support local - let's give all our support to New Zealand businesses, the fashion retailers, suppliers, designers, manufacturers, and service providers, all in one place. Let's work together to make NZFW a must-see on the global fashion week landscape.