View Full Version : The fashion industry

03-16-2012, 10:30 PM
I'm working on a story that takes place in the world of fashion design. A few questions-

1) Who is it that attends fashion shows? Meaning are they magazine editors, reporters, buyers from various clothing stores, etc?
2) How often do they have shows, or is there any particular 'number'? The designer is one who is on a rebound after some really bad reviews, and I don't know how much time to put in between shows or photo shoots.
3) What are some of the major events? Who exactly 'gives' fashion shows (i.e. any designer who wants to show their newest line? Magazines?)

I figure I'd put my addiction to Project Runway to good use! Thanks!

Bing Z
03-17-2012, 02:46 AM
Major fashion weeks (NYC, Paris, London, Milan) (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_York_Fashion_Week) twice each year, Spring/summer and fall/winter. Numerous others smaller ones, some have fixed themes, eg Miami one is always about swim suits IIRC.

Thou shalt read the bios of every designer listed on sites like style.com and http://www.fashionmodeldirectory.com/designers/ .

AFAIK (during my fashion model char research), say during NYC fashion week, there are about 765,432 shows held (see some here (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Fall_2008_New_York_Fashion_Week_fashion_sh ows)), at venues ranging from Plaza Hotel ballroom or a huge tent in Central Park/Columbus Park to a small studio apartment in South Bronx ^_^. Attendees from Diane von Fürstenberg, Anna Wintour, industry shakers & movers jet set socialites, famous celebrities, plus 2,000 paparazzi (for the Plaza Hotel ones) to a black stray cat for the Bronx one. I think for the high profile ones the buyers (if you mean the merchandisers) won't have ticket to attend. A new fashion style, if successful, takes a couple of years to hit the shelves, or so I've read. And don't forget many of those on show are haute couture that merchandisers are bypassed.

New York Magazine/NY Times have posted some articles about what happens during the NYC fashion week. I've read a couple from the perspectives of the poor fashion models.

I think the organizer of the Paris one sends out invitations to established designers and rising star designers to participate. So "been there" is in itself an achievement.

I think for your char it also depends on how close he/she is with various Vogue editors, high profile photographers like Steven Meisel, whether Coco Channel is willing to give him/her another chance, and/or how savvy he/she is with promoting on facebook/tweeter/Youtube etc.

03-17-2012, 07:27 AM
Thanks! The character is someone who used to be a big-name fashion designer with the connections, but who has had a personal tragedy that threw his career off-balance...he finds his footing again with the help of an unknown but talented design student.

03-20-2012, 05:03 PM
Did you work in the industry?

Do you think a designer who designs clothes for 'real' women would make it big? I thought of having the designs stand out from all the others because he did something different, like making clothes that flatter different figures and hide 'flaws'.

I got the idea for the whole story from watching Project Runway, and this season the mentor is Joanna Coles, editor in chief (I think that's her title) of Marie Claire...she's asked several designers about why their dresses don't allow women to wear a bra with them. I can *totally* relate, but I know that's just one show.


Bing Z
03-21-2012, 08:17 AM
No, I don't. In fact I know nearly nothing about fashion IRL.

I'm unsure what you mean by "real" woman. Did you mean the public instead of the jet set socialites?

But anyway, your response got me thinking. Let's start from the core of the business--to survive & to make money. It seems there are two kinds of designers: artists and entrepreneurs. Some play both roles but not all. Let's say, Marc Jacobs is obviously both. Karl Lagerfeld seems to have better success in designing than selling his lines. Bernard Arnault (Louis Vuitton's boss) is a businessman. Which one is your off-balance mentor designer?

Assuming your story is actually about the talented student, you may want the mentor to be an entrepreneur, follows the paths of Max Azria, Marithé Girbaud, Peter Dooney etc. Your guy may start out being a designer at a certain big label like chloe, then starts his/her business. He may have some success and have launched several stores, but somehow fails to grasp/follow the changing trend (instead of just a fashion show failure) and sinks. But given trendy designs by his talented protege, he may still have enough connections & network to market them successfully.

I think you can use unexpected success in a fashion show in the climax but a mere fashion show success may not mean too much. For awes and ohs of fashion shows you can check out http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=raALZWmZSK8&feature=g-vrec&context=G2d065cbRVAAAAAAAABQ. The video shows a little about different aspects of these shows. A reason why they are so into Andrej is that he may transpire a whole new trend. But even if that is successful, it's going to take years for things to happen, and until then he can flop anytime. Same will go for your student genius, unless her designs can be shipped to shelves ASAP.

