At your last meeting, a millionaire client mentioned he loves fashion and follows the work of many design houses, including Phillip Lim, Ferragamo, Missoni and Viktor & Rolf.
These names sound foreign to you. Still, you hit upon the idea of taking him to a show at Toronto Fashion Week because you’re confident it’ll develop your relationship and could lead to referrals. Since you’re not a fashion insider, here’s how to deal.
Though most shows are reserved for industry, media and the wealthy, it’s not hard for mere mortals to get tickets, says Muriel Alexander, account manager at ASC Public Relations. ASC works with brands Mackage and Pink Tartan at Fashion Week.
So call a designer or the show organizers to try to get tickets, she says. They may have some free ones to give away. Passes to popular shows, like Joe Fresh or Jeremy Laing, will be more difficult to acquire. Alexander recommends going through your network and calling any connections you may have in retail or the fashion business. In past years, organizers have also sold tickets for $50.
Fashion Saturday is another option. It’s open to the public, and includes a highlights show and designer market. Fashion Saturday last October, for instance, featured top looks from 22 of the week’s 39 designers. General tickets are $75, while premiums go for $150 and include a backstage tour and swag bag.
And tailor the show to your clients’ interests to show you care, says Lisa Tant, Holt Renfrew’s vice president, fashion editor. Ask yourself, “What business is my client in? Who are they personally—are they more outgoing or more cultural? Are they very conservative?” She notes Jeremy Laing’s modern look is great for a client who’s an arts and culture lover. If you don’t know the designers, research can help you avoid embarrassing situations, Tant says. Go to a designer’s website to view past collections. An advisor shouldn’t bring a client to a swimwear show, as the semi-nudity would be inappropriate. But Pink Tartan’s professional women’s line would go over well with a lawyer or executive. There’s also a showcase of new designers that would appeal to anyone who supports fresh talent.
Also, put thought into your own outfit. Your clothes should uphold your client’s perception of you as a responsible advisor, Tant says. “If the style is too casual, or even too trendy, you could put off that person. You want to gain their confidence.” Err on the conservative side, she recommends. Resist the temptation to compete with fashion obsessives who want the attention of photographers. Still, you can dress with personality (see “What to wear,” below).
Wearing a piece by the designer you’re seeing is welcome, says Alexander. But, above all, be at ease in your outfit. “When you feel uncomfortable, you’re going to look uncomfortable and feel out of place.”
At the show
Your main chance to shine with clients is before the show. Make sure to arrive at least 30 minutes early—you can’t afford to be late, because shows last only 15 minutes.
And the pre-show crowd is part of the fun—you may see celebrities, designers and media talking heads. You should warn clients it could be hectic, though, Alexander adds.
“It’s really a matter of maintaining your composure in any situation.”
Use what you’ve learned about the designer to engage clients while you’re waiting. “You are presenting yourself as the expert by taking them to this show, so you should have a general base of knowledge,” she explains.
You could also discuss the fashion industry’s contribution to the economy. But don’t rattle off too many statistics or you’ll bore your guests. Instead, engage them in conversation. Ask if it’s their first show, suggests Alexander, or what they know about the designer or other fashion topics.
And don’t let the exclusive atmosphere get to your head, she says. Being pushy or feeling entitled to special treatment will displease your clients, and could backfire if the person you’re being snarky to is an insider.
When the show starts, pay attention. Behave as you would at the theatre—don’t leave in the middle and don’t talk loudly. And don’t take cues from audience members who heckle. Tant says she’s been to shows where women hollered at male models. “It’s appalling,” she says.
Afterwards, your clients may want to attend a party. Designers in Toronto throw bashes at venues such as SoHo House and The Spoke Club, or at restaurants in the Fashion District, says Alexander. Retailers Target and Holt Renfrew also host parties.
But it’s hard to get in if you don’t know someone, Alexander warns. So nearby restaurants are good backups.
“The city will be buzzing,” she explains. At a trendy spot, your client still gets that same energy and feeling of being inside Fashion Week.
Jessica Bruno is a Toronto-based financial writer.