What Tel Aviv Fashion Week Taught me about the Business (of Fashion)

The summer is only about to finish, but as far as the fashion industry is concerned business is on. Next week all industry eyes will be on New York, where Mercedes Benz Fashion Week is going open the Fashion Week session and we can already start looking forward to the many reports and images spilling from this trend-setting event, followed by others around the globe.

From New York to Tel Aviv, which for the past few years has also been a proud host of a Fashion Week, it is very interesting to compare and see the differences and similarities between this industry giant, next to an initiative taking baby steps, but yet determined to make it.

Having now been to several Fashion Weeks in Tel Aviv, both as an active member of the organizing team as well as a guest, I have learned a lot about what the key points are for a small business with high aspirations. I believe that even if you aren’t in the business of fashion, this read can still provide you with useful food for thought.

1. Strive only for the best even if when you're small

Tel Aviv Fashion Week had a comeback after a hiatus of over 30 years in 2011, so practically it hasn’t even existed in modern times. That Fashion Week was honored by the presence and show by Roberto Cavalli. There were international guests and tier 1 media from leading fashion publications and even though they weren’t the editors-in-chief, their attendance was impressive enough given that they had no way to know what to expect. For the organizers it was clear that despite being still hardly known in the global fashion industry, they would only be satisfied with the best – thus the following years more internationally acclaimed names such as MoschinoMissoni, Vogue Italy’s Franca Sozzani etc. joined the prominent guest list of Tel Aviv Fashion Week.

When a venture just gets started, it is not easy to get the desired attention right away, however, one should always think twice about settling for less attractive options. Once you and your business are perceived as mediocre it will be very difficult to change that image.

2. Know when to focus on PR and when on Sales

Everyone in the fashion industry knows that Fashion Weeks are partly for the “show” and mostly for the “trade”. This means that as far as business is concerned, the real deals are happening after and not during the runway. From the business point of view a Fashion Week isn’t successful if it hasn’t attracted a significant number of buyers representing global retailers and the biggest department stores. In Tel Aviv we knew that no matter how great it would be to have buyers wanting to take home whatever they saw on the catwalk, the reality was since we were only starting out and presenting designers who were hardly known internationally, expecting serious buyers to take big risks wouldn’t be something we could expect. This is why we had put our efforts and budget into bringing impressive press, as mentioned above.

PR, executed in the right way, will always have a supporting factor to your sales efforts. Focusing first on creating a relationship with publications such as Vogue, Elle, L’Officiel and others, was very helpful to start building buyers’ start into our new venture. Once you have your relevant trade press on your side, you can see very quickly how it will boost your sales.

3. When budget's tight - go for quality as opposed to quantity

I’m proud of it that I recently had a chance to introduce Tel Aviv Fashion Week to executives at IMG, which runs the world’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Weeks. However, until they knock on our door with some very appealing proposal, Tel Aviv Fashion Week will be facing the challenge of finding the right and permanent sponsors, which is not the easiest task in a country, where awareness about the huge potential of the local fashion industry is only waking up now.

Thus, being on a tight budget it is crucial to make decisions about what needs to go and what absolutely needs to stay.

We had been very generous to our press delegation, including accommodation and high-end gifts, on the other hand, most evening events couldn’t be sponsored and guests had to be prepared for no all-inclusive parties.

If you are on a limited budget but need to spend on marketing, CRM etc., think of what you absolutely can’t do without and do it the best possible and impressive way. Everything else will need to wait and will be executed once you’ll have the means for it.

4. Check your event's celeb factor

As mentioned above, only in a few years Tel Aviv Fashion Weeks have enjoyed the presence of internationally acclaimed designers, press, in addition to well-known personalities, who together contributed tremendously to building the event’s global reputation. Call it home-run, but having Bar Refaeli on the catwalk was echoed by international press. Moschino’s fashion show left no Italian mainstream and fashion publication indifferent to Tel Aviv Fashion Week back then only in its second year.

Even if you aren’t in the fashion business, having a known personality, relevant for your target audience, is a huge help to boost your reputation. It can be an important investor, or a local politician – sometimes it will make more sense to invest into creating a relationship with that one person and getting their support as opposed to running after several VIPs, without enough means to maintain those relationships.

5. A successful event is based on conclusions from previous events

For already listed reasons, it had been important that each Tel Aviv Fashion Week gives space to at least one international fashion designer, who until now always opened the Fashion Week. However, since this event is all about promoting Israeli designers the idea is to start shifting the spotlight on the local fashion scene, while ensuring that international guests and media are still going to be interested enough to attend.

After completing a complex and highly energy-consuming event organizers tend to take off time right after, get a chance to breath and soon enough start focusing on the next event. This setup definitely makes senses, however it is crucial not to forget to have a feedback session with the entire team, to take the time to thank them and to listen to all their suggestions and comments, to make your event a real success next time.