How old is the student? Is she in high school (like The High School of Fashion Industries (http://fashionhighschool.net/)) or college (like Parsons The New School for Design (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parsons_The_New_School_for_Design), Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Central_Saint_Martins_College_of_Art_and_Design) etc). Since the mentor has been a top guy, maybe he's been an adjunct lecturer at these colleges or a speaker or have offered internship?

While I was researching for fashion models, I came across a site called http://forums.thefashionspot.com/. Lots of fashion-related professionals on that forum. They should have better understanding of how things work.

03-21-2012, 08:59 PM
Thanks! I hope this all makes sense!

By 'real women', I mean the average woman on the street rather than the model/socialite types. The ones of us who have curves that aren't made out of silicone and don't wear a size 2! I thought that one selling point of the clothes line could be that the garments have a way of flattering even 'plain' figures or 'problem areas' in such a way that makes them *look* like the socialite types. I've seen clothes and swimsuits like that in department stores, some are insanely expensive!

I thought I'd have her (the protege) in her last year at design school (could I mention Parsons by name? or do I have to make up a name or use a generic like 'state'?) and on an internship. Would that make her about 22-23? I'm not sure how many years fashion design school is, but that's how old I was when I graduated college. I went to NC State. Some of the business and other types of design majors would take until they were 25 or so to graduate.

In terms of the designer himself...I thought that he could have a business partner who is also his best friend from childhood? The friend could handle the business end of things (including connections to the school the student goes to*) and the designer being the actual 'artist'...aside from that, it's the same thing you said above. Perhaps he could start off working for a big name like you mentioned, but he and his friend struck off on their own...they would have done this a long time ago, enough to where they would be established already...they were very successful until the designer has a personal tragedy that throws him off-kilter and his business (not keeping up with trends, sales of his lines going downhill, really bad reviews from his shows, etc) to the point where their business could fail if something didn't change soon. Enter the protege. As for fashion shows...I didn't think it would only be one show so much as a series of shows/photo shoots/store releases (?), with the reviews getting better and better until they are almost back to the designer's 'old glory'? Do you think this would work?

I thought the business partner/friend could be a good supporting character to the designer, kind of 'balancing out' the 'crazy' of the designer and giving us a glimpse into the designer's past? Would that work?

I hope I'm making sense. Would any of these things work, or what changes should I make?

*I wasn't sure how it works for fashion design, but my college (NC State) had a career center that would work with various businesses to set students up with internships. There weren't really any lectures or professors involved, although it could happen. Some were for a summer, some were for a full school year, it just depended on the program.

Bing Z
03-22-2012, 08:04 AM
I don't see why you can't use Parsons' name, unless you insist the story happens in South Caroline all the way or to groundlessly denounce its reputation. But of course you'll need some research into its curriculum and other info.

Depending on the marketing targets, negative fashion reviews may have a "slap on the wrist" effect or disastrous if not fatal. I have read that Gap's flop, for example, has more to do with keeping an aging endorser in Sarah Jessica Parker than style of their garments or reviews thereof. See The Celebrity Endorsement Game - New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2005/05/19/fashion/thursdaystyles/19joss.html?pagewanted=all). You may need to do some more research and/or talk to industry insiders to tell a convincing story.

Regarding the good friend, he can also bring in more flavors, like business conflicts on greed vs honor (or humanity, love, respect, etc) which is bound to happen even just between the older designer and the protege. It's fairytale-like (read unlikely) that the protege will get all the shares of profit/recognition she deserves in this situation and a man-eat-man industry. Speaking about love, are you gonna toss in a triangular relationship among the three? :tongue

03-22-2012, 06:01 PM
Thanks, I'll definitely have to check out those links! How old *is* Sarah Jessica Parker, anyway? She's gorgeous, who *wouldn't* want her to endorse them?

Actually, I thought of a 'triangle' happening between the designer, the protege and a model who also happens to be the protege's sister. :) That could prove to be fun! There are also some minor characters who provide comic relief.

In seriousness, the protege is in love with the designer, but he doesn't know it. He's dating the sister. It would kind of be a 'Cyrano de Bergerac' angle in the way that the designs-and also written words-would be done to inspire the designer (and also express the protege's love for him), but he would think that they are from someone else (the sister)...I thought that perhaps part of the inner conflict within the protege could be "letting the designer know that she's actually the one who is in love with him vs. loyalty to her sister". And possibly her loving him enough to want him to be happy, even if it isn't with her. Cyrano is one of my favorite plays and, well, I've had similar experiences in my own life. Do you think this would work? I guess I would have to flesh out exactly how to show love through the designs...perhaps in the 'being so in tune, they're finishing each other sentences' kind of way? Is that something that would be believable, or something you think people would be interested in?

