Years ago fashion shows were an unquestionable necessity for designers. While many labels continue to benefit from these events, the process can be time consuming and expensive. Venue, styling, model casting, production, PR and celebrities can cost a fortune. So while the payoff might be rewarding for certain brands, before you jump the broom, figure out if it’s worth your money and effort.


Fashion shows can cost millions of dollars to produce

Fashion shows can cost millions of dollars to produce. Are are they really worth it?

(image by Eva Rinaldi [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Flickr)


What’s in it for you?


Catwalk shows generate a huge amount of publicity. According to, “the communication benefits have moved far beyond that of the fashion press, as [celebrities] propel fashion shows into the pages of mainstream newspapers and gossip magazines.” Designers can also capitalize on the content created by stars, bloggers, editors and retailers as they share their own experiences from the shows on social media sites which direct further press back to the brand.


The monetary benefits can also be quite significant: “It is estimated that orders worth more than 100 million pounds are placed during London Fashion Week each season.” But that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be flooded with buyer requests after your first runway stint.


Trade shows are much less expensive than a fashion show and can be just as rewarding financially

Trade events are much less expensive than fashion shows and can be just as rewarding financially

(image by The Brandery [CC BY 2.0], via Flickr)


How about the setbacks?


Whether it’s a local or international fashion week, the most obvious obstacle is the expenses involved. The Wall Street Journal reasons that the cost of a show during New York Fashion Week is generally six figures and can rise to more than a million dollars for big labels. Spending this kind of money – especially for a relatively small brand – can drain the company’s cash flow without bringing the publicity or sales growth you hoped for. After all, buyers firstly place orders with the designers they already make money on, then the labels they heard of, and lastly – the new guy. So if you happen to be the latter, the odds are against you.


Set up an online store so international customers can purchase your pieces with ease

Consider launching an online store so international customers can purchase your pieces with ease


Any alternatives?


Since in many cases the monetary loss of putting together a runway show can be greater than potential returns, it’s wise to consider other alternatives for building brand awareness and strengthening your label’s financial standing. Why not dip your toe into foreign market waters and reach out to international retailers and sales agents? Setting up an online shop can also be a good idea. It can make your product accessible to customers that are outside of your current distribution network.


Participating in trade shows is another option that can help you promote your label and build partnerships with buyers. When selecting a professional event to bet on, consider exhibition cost, estimated number of visitors, the show’s typical visitor profile, among other things, to weigh estimated gains against associated expenses.


Although the catwalk seems like the most logical place to display a collection, make sure you’re not jumping in at the deep end and committing to it for the wrong reasons, but treat it as an investment into the success of your brand rather than a vanity project orchestrated to stroke the designer’s ego.