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Production Focus: FASHION SHOWS

Things To Consider When Adding Fashion To Your Next Event

By: Rose Mandel, Mandel Productions

Fashion shows have earned their niche as a substantial component in the world of special events. Corporate image, new product launches, tours, fundraisers and cocktail party entertainment are some of the examples that can easily incorporate a fashion show—and everybody loves them! The world of fashion—fashion designers, shows, super models and fashionable celebrities continues to be a popular spotlight in the media and reality television.

Fashion moves from trunk shows and luncheons to spectacular theatrical presentations. Combined with music and art, fashion affects us on a much deeper level than we realize. Their energy is powerfully synergistic, speaking a universal language. Making fashion events an excellent launching pad for your image, product, message or theme.

Established companies and non-profit organizations have an arsenal of successful annual events, marketing and advertising campaigns. More than likely, fashion is part of the scenario. Newer groups may still be in the building process. In either case, fashion events can become a major player in promoting growth and enhancing image perception.

Formal and informal shows are the two types from which to choose. From the most basic to elaborate productions, the following outlines the styles and types of presentations, along with production information

to consider when making fashion part of your event plans.

Informal Shows are less expensive than formal presentations for several reasons: fewer models need to be booked; there is no formal rehearsal with specific choreography required; and staging, lights and technical aren't a large part of the equation. However they can still have a lot of impact on your audience. Let's examine the variables available to you:

Tableside: Great for luncheons; models move from table to table, generally holding a number that corresponds to a program with fashion information. Models and guests can chat about the garment, view it up close, and feel the fabric. In many instances garments can be made available for purchase on-site at the conclusion of the event. This is very interactive for your guests.

Aisle: No budget for a stage? The strategic placement of your tables can create an aisle which serves as a runway. Models continually parade out following the usual show format.

Platforms: Small platforms are placed throughout the room. The model follows a walking pattern to each one. The elevation that a platform provides allows everyone multiple viewing angles.

Dancefloor: Many venues and banquet spaces have permanent and portable dancefloors that serve beautifully as a stage area.

Runway: Generally one long, elevated piece of staging that’s inexpensive, giving a more formal feel to the presentation. Overall viewing is good for your guests.

Formal Shows can be very exciting and entertaining to audiences, combining many elements from theatre, current trends to classic styles. Set-design, video screens, staged movement, dance, music, props, product,

voice-over and commentary are just some of the things that can be incorporated into the show. Your message, theme or product can be presented in the most creative ways. Formal shows always involve more planning, rehearsal and overall production. This does not mean that you could never afford to produce one. Consideration of union to non-union houses can effect your costs and production decisions, as union houses generally are more expensive. However, there are ways to save money in a union house. A experienced show producer working closely with the venues catering director and AV department, can guide you through the maze. Formal shows can be presented in a variety of ways:

Dancefloor: Whether permanent or portable, dancefloors can be used effectively for a staged fashion presentation, and your guests could dance before and after the show. Staging can also be placed on the

dancefloor and broken down within fifteen minutes of the conclusion of the show for dancing afterwards. The great thing about a permanent dancefloor is that they have built-in lights around them that can be utilized for just the cost of a light technician.

Existing Theatrical Stage: Certain venues are available that have a built-in theatrical stage; in most cases an extension can be added from the middle out into the audience. Creative set design can be produced for added impact. The advantages are in-house lighting, sound systems and technical staff, saving on additional rental fees.

Rented Customized Runway: A popular way to present a formal presentation, because you can customize the height, length, width and shape of your stage. The most popular shape is a "T". If your room is very big with a large audience, an "I" shape helps with viewing, or any other crossbar sections that you add on. Small portable stairs are usually required for models to enter and exit, and skirting is placed around the perimeter as a needed decorative touch. Set-design and backdrops of all types can be produced, or if your stage is centrally located, none is needed, creating a view from all sides. Most entering and exiting would be executed from the middle, and sides (wings); stairs can also be placed at the end of the runway as well. Some of the most fantastic shows have been produced in places you would almost never think of. Remember, there are no hard and fast rules; you are only limited by your imagination.

What are other issues to consider? Let’s look at the models. There are professional models both male and female to include over-sized, mature and children. Pro models are fabulous and add glamour to your presentation. Children are incredible performers and fun to watch, there are even trained animals!