In terms of the protege getting credit for her work, I thought I'd have it where she didn't...at least, not at first. Perhaps it wouldn't be that he directly uses the sketches so much as that the designs would inspire him to do better things under *his* label. Maybe for a few items, he could directly use the sketches...but is that something that would ever be done? Meaning, copying-basically the artistic equivalent to plagarism (sp?) ? Maybe 'permission' could be given in an indirect way? She could be happy to see her designs done at first, but later becomes resentful.

The sister would probably also have gone to school but dropped out when she started modeling, which I thought might lend more credence...more of a reason for the designer to think that the model sister is capable of doing the designs that inspire him.

I hope I'm not revealing too much of my idea here? I figure the people on AW are professional enough not to copy each other, although I'm not sure this is worth copying! I've known people who have been 'burned' before.

Thanks for indulging me! I've never written any fiction in a story this long...my education is in writing for electronic media, but I've only really done non-fiction articles and blogging.

03-22-2012, 11:44 PM
To add...what kind of story would you like to read, that would keep your attention?

Bing Z
03-23-2012, 07:29 AM
As gorgeous as Sarah Jessica Parker is, she's 46 years old. It's naturally hard to use her to sell clothes to kiddies 1/3 her age. They're using an 18-year-old soul singer to replace her. Sounds brilliant?

You obviously have a very rich plot. It all comes down to execution, and I believe you'll be able to pull it off. Obviously you'll also be spending a chunk of time understanding how a portion of the fashion industry work.

03-24-2012, 06:48 AM
Thanks...I am the *worst* when it comes to actually executing things and finishing what I start.

Are you a member of the Fashion Spot forum?

03-25-2012, 08:26 AM
Did you work in the industry?

Do you think a designer who designs clothes for 'real' women would make it big? I thought of having the designs stand out from all the others because he did something different, like making clothes that flatter different figures and hide 'flaws'.

I got the idea for the whole story from watching Project Runway, and this season the mentor is Joanna Coles, editor in chief (I think that's her title) of Marie Claire...she's asked several designers about why their dresses don't allow women to wear a bra with them. I can *totally* relate, but I know that's just one show.


No, I don't think so, personally. But that doesn't mean you can't write a book where it happens. You're writing for the average person, not the fashion elite.

You have some pretty huge blocks of text here, haha, and a lot of scattered questions.

But basically anyone can have show, but not anyone can have one in the tents. A lot of other designers host it the same week even if they aren't on the official schedule. There are master lists that are very easy to get a hold of. For Paris fashion week, the entire schedule is online. New York likes to be a little more exclusive. But it's fairly easy to get an invite if you know the right people and sneaking in is possible if you own the right clothes.

Attendance in the tents is technically limited to people "in the fashion industry." But that's fairly loose, since you see fashion bloggers and celebrities all over the place.

Buyers go to fashion week obviously, magazine editors, writers, newspaper columnists. The "press" option covers a lot of different types. I know people with tumblr blogs who were able to get passes. There are also photographers, both fashion photographers and event/nightlife photographers. There are tons of interns. Fashion internships are highly coveted during fashion week because it guarantees you get into at least one show and getting into a show also gets you info on the party. All the houses host a party. Some host two, one that's "official" and the other exclusive one where they'll actually be.

There are three official fashion weeks: ready to wear, couture and men's. Ready to wear/women's has two seasons and happens in Paris, london, milan and Nyc. The first is always New York. The last is always Paris. Not everyone presents in each city, but all the big names are expected to. Your designer would only have one show during NYFW, so twice a year officially. But he/she could also have other shows to show off collections like pre-fall or whatever. Couture is always in Paris.

Photo shoots happen all the time, really. There are official photo shoots for websites or official campaigns, they happen less often, as campaigns are in line with seasons. The designer and casting people hand pick models for the show, but also for the ad campaigns. This is a pretty interesting process, lots of "she's fat" when talking about skin and bones.

But things like editorials are up to the creative directors at magazines. Basically a stylist will ask to use a piece or several pieces, they'll borrow it, and they'll do all the work. The designer won't be present for that. But because a big designer is in any magazine at any given time, there's always a photoshoot going on.

As for who throws the shows, that is a bit more complicated. But you can read about that here:

Those two links will essentially make you an expert!

