November 19, 2007 / 11:32 AM / 11 years ago

Networking needed for new designers in Milan

MILAN (Reuters) - In a small, sparsely furnished office near Milan’s main train station fashion designer Eugene Ray is putting together his womenswear collection for the autumn/winter shows next February — just 40 pieces at most.

The small number is not so much due to the exclusivity of his Delusions of Grandeur label — whose pieces sell for 200 euros ($290) and above — but to the problems many start-up designers face finding the fabrics and factories willing to produce.

“To make samples of our garments they (factories) effectively have to stop a production run that could be for a very big company,” Ray said.

“The real battle is to get somebody excited about the idea enough that they will entertain ... spending some of their own time trying to develop someone new.”

Milan is Italy’s fashion capital, boasting world-famous designers such as Giorgio Armani, Dolce & Gabbana and Versace.

Young designers can got to the fashion chamber of commerce, Camera della Moda, for advice and help to put on shows.

But it’s difficult for new players to find fabric producers who are willing to cater for small orders and factories which will take time out from big clients to make the pieces.

“We found a factory in (the region of) Puglia through a friend,” Ray said. “Without that I don’t think they would have entertained us ... they just don’t need the extra hassle.”

Ray, who has worked for Versace, set up the Delusions of Grandeur label in 2006 with banker Andrew Sentance. The British partners started designing t-shirts.

The next collection produced higher-quality cotton jersey tops with embroidered designs, men’s shirts with ritzy ribbon banding on the cuffs or collarless long-sleeved shirts with a turquoise trim.

For the autumn/winter womenswear season Ray hopes to expand the designs and use wool as well, pushing prices up to a maximum 1,000 euros. He aims for sales of about 150,000 euros.

NETWORKING

The factory in Puglia put Ray in touch with a fabric agent which was willing to handle small-scale requests.

“Now we luckily have a lot more choice. Because otherwise, I’m on the phone to one fabric manufacturer every two hours ... asking them whether they can do just a few hundred meters for our final production,” he said. “The network continues.”

Using a Web site is one way for a small designer to trim costs, another is holding a presentation of its outfits rather than an expensive catwalk fashion show.

“The Web site is just a great reference point ... a great way to give someone a feeling of the label,” Ray said.

But he cautioned that new designers have to deliver orders to shops or they lose buyers.

“Let them down once and they are just not interested.”

Delusions of Grandeur would like to mount a fashion show for the collection in September 2008, Ray said, on a budget of around 20,000 to 25,000 euros — compared with extravaganzas that top designers put on for maybe 250,000 euros.

“These guys have had a really good crack at it ... but my gut feeling is that people are just awash with lifestyle brandism. Where are the smaller companies ... where is that kind of exciting feeling?” Ray said.

Reporting by Jo Winterbottom; Editing by Golnar Motevalli

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