Selling creativity or gaining sales; the new way for emerging designers to survive?
Following a jam packed January of London Fashion Week Men’s events, we reflects on the most memorable and striking shows from LFWM AW19. Gone are the days of conventional catwalks, paving way for contemporary performances and collaborations. This season saw a lot of designers step away from showcasing their collections in the Designer Showrooms, instead opting for catwalk collaborations with big brands including; Dr Marten, Pokémon, New Balance, Timberland and Ticker. From the collections seen at the catwalk, one can easily sense there has been a subtle change of behaviour in the industry, as established commercial brands, mostly little to do with London Fashion Week in the past, have been increasingly active in seeking to collaborate with young emerging fashion designers.

Take the collaboration between Bobby Abley and Pokémon for example. All the well-known Pokémon characters have come to life, incorporated in Abley’s latest collection. The collection has managed to generate mass resonance with the audience, as most them are from the Pokémon generation. It is by no coincidence, that the upcoming live action movie POKéMON: Detective Pikachu is scheduled to hit cinema screens in May this year. The life-sized dancing Pikachu figure at the fashion catwalk adds a surreal yet memorable highlight to the entire event. We can certainly imagine the crazy Pokémon fans slashing the street by wearing the Bobby Abley x Pokémon crossover collection once it is available for purchase.

Another highlight is the Jordan Luca presentation. This season, the duo collaborated with renowned and quirky British milliner, Stephen Jones OBE. With Jordan's 7 years experience of working for his millinery label, it was an exceptional fitting collaboration. The innovative milliner created a structured headpiece resembling a men’s shirt, fit with collar and buttons. The headpiece accompanied the garments perfectly, with the hat mimicking a man in a state of undress. Jordan Luca also got back up from the footwear giant New Balance as sponsor this season, which allows them to focus on creation.

Michiko Koshino, respected by the London's fashion community as one of the industry's original innovators. The collaboration between Asahi and Michiko Koshino is another tremendous success, in which the established international beverage brands is supporting Michiko, whose AW19 collection shares the same cultural origin as Asahi itself. Unlike the other fashion presentation by focusing on displaying the collection, Michiko brought the 80’s rave party experience to her audience. Hu Bing, the famous Chinese actor and international brand ambassador of LFWM, is one of Michiko’s most loyal fans. We spotted him dancing with Michiko and it was the highlight of the rave party. 

What do these big brands have to gain? In addition to achieving diversification away from the congested media channel to improve their reach to potential target audience, the collaboration with the world of emerging creation is very likely to enhance the overall brand value when compared to advertising through traditional means. Think about the difference in terms of brand image development between paying to air a commercial on TV, versus embedding your brand into an emerging designer label who may share the same value and belief. Most importantly, the consumers for these big brands are millennials who spend much of their life on social media. It is a smart decision to make, sponsoring emerging designers as opposed to throwing out big money to advertise via the traditional channels.
What do all these translate into for the emerging designers in the fashion industry? In addition to the financial support emerging designers may gain from their more established partners, they are also able to gain the support of the disciples of the bigger brands who have taken an interest in their new collection due to the nature of crossover collaboration.
It is definitely an exciting opportunity for the fashion industry, especially during a time when market exposure has become just as important as financial support. For any new emerging designers who are fortunate enough to enter into partnership with a more established entity, it is foreseeable they stand to gain not only the immediate increase in sales and media exposure, but also the long term benefit of attracting loyal customers who have spilled over from their more matured partners.
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