Good luck :)

03-26-2012, 05:18 AM
Thanks so much for your help and patience with my scattered-ness! My brain seems to work like a machine gun...spraying a lot of things out at once, with a few hitting the target. My husband is a gun collector, and he talks about them a lot.

Misses, do you think the 'clothes for regular women' idea I mentioned would be so far off base that the average reader would be annoyed?

04-03-2012, 03:06 AM
Thanks so much for your help and patience with my scattered-ness! My brain seems to work like a machine gun...spraying a lot of things out at once, with a few hitting the target. My husband is a gun collector, and he talks about them a lot.

Misses, do you think the 'clothes for regular women' idea I mentioned would be so far off base that the average reader would be annoyed?

Oooh, sorry this was eight days ago, but--it really depends on your audience. There is no "regular reader" as much as there is "your regular reader." So if this is aimed at people who don't really care for fashion or perhaps hate how elitist it is, they'd probably eat it up and root for the "clothes for regular women idea." But even they know how resistant fashion is to that kind of change. So even if you do go with the "clothes for regular women" there has to be a pretty vocal subsection of designers, reviewers, whatever who loathe it.

Maybe attribute the popularity to one really really important person who loved it and tirelessly got behind it. Everyone else would then be both jealous and bitter. So yeah, it'll work for non-fashiony readers, but it'll need to be the source of a lot of conflict.

04-03-2012, 04:44 AM
Sarah Jessica Parker also got bitten in the Steve and Barry's debacle. (That's a pun, the clothing line she designed for them was actually called "Bitten.")

S&B's business model was to sign on high-profile celebrities as "designers," and pay them above-market fees and a percentage of sales. They would build stores in malls that had an anchor close down, and get huge piles of cash to renovate the stores. They'd spend maybe a tenth of the money doing the renovation, and claim the rest as "revenue."

So they didn't have the sales to support what they were paying the celebrities, and ultimately they didn't have the sales to keep the stores open. It was basically a Ponzi scheme.

"Couture" doesn't mean it's for super-skinny people; that's just what they display the styles on at the fashion shows. (In some cases they refer to the girls as "mannequins," which reinforces the desirability of skinny shapeless girls that the clothes hang on.) The official definition of Couture in France requires that the garments be shown at a certain number of shows each year, and that they be individually hand-made. "Couture" really means clothing that is handmade for an individual client.

Couture is largely for show; there are only so many women who can afford it. The Fashion Week shows establish trends and demonstrate the house style, but it's the toned-down version that get bought by Saks and Bergdorf Goodman.

A good example would be the last regular season of "Project Runway." Mondo was clearly the better designer, but Gretchen was consistently good and survived all the way to the end. Her clothes would fit in with any high-end sportswear collection in a department store, but she wouldn't want to put that out on a runway at Lincoln Center during Fashion Week.

04-03-2012, 05:23 AM
This idea came from watching Project Runway! Did you see the All-Stars show?

I like the idea of having the designer's line supported by a 'big name' and that being part of his popularity. A big part of the story is having a personal tragedy knock him out of line and his popularity waning...and how he gets back on track. Maybe I could have the 'big name' withdraw support or otherwise stop being around, leaving him 'exposed' to the attacks that he was protected from before? If this makes sense.

04-03-2012, 10:08 AM
You might also take time to read biographies or profiles of the legendary designers like Yves St Laurent and his 'muse' Catherine Deneuve, or look at the turbulent relationship between Karl Lagerveld and Ines de La Fressange. Most of the iconic fashion designers have had reversals and tragedies and a fair amount of controversy.

04-08-2012, 07:11 AM
I saw bits of the All Star season, and I don't think it was as simple as "Mondo got cheated so let's bring him back and have him win." He learned from his experience and came back better than before. The audience saw his occasional attacks of self-doubt and whining, but what counted was what showed up in front of the judges.

If your designer really focuses on couture and high-end RTW, his muse could be someone well-known by the society people he covets as clients but largely unknown to people at large. Which might make the relationship more personal - she's not just showing up at events and letting people know who she's wearing, she's telling her friends how wonderful he is to work with. So something that affects his ability to design and produce would reflect badly on her with people whose opinions she valued. With someone who's generally famous (say, Scarlett Johansson) there might not be a lot of fallout for her if the designer falls apart, unless she's seen as supporting someone who did something socially unacceptable.

04-08-2012, 11:10 PM
I was happy that Mondo won too, although I also liked Austin. Most of the dresses I saw him make were absolutely gorgeous! Michael had some good things but for some reason I liked Austin's personality better...I know that doesn't matter in terms of talent but it makes for a good show.