Industry Experts On
Industry Experts On: Catwalk VS Presentation
Designers presenting their latest collections at fashion weeks around the world can be divided into two categories. Those that showcase with a catwalk show, and those that showcase with a presentation. Whilst catwalk shows continue to be a popular and traditional choice, presentations are preferred by brands that seek a more intimate setting.
Not Just A Label asks Harper’s Bazaar Contributing Editor, Ella Alexander, and MA Strategic Fashion Marketing Course Leader at London College of Fashion, Nina Van Volkinburg, amongst other industry experts, for their insight to designers considering either format.
Image courtesy of ANGELA BRITO
Think about what you want to communicate, not just in terms of the clothes, but also your values. What do you want to say? Build your catwalk show around your brand message and cater to your core supporters and target customer. Don’t feel governed by traditional scheduling or venues either - if you look at labels whose recent shows have had big traction and buzz, for example Jacquemus and Pyer Moss, they have thought outside the box when it comes to site, timing and audience. A brand doesn’t have to stage a lavish three-day show spectacle in Lake Como in order to be recognised; that timelessly magic combination of originality, integrity and creativity will take you a long way.
Due to the saturation of the market and our shortened attention spans, it is increasingly challenging for young designers to stand out from peers. However, presentations can effectively allow for engaging, deep, personalized storytelling which invites an audience to more meaningfully connect with a brand opposed to passively observing. The best presentations I witnessed were those that had communicated a clear sense of purpose and incorporated a full range of senses to deliver that communication - going beyond strong visuals, but including sounds, smells, taste, textures. Unlike a catwalk show, presentations should bring in the audience to interact with a designer’s world to construct meaning together and, if authentic, this will generate word of mouth and recollection.
Image courtesy of NARNISH
As part of an industry based on everything visual, a catwalk show allows you not only to show your vision and work but also to make a statement and create a cultural impact able to change the rules of fashion.
Expecting the unexpected is always one of the most exciting aspects to a young designer’s catwalk show. By having a fearless approach as a young designer, it helps set you apart from the big established companies who often have limitations. Therefore it comes as no surprise that the most loved names from the press started with breakthrough theatrical shows from designers like Alexander McQueen to the new generation such as Richard Quinn and Matty Bovan.
With a presentation, particularly for younger designers, I find it far less limiting, both creatively and spatially. It allows for a more intimate setting, considering you're not limited to the constraints of a catwalk. The audience can also get closer and engage more with the collection. If you're looking to spend time and build new relations with your guests, I would suggest showcasing your garments in a presentation format for a more personal, experience-led feel.
Image courtesy of HANA FRISONSOVA
All great breakthrough collections have two key components: a strong story and an immediately identifiable visual identity. If it is your debut catwalk show, you’ll be tempted to show everything that you’re capable of and showcase all your passion projects at once: resisting this temptation is crucial. Remember, your audience is not coming in fresh, instead they are snow blind from a full day of shows. They do not have the capacity to digest the levels of nuance and detail that have gone into your work - they will see this as any re-sees or showrooms you’re exhibiting at.
The purpose of your catwalk show is to cut through the noise and give a clear, streamlined version of your brand’s identity and why your clothes matter. To achieve this you need to pivot from your role as a designer and step into the role of curator, ruthlessly editing your collections before they hit the catwalk. It is better to show fifteen looks that create a strong sense of your brand than twenty that dilute your visual identity, and ultimately leave your audience confused. A great show should include three or four looks that really capture the overarching spirit of the collection.
Image courtesy of AKVILLE JANCAUSKAITE
It may be worth asking a few questions of yourself before planning a presentation. Such as: What can I do that makes me stand out? What will make busy people come and see me? What will make people stay - and engage? What could create talkability IRL as well as on TikTok?
Performances or other extra element make presentations memorable. London designer, Edeline Lee's presentations are always a must-see as she's known to include surprising twists like dance, theatre, and last season's live set in Burlington Arcade. It sets her apart. 16Arlington had a similar approach to its presentations before the label started to show. And this helped their pick up.