Saturday, March 28, 2009

RAFW ditches the Big Top

sass & bide SS0809 @ the studio/getty via daylife

Well we did say it was going to be the Recessionista edition. In a nod to the economic downturn, and a reluctance on the part of designers to book the largest, and most expensive, Rosemount Australian Fashion Week show venue - The Studio - frockwriter can reveal that organiser IMG will most likely can The Studio altogether this season. As it emerges, designers have been fighting over time slots in the two most cost-effective show venues - the Cargo Theatre and the OPT room - and leaving The Studio with no takers. The Studio is RAFW's largest show venue, a purpose-built marquee that is traditionally erected on the Circular Quay foreshore. At a cost of A$15,000 + GST The Studio (capacity 650) doesn't seem that much more expensive than the OPT (A$13,000/450) and Cargo Theatre (A$11,000/300). This fee includes all show production aspects, minus models, hair and makeup, PR and ticketing. But the bigger the venue, the greater the costs all around, including ticket printing, postage etc.. And in this environment, it seems hardly surprising.

Sydney is not the only fashion city to feel the pinch of the economic downturn.

The just-wrapped Fall/Winter 0910 show season was marked by numerous show cancellations and cheaper static presentations or video alternatives (eg Halston, Temperley and Gareth Pugh). This was particularly true of the American event, where of course the retail market has been very adversely affected.

But even Milan Fashion Week cut one full day of shows off its schedule.

IMG tells frockwriter that the upcoming SS0910 showcase is definitely not being cut back to four days, from five. Apart from the traditional student and New Generation group shows that usually take place on the Friday, at least one brand reports that it already has a confirmed Friday time slot: Anna & Boy.

Just a reminder that this blog has been tracking the RAFW schedule as it comes together - and before its official release, which at this stage is slated for April 15.

The information comes directly from the designers or their spokespeople.

Four weeks out, the schedule already boasts 31 names that say they have confirmed they will do solo presentations. Those confirmed include some very big local names, from sass & bide – which is definitely now doing a presentation and not a runway show – to Willow, Kate Sylvester, Aurelio Costarella, Lisa Ho, Zimmermann and Ginger & Smart.

There will still be a tented venue on the ground level at the Overseas Passenger Terminal, primarily for registration and sponsorship purposes.

The biggest challenge, says IMG, will be engineering dual preparation areas behind both the Cargo Theatre and OPT show spaces, as shows will be bumping in and out much more quickly than if there was a third show venue to take some of the pressure. Additional tents may have to be constructed to accommodate this.

Graeme Lewsey, IMG FASHION Asia Pacific director of communications, told frockwriter:

“It’s a bit of a challenge, but it's not going to be a problem - if that's what we need to do because that’s what the industry is looking for, then that’s what we'll do. It's becoming really obvious that people want to be more comfortable with the slightly smaller venues. Nothing else changes apart from the fact that we have to build these double backstage areas. We’re not troubled by it and it's not affecting the number of designers that are going to be showing. The industry is defiant that it's got a lot to sing about and we’ve got a strong industry and we’re already seeing some really great labels that are coming back. There is a subsantial domestic focus this year. It's going to be important for designers to show at RAFW to strengthen what is a really important part of their business – their domestic business".

Traditionally the venue for all of IMG's group shows, The Studio has in the past also showcased the event's biggest solo show names.

In 2008, these included sass & bide, Easton Pearson, Michelle Jank, Alex Perry and Camilla.

In an interview this week, sass & bide’s Heidi Middleton told this journalist that her company spends A$200,000 a season showing at New York Fashion Week.

Considering that exports account for a mere 20percent of sass & bide's A$25+million sales turnover, that is some investment. But it does not of course take into account the international publicity generated by showing at a major international fashion event.

With the US retail market flatlining at the moment, and therefore a slim possibility of an immediate ROI - at least in the US market - it is not difficult to understand why sass & bide and several other Australian brands have skipped NYFW for the past two seasons.


Mike said...

In a broader picture with what has happened economically, it's just common sense to look at everything more considerably which is not to say retail stores, department store, boutiques internationally have made bad judgement calls. With such a strong economy previously, people felt it was good to have the extra resources to do lavish and bigger openings or whatever. Everything is more expensive now and having just read the latest issue of Monocle, maybe RAFW should lower their show venue 'rents'. It would encourage more designers, the lesser known ones to party to RAFW. Instead of an alignment with what is happening, leases have increased instead of being lowered thus tenants are forced out.

Smaller venues are best and why not? They are more intimate and engaging and it gives greater focus on the clothes, not on those clad models - sadly.

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