Real People are another option you can integrate with professionals. Usually, they are active members of your group. They help sell tickets and it’s a thrill for them to participate with family and friends in the audience. Lastly, you can book a supermodel or a movie star—but it’s very costly. Well-known sports and television celebrities add an extra touch of excitement to any show, and in some instances they will lend their name to the event and model and/or MC the show.

There may be additional costs and expenses that you will have to cover. You should always consider the

following when working with a budget for models:

• Desired show length/time.

• Formal or informal presentations. This can affect the number of models and groupings used in a show. Remember, even the fastest model—with assistance from backstage dressers, stylists, etc.— will need time to change and run to the stage.

• Number of runs/segments in the show, in addition to the Finalé Parade. Example: Segment #1 could feature Classic Suits. Segment #2 would show Casualwear; Segment #3 Clubwear; Segment #4 Eveningwear; and Segment #5 would be the Finalé Parade. Alternately, each run could be a different boutique or featured


• Number of garments (completed outfits) that will be shown.

• Proximity of the dressing room to the stage. This affects the show’s timing. Avoid blank space and

unintentional blackouts during your show. Smoothly run transitions are the mark of a professional presentation. Dressing rooms should be as close to the stage as possible. It’s usually less expensive to use an existing room space instead of creating one with pipe and drape. Dressing rooms should be secure, clean, lit and have electrical outlets. Mirrors are always nice to have, but not essential. Portable garment racks work well,   double-sided is best. Many venues have them in-house or they can be easily rented. It’s always nice to have a chair for each model booked and some tables for hair, makeup and accessories, but it’s not essential. More elaborate presentations may have additional rooms for hair and makeup to catering for staff.

Lights and technical would be determined based on what venue and space you’ve selected, either available

in-house or secured from an outside source. Walkie talkies are frequently used for communication among the director, stage manager, backstage personnel, and sound and light technicians during the show.

Your show’s soundtrack is very important. It reflects the mood, movement, image, theme and garments shown. It should have a lot of impact, and grab the audience’s attention right from the start and build. The best

customized soundtracks are professionally engineered, mixed, pre-recorded pieces of music; expertly pieced together that can include special effects and/or voice-over. The least expensive soundtrack would be a recording of non-stop musical mixes that build and cover the general mood and estimated length of the show. Continuous soundtracks do not require a specific on-site show engineer; these are ideal for informal shows with smaller budgets. The better soundtracks are specifically planned, mixed pieces of music that are separately recorded segments corresponding to each section of your show. The length of these segments are always recorded longer than needed to ensure that mixing from section to section is perfectly timed to the actual real-time movement on your stage. This requires an on-site show engineer. It costs more, but is well worth it. The effect is very dramatic and slick. Show segments should have smooth transitions both visually and audibly.

How do you put it all together? It’s best to hire a professional to coordinate and execute the production and show portion of your event. Many larger department stores and upscale boutiques have in-house fashion

coordinators and staff or employ outside contacts that can act as a mini production team. These popular stores have a full booking schedule and need to be called well in advance of your event date. If you desire a variety of elements for your event, contact an independent show producer or production company. For groups that

prefer assistance with total event coordination to include the show, an outside production house will do a

fabulous job.

These sources should provide you with coordination services to include:

1. Theme.

2. Securing participating stores, boutiques and designers.

3. Hiring talent and working with real people.

4. Staging, set-design, lighting, technical assistance, etc.

5. Soundtrack production.

6. Scripting show, writing voice-over and/or commentary.

7. Pulling, tagging and organizing all garments and accessories.

8. Rehearsal and choreography.

9. Director, backstage staff, stylists, etc.

10. On-site show management and execution. Anyone that you hire to help with your event should have the ability to work closely with your marketing staff or event committee members. You have the right to receive a complete show proposal of ideas and costs to consider before moving forward.

Obviously, there are many variables in creating a spectacular and successful event. By now you should have a better understanding of what to consider when planning your fashion event. Even if you do not actually

participate in the production portion of your event, you now have the power of being an informed consumer and planner. This knowledge will assist you in reaching and even surpassing your expectations and goals.

* Published in SE Chicago Magazine


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