This was my experience as a designer attending UKPSFW last September 2015, but it starts two years earlier in January 2013.
I was contacted by, as it was then, British Plus Size Fashion Week as a new designer to pick up one of the remaining slots on the catwalk and
in the market hall. I was exceptionally flattered, but having never done a show like that before I knew I had to do my research if I were to put my brand on show in an international arena. So I decided to not accept but to go to the event and see it first hand. It was a big show and did at that time really highlight a large number of plus size designers and newcomers to the market that I had not seen before. In the most part I was impressed by the variety. Yes, the high street chains were there, but their offerings were approximately 1/3 of the whole show. At the very end of the catwalk show there was some lingerie. And while the models, who were amazingly diverse and fantastic, the product on display convinced me that I could bring my designs to the show and I really did have something to offer.
Every time over the next 12 months until the next show BPSFW/UKPSFW announced that they would be posting their design packages for the next event and catwalk I inquired. During this time my business had flourished, I was selling through three distributors in boutiques throughout the US and UK. I had been covered several times in Lingerie journals and bloggers were taking notice. It wasn't until the 2nd of January that I got the package details through. Designer 1 package with 12 catwalk looks seemed the most doable as there were only 6 weeks til the show and EVERYTHING I make is custom to fit. Excited, I tried to sign up and send them the money and asked what sizes the models would be (if they were standard). Then I heard absolutely nothing. So I asked again. And again. You know, one email may go astray right? So the date comes and goes. And there is a sheepish announcement that the event has been postponed. Well, stuff happens to the best of us. Let's see if they can get it together next time. I'm still interested.
When they announce the September 2015 show, I am pleasantly surprised when they also contact me about being a part. I ask for the catwalk package. This year they have changed the show from previous years. There's a preview for the press on Friday night, the catwalks on Saturday and the market on Sunday. They offered me the market package. I really wanted the catwalk, and this is important... If my product is not on the catwalk then there are no press pictures, the journalists and stars will go to the catwalk, not the market. This is where the package I purchased was so crucial. UKPSF informed me that the Indie Designer catwalk was full. BUT the Market day package included a "flashmob" catwalk, inclusion of my promotional material in all goodie bags, full page editorial ad in the show booklet, full page advert in Evolve magazine, 4 blog posts on Evolve's website and social media coverage before during and after the event. With at least having all that coverage and the ads and my flyers in the bags I would at least reach the press, even though I wasn't on the big catwalk.
It take a lot of money to create a show. If you look at Chantal Thomass, they create an atmosphere of exclusivity in a booth. They have models to display the lingerie on a living body to show you how it fits. So doing a "fashion show" it is best to be an event within an event. Just as BooHoo.com had touchscreen monitors so that you could explore their catalogue, KurvyKate sized bras for the public... For an indie designer to shine amongst the High Street retailers, you really have to focus on having a polished image - all the details. Really focus on getting the message of your brand obvious and out there. Which after buying the Gold service from UKPSFW I invested nearly 2 grand in new designs and stock, hiring a print illustrator for the flyers and ads, the print runs, models, shoes, accessories, makeup kits, travel to get everyone into place and so much more in all the small details. Because off the back of these long hours and hard work it would be publicised on twitter, social media, blogged, published in magazines, handed out to each guest, shown down the runways and in our booth. It had to be perfect. It had to reflect the quality of work and detail that is sewn into each piece of lingerie. We brought our best because we believed we had something amazing to offer.
That's if we could get there. On the 13th, which was a Sunday and the London Landmark Cycle Circuit bike race. That would not be so bad if they had not closed off every street in the vicinity of the venue. Or if the organisers of the race and the Police hadn't chosen the space opposite the venue to have their head quarters. So there we were with no warning from the UKPSFW team that deliveries to the venue would be impossible because they did not know what was happening outside the front door. We just had notices about what times we could deliver and where just the day before
- but no warning that those instructions were useless. When we called the UKPSFW staff they were flummoxed. CLUELESS and completely useless. We asked if there was a rear entrance "don't know". Can you speak to the front desk and ask if they know of an alternative route or how to get onto the street - "don't know". At one point, the person from UKPSFW handed her phone to one of the hotel guests (venue was a hotel) to have him explain to us how he got there. He, who was completely embarrassed to be put int that position, stated that he had snuck in just before they closed off the road. Thank god I had gone to all those lengths to arranged for models to work my stall! I had to phone them to meet us at Tottenham Court Road tube station where we had pulled up on the curb to unload the van where we carried it all on the tube and on foot to the venue. We arrived an hour and a half late having spent the morning driving around London and waiting for UKPSFW to be of any help.
