Essence of a Fashion Show

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“When our investors go through the numbers, it’s really hard for them to see an actual return,” designer Christian Siriano says of his biannual runway show at New York Fashion Week.

In everything you do make us money is the hope of every investor and when you’re engaging in shows or campaigns that’s not literally bringing money, they don’t understand the moral of it. Branding is a topic many are yet to understand how its achieved or the long term value it will add to a product or organization. To make more money the brand has to be credible enough and to make the brand credible the branding have to be right.

Costs can skyrocket when a designer decides to show in a custom venue. Designers explain that shows are essential for communicating a brand’s vision, but evaluating ROI is difficult. It can be easy to forget what a tremendous financial undertaking a 10-minute spin on the runway is for a designer.

Measuring the ROI of a show is a challenge, says Siriano. “I think when our investors go through the numbers; it’s really hard for them to see actual return. Obviously, there are ways to tell if a collection is more successful than another, but that doesn’t necessarily have to do with the show. It has more to do with the timing, or the fabrications we’re using or what’s happening with the seasons.

“It’s such a big part of branding for the business,” he continues. “Without my shows, I wouldn’t have been able to put it out to the world that we’re changing the face of fashion and who should be celebrated. It [results] in so many types of business. I get so many partnerships now just based on my show, for example, like my partnership with Payless.”

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Christian Siriano breaks down the cost of a NYFW show.

The Project Runway alum, celebrated for his diverse and inclusive approach to dressing women, has been showing for 18 seasons. Despite the additional expense, he prefers to show at non-official venues like last season’s Gotham Hall for greater creative control.

To put on a runway show, the designer typically spends:
$40,000-$60,000 for models. For a model with a big name and following, add $20,000.
$20,000-$50,000 to rent a venue.
$10,000-$40,000 on lighting. The price varies depending on what the venue has set up — and sometimes that’s not even a lightbulb.
$5,000-$10,000 for sound.
$20,000-$30,000 for production, typically a single fee to a production company that coordinates the entire show.
$5,000-$10,000 for seating. Chairs and benches are the least expensive option; risers cost at least double.
$20,000-$100,000 on set design.
$2,000-$5,000 for catering, including backstage and team dinners the week prior to the show (often sponsored).
$5,000-$7,000 for car services, including last-minute team errands and VIP arrivals.
$0 for hair, makeup and nails, which are always sponsored.
TOTAL: $125,000-$312,000, plus the cost of producing runway samples.

Even when you exclusively sell online i.e. direct-to-consumer, a show is essential to “show the more potent vision and the intention behind the brand, in the same capacity that a musician has a show or an artist shows work in a gallery”.

“But it really came down to financials in the end,” says Napreychikov. “Extra expenses that would go into an off-site show the seating, security, music, lighting, infrastructure, that’s what a lot of brands normally don’t think about.”