With footwear an incredibly hot market right now, new designers are regularly popping up and trying to get on the media’s radar. But the market calendar has never been so crowded — nor the demands on an editor’s time.
So it certainly makes the job interesting to constantly be evaluating potential talents and often advising them along the way. Indeed, there is a mental checklist that I go through every time I see a collection from an emerging designer.
At this point, it’s subconscious and I can quickly tell if a new label has legs — or feet, in this case. First impressions are very hard to undo once done, after all. Make yours count.
With that in mind, here are the top five things every designer should take a hard look at before they get in front of an editor.
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1. Collection Focus
Your intention must be immediately clear. It should go without saying who you are targeting with your collection without you explaining (i.e. over-explaining) it. For a new line, homing in on a few key messages versus a “something for everyone” approach makes a label more memorable. Start by proving you can do one thing really well. You should be able to distill who you are as a designer in one shoe. Ruthlessly edit your collection to only show an editor your very best designs. A few fantastic styles that act as a taster and show great potential are better than a mixed-bag showing all of your tricks, some more successful than others.
Stand for something, anything. You know that saying, “Everything has been done before”? Disprove it. Push yourself as a designer to create something that does not exist in the market. With everyone looking at the same Instagram feeds, shop floors and street style shots, there is a real homogenization of design these days. It’s always appreciated when a designer takes pains to protect themselves from looking at everyone else’s work.
It’s an editor’s job to see everything on the market, so if you let the influence of others seep in, it will not go unnoticed. Sure, coincidences happen. And being part of an overall trend movement can help with momentum, but designers who stay the course and stand out most to editors do so by daring to be different. Challenge our seen-it-all eyes to find something new in your designs. If in doubt, think: What would Manolo Blahnik do? Though platforms have been in and out of fashion numerous times in his career, he stays the single-sole course and refuses to put them in his line.
3. Quality & Price Point
Make it the best it can be for the best price possible. Figure out your factory issues before you get in front of the press. There are certain expectations we have of shoes that are made in Italy, as it is at the top of the pyramid. If you go to the trouble to have your product produced there, it should be executed faultlessly and finished to perfection with the finest materials. Otherwise, why bother? Shoes are something we pick up in our hand and view at a harsh close proximity, so anything wonky will be spotted. The quality expectations are different for shoes made in other hubs such as Spain, France, Brazil, Portugal, Vietnam, Morocco and China, but the same holds true.
As for price point, this needs to reflect that respective country of origin and current market values. It can be hard for a new designer to get their prices to be as reasonable as a more-established brand with larger volumes, sure, but they still must be in check. Indeed, there is a fine line, but at the end of the day, there must be good consumer value, whatever you charge.
4. Retail Support
Prove there is a real demand for your label. This does not have to be an exclusive with Bergdorf fresh out of the gate, but it helps to know that there is a retailer (or multiple retailers) that believe in you enough to take a chance. Strategy is key here with the types of stores you are working with to establish your name.
There are certain buyers who are super influential or noted for their discerning taste. If you are talented enough to be recognized by them, our ears perk up. That being said, a great shoe is a great shoe is a great shoe. If you are super green, but gifted, ask a trusted editor for advice on next steps. We want to see you succeed.
5. The X-Factor
That secret sauce. This is a tricky one to describe, but designers need a certain snap, crackle, pop in order to keep our interest. What’s your hook? It could be an intriguing backstory, unique personal style (I love when a designer has a distinct, consistent look), strong educational background or compelling names you have worked with and learned from along the way.
Natural charm and humility go a long way, too. Don’t call yourself the next Alaïa, you are not. A slight sense of elusiveness helps as well. Can’t lie, editors all have egos about “discovering” talent and often like to approach designers directly, versus being bombarded with e-blasts or phone calls (don’t call us!). These days, we often scout for new talent on social media. Your Instagram alone should be enough to capture our attention.