Fashion designers take runway risk in hunt for handsome rewards

Sat Sep 15, 2012 3:53pm EDT
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By Li-mei Hoang

LONDON (Reuters) - There can be no greater tension in the fashion world than the brief moment just before the music starts, the lights blaze and the models hit the catwalk.

The collection is ready, top editors, buyers and journalists wait by the runway with baited breath, models get last minute attention and designers pray that months of effort and expense will be rewarded with critical and commercial success.

For designers, the prospect of spending an extraordinary sum on glamorous venues, booking the best models, set production costs and marketing, is a risk many are willing to take to be exposed to the international press and the top buyers who flock to London for its groundbreaking designs and fresh new talent.

"I think the idea of doing a catwalk show at London Fashion Week is a huge investment for a designer and obviously not one that we would really encourage them to do unless they're really ready," British Fashion Council Chief Executive Caroline Rush told Reuters.

"But the images that come from that, and the marketing material and the collateral, last a good six months, so if you amortize that over the six months in terms of the coverage that you can achieve and the audience that reaches, if you can do it, it is a really great investment."

The fashion industry remains notoriously cagey about the exact figures spent on catwalk shows. Not surprising given the lavish displays on show in New York, London, Milan and Paris.

Chanel Designer Karl Lagerfeld is famous for extravagance, having once erected a huge iceberg in the middle of the glass-domed Grand Palais in Paris, just to accentuate a chilly theme.

"We know that some of our designers do their shows for 30,000 pounds ($48,700), but we also know that the brands spend an awful lot more than that in terms of the staging, the setting, the build, creating that whole brand environment," Rush added.   Continued...

Models present creations from the House of Holland Spring/Summer 2013 collection at London Fashion Week September 15, 2012. REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett