I recently returned from trading at Clothes show live in Birmingham where I shared a stall with Little miss delicious. It was my first time doing such a big event and I guess it was worth it for the experience though on the whole I’d say it went less than smoothly.
I first started to suspect that the organisation might not be great when the person we were booking with neglected to reply to my emails. Also that they might not value the smaller brands as much when they ignored the request for my banner to be added to their site (which is supposed to be part of the promotion included in the price). The problems escalated when they started complaining that one of my payments hadn’t been received 2 weeks prior to the event and continued sending me emails even after I had provided the relevant proof of payment. This was easily resolved when I finally managed to get a phone number for them which leads me to think that perhaps they hadn’t actually looked for it on the system before then.
Most of my time for about the month and a half leading up to the event was spent making stock and in my opinion, I had adhered to the “low cost/high volume” rule that would allow me to do well at clothes show. I didn’t think they had ever had a latex designer there before so I was intrigued to see how well I would do but after hearing how busy and fun it was I guess my hopes must have been a bit too high.
We were placed in the “off-beat boutique” section and though there were a few great stands selling quality hand made and customized goods there also seemed to be a fair amount of wholesalers near us. Between the wholesalers and the big brands with their “buy 3 get 12 free” type discounts, our reduced prices were still left looking way too high for the bargain-hunting customers that had already spent a fair amount on their ticket, transport and time-table. Needless to say it had become evident by the second morning that I wasn’t going to do very well.
Standing all day was tiring and being away from the studio so close to xmas was a setback, especially with orders to send out and new products to list. I feel like going some online promotion and sorting out all my new products would probably have brought me better custom.
Customer wise, I was actually surprised by the amount of people who had nice things to say about my work and even realised how long it must have taken to make some of the items. Of course there were those who recognised latex purely as something lady Gaga or Katy Perry would wear and also those who just wanted to feel the underwear or “plastic pants” and ask if they were real, if I was wearing some or even in one case if they had something to do with baking! There were also a handful of lovely people who came up to me and suggested alternative shows where I might do better. It was nice of them but at the time just highlighted the fact that it was evident I didn’t fit in there.
We started off with quite a fun party who were all staying under the roof of model/photographer Kaykay Sakura but by the end of the third day the other two traders in our party had gone home leaving me to weigh up long walk to the train station vs expensive taxi as means of getting to the venue. On the plus side I got more space to arrange my products, be in solely for my own pleasure as it was expected to be a quite day.
The Monday was one of the slowest days of my life with only about 10 customers even looking over toward the stand (I ended up making £12) and I only got through thanks to a few other supportive traders and my lovely assistant. By this point I was also coming down with a cold and ended up leaving on the Tuesday afternoon due to a family emergency.
Even on the busier days the show wasn’t as packed as I was initially lead to believe it would be, I think this may have just been a quiet year. Of course the current economic climate isn’t great for spending and some of the returning traders commented on how it has been getting worse every year.
Overall I think the event was good, just not right for me. There are plenty of other brands that do well and go back every year, though these do tend to be the larger ones with old stock that can be heavily reduced. I would recommend any smaller labels and especially those selling hand made products seriously think about it before trading there. I wish I had researched into it further but having never been myself I was just going on what I’d heard from others.
Despite everything it was great to be involved in such a large event and I think I will find it easier to select appropriate shows in the future. I do not intend to put anyone off attending clothes show by this post, but to encourage new designers in a similar position to me to take more care when choosing trade shows.
I handed out plenty of flyers so if nothing else at least I have intriduced some people to latex fashion.