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News Fashion Weeks
The Business of London Fashion Week Part II
giovedì, nov 25, 2010, 14:53 / London, United Kingdom
Continued from The Business of London Fashion Week series, we welcome you to the second part of our feature. Read Part I here.
These days fashion professionals need to be more business savvy than ever to succeed. We asked Joseph Quartano, the co-owner and buyer of New York shop Seven, one of the world’s best sources for progressive design, to tell us what London Fashion Week means for his business.
TribaSpace: How often has Seven New York been coming to London Fashion Week?
Joseph Quartano: I guess since it really started to become relevant again, which is about three or four years ago. Barbara Grispini form the British Fashion Council invited me when she began the sponsorship programme. She was inviting selected editors and buyers for a complimentary hotel stay at The May Fair. At the time, I was one of the few New York retailers that was really buying a lot of new British talent.
Why did American buyers consider London irrelevant then and what makes it relevant now?
I think for a period after Hussein Chalayan, Alexander McQueen and all the British heavyweights stopped showing in London and opted for Milan or Paris it didn’t make sense for buyers to shell out a few thousand dollars when no-one was really shaking things up. Then suddenly you have a bunch of new designers coming out in 2005 – 2006. This new crop of 10 to 15 designers put London back on the map.
How does LFW differ from New York Fashion Week?
London is far more conceptual and creative. You can almost feel the crackling of the energy. New York is a lot more staid and commercially oriented.
What designers are on your must-watch list this season?
All the ones that I carry. We have 17 or 18 British brands now. Atalanta Weller, Chris & Tibor, Christopher Kane, [Ground-Zero] (http://www.ground-zero.co.uk/gz09/index.html) and Horace – who has been our top seller for the last three seasons. We also just picked up Aitor Throup and MariaFrancescaPepe.
What designer pieces are currently flying off the shelves at Seven?
Raw leather jackets for the past two seasons. We’ve sold hundreds of them! Another item doing equally well is House of Holland’s garter belt inspired hosiery.
What are the trends for spring/summer 2011?
I think that there is a shift away from black. I see a lot of gender bending at the moment. One major trend I saw for menswear is skirts for men – a throwback to what Gaultier was doing in the early nineties.
What 2010 trends would you prefer never to see again?
I am getting tired of all the digital print stuff that’s happening. I wish that designers would at least do it in a new way. Having said that I am a fan of Mary Katrantzou who has built her brand on that concept. She owns that concept. And so does Christopher Kane.
How flexible are you as a buyer?
I go in with my sales data and my fingertips from the prior two seasons. You can see trends in terms of who is hot and what is selling. But I keep an absolutely open mind because you never know what the designers are going to put on the runway. I have guidelines ahead of time, but I won’t actually fix my budget until I have done my very last appointment.
What are the risks associated with placing an order with a relatively unknown designer?
With certain designers, I know, from past history, that I can sell $30,000 in retail for a particular season. They are easy for me to select and there are not as many risk factors involved. At this point in their careers they have the whole production thing nailed down – quality, etc. Plus they are established.
And for a relatively unknown designer?
With a brand new designer there is a whole bunch of risk involved. First and foremost, they could go out of business and not deliver. Or they could start designing the wrong things. I have seen so many young designers suddenly decide that they want to triple their sales and just do basics, thinking that is what everyone wants to buy. As a result, they become irrelevant and fade away. The biggest mistake a young designer can make is not staying true to their vision in the early days.
Does a costly, elaborate production influence an order any more than a minimalist catwalk show?
Only insofar as a grand, humongous production will be seen by more people and get a lot more buzz. That said, it does not really matter, because if it is a brilliant presentation, even done on a shoestring budget, the bottom line is it is a brilliant presentation. I would respect the designer much more than a big [fashion] house that has a million dollars to blow.
How does your budget for London Fashion Week compare to New York?
London is far more interesting for me than New York, at the moment. I don’t sell too many American brands. They have too much of a commercial focus. My client expects a very interesting and challenging buy – statement pieces and statement designers.
What is the most expensive item you have bought at London Fashion Week?
I have definitely bought a lot of expensive Gareth Pugh pieces. And some of our Preen pieces cost up to $4,000.
How does e-commerce influence the selection of pieces ordered at London Fashion Week?
Selling online allows me to connect to our clientele, which now includes people from all over the world. That gives me the freedom to buy a lot more interesting pieces. I don’t have the pressure of selling only in New York.
How much influence do British editors have on your buying?
I do read the reviews in British Vogue. But they don’t have that much of an impact on me, because I am buying for the American market. And I know what my clientele want.
What is the most rewarding thing about LFW?
Seeing the talent and the amazing runway shows. That is what excites me and that is why I am doing what I do. I also really look forward to going out when I am in London. Having awesome parties doesn’t hurt.
TS: What aspects do you find most gruelling?
JQ: It’s a little hard on my wallet. Spending dollars [in London], particularly when you are taxiing around all day. I spent £200 on that, that’s like $300.
What improvements could be made to the event?
Firstly, I think they have made one of the biggest improvements by moving the tents to Somerset House. It’s a brilliant venue. The only thing I would say is that it is frustrating for me as a buyer to go over there only to see the shows and then be told by the British designers, ‘no, we’ll just do the appointments in Paris.’
Would you prefer to do the appointments in London?
It would be nice if we could take buying appointments while we are there. I think you would have a lot more buyers coming. My schedule in Paris is bananas. 16 hours a day is absolutely gruelling. Partly because I am doing all my British buying in Paris.
Are British designers losing out as a result?
For sure! Buyers may be so busy in Paris that they say: ‘you know what, I am simply too exhausted to go to this appointment for this British designer when I have other things to do.’ When I am in London I have the time on my hands. And there are no excuses for not having anything ready, because if the Americans can do it, and have everything ready for market, why can’t they?
What colours can we expect to see on the streets of New York next season?
Beside black, I’m feeling burgundy, plum and navy (midnight blue, almost black). Orange is also kind of fresh.
How do you unwind on your last day in London?
I am usually working until I get on the plane. However two seasons ago I had two hours to kill, and there wasn’t anything worth going to, so I ended up going to Big Ben!
To be continued. Coming up – our interview with the designer duo Felder Felder on their business views and market experience.
Ian Morales | TribaSpace
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