But once we were moving we were determined not let it ruin the day! That came later.
When we finally got to the venue we had less than 30 minutes to set up, steam the lingerie, get the girls dressed... oh and battle the stall across from us who had annexed our racks. We didn't make it. The doors opened with half naked models behind improvised screens, no hair done on the models and me still madly steaming knickers. We somehow managed to get it together despite the chaos that ensued when the opened the doors. From that moment the stall was MOBBED! The public loved us! The bloggers loved us and I have made some amazing friends from that day. There were two catwalks scheduled for the day and at the first catwalk my girls rocked it! Just look at what the foot fall did to the carpet in our stall! There was a path directly from the catwalk to OUR stall! We were a HUGE hit and I have never felt so validated as a designer. It was the right thing for my brand to be there. I had earned my place at the table. Or so I thought.
Ten minutes before the second catwalk my models were called to line up. My assistant Jess escorted them so she saw everything that happened after. In the meantime, a UKPSFW staff member delivered to me the unopened boxes of my flyers that were to have gone into all the goodie bags. I was gobsmacked. At that point I had not seen or been offered a show booklet/programme. I asked for one. They avoided every request for a copy for me to check if my ad was in there. I spoke to several bloggers who had had been to all three days of the event and had the booklet and they did not remember an ad for RavenDreams. My stall being there and my brand was a total surprise to them. The second catwalk started. My girls were lined up to go last as before. They could be seen in the wings on UPSFW's own video. But the host ended the show before they went on stage. You can actually see one of the models being prevented from going onstage. We were told that oh, the host had thought she had finished. So there was no second catwalk. Semi-panicked at this point I went to look for the stall that was supposed to sell the magazine my brand would have a full page add in - nowhere. Asked if it was in the goodie bags - no. Could I see a goodie bag - no. I checked their sites and social media for mentions - nothing. I immediately felt devastated, we rocked that event and no one was going to know.
This was the package/service I had purchased from UKPSW (Gold):
- Shell Space.2 clothing rails.Table for catalogues/leaflets.2 chairs. Had to fight to get the racks back.
- One of your outfits included in the ‘Flash Mob’ catwalk. Sizes needed TBC. We were explicitly told that having our models on both catwalks was more than welcome. Then that was revoked last second.
- Inclusion of your leaflets in all goodie bags at the press event, and in the catwalk shows Were returned unopened.
- Full page editorial advertisement in the UKPSFW show booklet, given out over the event weekend. (this will need to be created by your business. A5 size including bleed) No evidence that this happened.
- Full page editorial advertisement in printed Evolve Magazine, sold over the event (this will need to be created by your business. A4 size including bleed) 4 blogposts posted on Evolve Magazine’s website www.evolve-magazine.com (keywords and content can be agreed) Evolve ceased to put out print issues in Aug '15, so no full page ad . Zero blog posts.
- Social Media Promotion Prior To The Event, Over The Entire Weekend & After The Event On UKPSFW social channels and Evolve’s social channels There was a total of ONE tweet a couple of weeks prior to the event.
After realising that the service/package had not been delivered and after the absolute cock-up of not being able to the venue by car/van the UKPSFW staff member immediately, and to my great relief, promised a full refund. A promise she later repeated often via email along with a promise that the Director would issue a personal apology as well.
10 months later I am still waiting.
So imaging my surprise and outrage when UKPSFW announced that they were proud to have been nominated to Best Event at BPSA. Of course I had to say something. The comment got removed. So I repeated it. To then be told that, oh we were going to contact you privately. Two working days later, NOTHING. So I commented again. THIS TIME I got a message via Face Book from the Director herself, asking for my phone number. I replied that I prefer email and gave her my address. I was informed that she would contact me the NEXT day. NOTHING. Then another FaceBook message after business hours apology and that there would be an email waiting for me at start of business. NOTHING. It has now been a full week with messages promising to message me. This is exactly how they have behaved for 10 months.
UK Plus Size Fashion Week replies on their blog, "We are very sad that you had a bad experience at our event." They ripped me off. They sold me a service they did not provide. They gave me their word in writing of a refund. Their word means nothing. Just like all of their promises to contact me and resolve this amicably. 10 months.
Thinking of doing a fashion event? I suggest Curve