The essentials of planning a fashion show

photo: Dolce & Gabbana SS2015 Milan Fashion Week, via Wonderland Magazine

There may be many reasons why you’re thinking of planning a fashion show. You might be an event manager who just landed a contract with a fashion designer to produce the show during a Fashion Week. You might be the designer starting out in the business and thinking of showcasing your work through the show. Or, you might be an event planner thinking of including the fashion show into a larger event, maybe for charity.

Fashion shows can be very different from case to case depending on what’s the main objective. There are a few elements that distinguish this type of event from all the others. From the lavish, monumental extravaganza of a couture show for a top designer, to a small fashion show as part of a charity event, the anatomy of the show is quite the same. So here’s what to keep in mind.

When planning a fashion show, timing is crucial

A fashion show is a live event lasting between 10 and 20 minutes. So everything must be coordinated with the precision of seconds, otherwise any mishap, no matter how small, can compromise the whole show. This is why at least one rehearsal is needed to make sure everything goes smoothly. Depending on its size (the number of outfits to be shown, and the number of guests to the show), the planning stage can take anywhere from one month to six months.

As for the actual moment the show may take place, shows during Fashion Week can take place either in the morning or in the afternoon, weekdays and weekends. If the show you’re planning is not part of a Fashion Week, you have to keep in mind when it would be easier for your guests to be present. Late afternoons are ideal for most shows, and consider Saturday evenings if your fashion show is part of a charity gala.

On themes and venues

A fashion show is an event with a very strong visual component. This is why it’s important to choose a theme and create that type of atmosphere that will best compliment the collection of outfits being shown. The theme will also dictate the venue you’ll choose, as well as the decorations, lighting, and sound/music. Speaking of the venue, you need to pick one that not only fits the theme but also provides enough space for the actual catwalk, seating, and backstage.

When it comes to the catwalk, you can incorporate it into the theme and make it more dynamic and unconventional, maybe moving away from the classic straight line or even having models walk in a more complex trajectory among the guests.

Don’t let the backstage space be an afterthought either, it is there that an essential part of the action takes place, and the less available space for backstage, the harder it will be to get the models coming out on the catwalk in a continuous flow.

Build the right team!

There’s no room for improvisation when it comes to choosing the team members, as roles within a fashion show are very well defined. Essentially, a fashion show will need distinct professionals covering these roles:

  • the project manager/production manager
  • casting director
  • models
  • a stylist, that will put the outfits together including jewelry, bags and shoes
  • hair stylist(s)
  • make-up artist(s)
  • lights manager/technician
  • sound manager/technician/DJ
  • backstage manager (who will be in charge of coordinating the change of outfits and the entrance of the models on the runway)
  • PR/marketing  manager
  • photographer(s) and videographer(s) – these might as well show up on behalf of the press, but do make sure you have at least one of each as part of the actual team, for the official images and videos
  • hosts(esses) at the door, for guest check-in

When you have to deal with a small budget, the temptation is high to get these roles covered by volunteers or students, but we cannot stress enough how important it is to have, in each of these areas, at least one person who is experienced in working in fashion shows. Otherwise, the risk is that the whole event will look and feel amateurish.

An important aspect is to make sure you have enough models as to not have to do more than two outfits per model. A less than perfect coordination of the outfit changes is what puts the whole flow of the show into peril. Imagine the show just stopping at some point, and no model appearing on the catwalk, because they’re all changing into the second outfits and there’s no-one to close that many zippers.

The money part

Costs quickly add up and a fashion show can become a very expensive affair. And in most cases, when the show is a part of the designer’s marketing activities for the collection, ticket sales and sponsorships are not an option. So you need to make sure that there’s a budget to cover the costs, and stick to it. Make sure you use an event budget template (like the one we created, available for free download here) and write down each and every expense.

If the fashion show is part of a larger event like a charity gala, you could sell tickets in the form of open donations to cover part of the costs. The easiest way to do this is to set up the event on an online event management platform, and sell the tickets through the platform. If you choose Metooo as your platform, you can set up open donation tickets and have funds available immediately.

Marketing a fashion show

For a designer, a fashion show is a marketing tool in itself. But it only works if the right guests show up at the show. So if the show is planned in order to promote the collection itself, the guests you would want to show up are: press (fashion magazine editors), fashion bloggers, fashion influencers, celebrities and buyers (who would get the collection in stores). To achieve this, it’s important to have in your team an experienced PR/marketing professional with good connections in the fashion media and industry in your area and beyond.

If the fashion show is a part of a larger event, and you’re counting on the grand public as your guests (especially, a paying public), you will have a different marketing approach. In this case, you will definitely need to create a public web page for the event. You will then promote it across relevant media in your area (social media, especially Instagram, and fashion blogs). Even in this case, you would still need to have some fashion press members, bloggers or influencers among the guests.

Day of the show – when it all comes together

To make sure everything flows perfectly:

  • have a written timeline of the day. All team members must have it, too.
  • have the models come in a few hours before, to allow for rehearsal, hair, make-up and dressing.
  • outfit sheets have to be in place, showing each outfit(s) to be worn by which model
  • the order of appearance of the models/outfits on the catwalk must also be displayed in a visible place
  • make sure there is enough welcoming staff at the door to handle the guest check-in. If you used an event platform for selling tickets/sending invitations, you can speed up check-in and reduce queues by using an app to quickly scan guests’ tickets. (And if your platform is Metooo, you can use our Event Plan app to do exactly that)
  • allow for extra time between the doors opening, and the actual beginning of the show, for late comers (major fashion editors, bloggers, and celebrities, sometimes show up late)
  • make sure  there is working wifi at the venue so that your team and the guests can broadcast the show live on social media

These are our tips for planning a fashion show, we hope you found them useful and that they will help you tackle this kind of event project with more confidence!


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