For someone who embraces change, innovation, and experimentation in pursuit of the best result, it is inevitable that a critical eye will be brought to every experience. It doesn’t matter how established the institution, or its scale. The best are those that assess themselves with the same critical eye. To maintain relevance, things must be in constant flux through phases of reinvention. But this is not always the case, because when there is a monopoly, users have nowhere else to go. This creates very little incentive for change. It is a vicious cycle, and one that Fashion Week has fallen into.
Over the past ten years, I have seen the fashion industry from inside a fast growing Designer Ready to Wear business producing biannual runway shows in New York, from the rows of the runways as a critic in Paris, and from the fringes as a new designer trying to find her place in the ever more crowded space. From each of those vantage points I’ve identified pain points that seem to be just as inconvenient or irritating or inefficient for everyone involved. I am writing this proposal to launch an initiative for change during fashion weeks around the world: The Runway Opening Act.
Think of every concert you’ve ever seen with an opening act: the crowd gets to discover new music and be entertained while waiting for the main show, and it’s an amazing opportunity for a young group to gain exposure and build a following. Why can’t we do this in fashion, too?
Think about the rhythm of fashion week: arriving to the show to a sea of people that you plow through at various speeds depending on hierarchy. You rush in to find your way to your seat. And then you wait. For 45 minutes. Or more. Then the show runs for 12 minutes, and as the applause dies down you are already on your way out the door to get to the next show in time to wait. Another 45 minutes. During which time you look at your phone a lot but don’t actually accomplish anything. Or you make small talk with colleagues and acquaintances. Rise, Run, Repeat.
And the number one problem keeping eyeballs from the young designers waiting through every gallery door and showroom entrance is that there just isn’t enough time.
But if everyone is in such a rush, why is there so much waiting? This is valuable time that is being squandered when it could be turned into discovery. The Runway Opening Act, although it will demand open mindedness from all parties, won’t demand any extra effort from the buyers and journalists in attendance, it is in fact designed to make their jobs easier - and more interesting. For every fashion show on the calendar, there is an opportunity to make better use of lost time, for a new designer to reach that audience, and for buyers and editors to gain time spent in transit and also in research of new talent.
This is an experimental idea, but one that could be great. This is just the beginning of the conversation. If you are a PR agency, Production company, or Designer on the official Fashion Week calendar and you believe in helping implement the Runway Opening Act, please contact Lee Anderson at the email below.
Lee (at) starkweather (dot) fr