Thursday, 6 June 2013

My evaluation of our 'Wetherby' brief.

The 'Wetherby brief' was basically to turn up with hats to Wetherby Ladies Evening, with hats for a static exhibition table, and a fashion show.  (The 'James Brindley' was, strictly speaking, part of the whole Wetherby 'thing, but I've written it up separately.)

Due to the fact that I was making a dress and coat for a friend getting married (with lots of problems in the process - not constructionally, but in other ways), I didn't have too much time to spend on the planning, so I decided to try to keep things simple.  Some of my hats weren't done either, and were still under construction, so I ended up using older things from previous briefs (although I did try to choose pieces that fitted with the work I'm currently doing - I think the fact I seem, apparently unconsciously, to stick to the same sort of colour palette helped a lot with making it look a little more cohesive than would otherwise be the case with pieces from drastically different source material).

My two display heads are currently in use in our set-up in Fenwick department store, in York, so they weren't an option, and due to the serious cash flow problem caused by my non paying client(s), I had no money to buy more heads, or proper stands, so I had to make something up.  I was a bit stumped, as my budget was basically '£0'.  I thought about using candlesticks, or toilet roll stands (the chrome ones), or kitchen roll stands.... but couldn't find anything I really liked (and again, came up against the '£0' budget thing).

I hunted about on the internet, and came across some things that I liked - there was this (pic below) candle holder, although it was no longer in stock, so even if I'd had the money I wouldn't have been able to buy any.  I had an idea that I could recreate it (or make something similar) in a white, or a clear acrylic, (although again, no money, no time, etc).
It's now part of my plan going forward that at some point I will make some stands like this from acrylic rods, for future displays, because I really like the idea - I can also create different heights of stand that way, some tall table top, some short, some floor standing, etc, etc, by using different thickness of rod.  I like the way that they manage to be both clean and modern, but still a bit more interesting than your basic commercial stands.

Anyway, obviously that wasn't a go-er, so I went back to the drawing board, and started hunting about for more ideas...  For some reason I searched for pictures of Headonism (the exhibition at Somerset House as part of London Fashion Week).  And I found this picture of Aurora Ozma (and another similar pic of William Chambers' display):

Obviously, I couldn't buy or make the tripods with heads that are in the picture, but it did give me the idea to use tripods.  I had a bit of a hunt about, and found a bundle of garden canes (bamboo ones) that we had in the garage (left over from the veg patch last year), and decided to used those, combined with some soft muslin at the top, to sit the hats on, and some brightly coloured ribbon from my trimmings boxes.  Originally I planned to paint them grey or white to use at the show, but then I realised that they would work better with the wooden book rest I already had (and planned to use with a book of pictures), if I kept them their natural woody colour.  For ease of transportation on the day (on the train), I kept them apart, and put them together when I got there (using masking tape, needle and thread for the muslin, and ribbon to hide the tape and edges).  I rather liked the effect - again, more interesting than the usual commercial retail stands.  I may use it again, and by not cutting down the canes, I could do floor standing ones.  The only hitch with them is that they're a touch unstable - you'd have to be very careful if they were in a high-traffic environment, as I don't think they'd take being bumped into.

Onto the show itself - the fashion shows went smoothly enough, and I don't think there's a lot I'd do differently with regard to that part - I was happy with the music that I put together (four tracks in total, two spliced together for each show (youtube link to my final list here, if anybody's interested!)).  I'd asked lots of friends for suggestions, and my original 'longlist' contained everything from the Bangles (Manic Monday) and Taylor Dane (Tell it to My Heart), to The Ramones (Blitzkreig bop) and The Hellfreaks (Boogie Man).  My shortlist of ten is here

I think the only thing I'd do differently on that part is not go out front to watch for the last show.  Despite getting the agreement of the models, and assurances that they knew how to wear the hats, having done one show and tried them on before that...  the truth is that not all of them did.  It would have been better to be backstage and make sure it was right.

We should also have been more careful about the clothing on the models.  We'd asked them all to take a black dress and a neutral one, and one of them wore a black racer-back dress, with a nude coloured bra, which was clearly visible from the ground - one lady commented on it to me (not entirely unkindly) that 'that bra doesn't do her any favours, does it, poor girl'.   We should have tried to find a way round that, but I think we were just all a bit too busy till it was too late.

On the actual whole day, I think I'd have liked to have change the layout of the tables.  I had a little round table, which was tricky, because I'd planned my layout based on a rectangular table, as we were told by the racecourse people.  As we weren't paying for it, I worked with what we had - and in these situations, I thankfully never plan *that* carefully, because I'm aware of how frequently things change on the day - I much prefer to turn up, see what I've got, and work with it.  If I had been paying, obviously, I'd have turned into one of those annoying 'but we agreed....' exhibitors / traders that cause headaches to the event organisers (in this instance the racecourse staff / manager).   :o)
No, but I think that with regard to the layout of the tables, they got it wrong to put one of the small round tables on the end, rather than one of the larger rectangular tables, because it looked, and felt, like an afterthought.  People tended not to get as far as me, because they didn't realise I was part of things (one or two people mentioned this, so I know it wasn't solely my paranoia).

Admittedly, my hats aren't very 'races'.  That is, they're not very ladies day races - most of the people who showed an interest in my stuff were either owners (of horses), or older ladies who reminded me a lot of my husband's relatives ('proper' racegoers, as he refers to them, if that makes sense - people who are there for the racing, not the bar and the night out).  Thinking of the future, I think I'd do it again, but I'd have to examine the cost vs. benefits carefully if undertaking it from a business point of view.

I think I'd also only go to another evening event there with a staff - obviously, I couldn't be on my table the whole time, and virtually every time I went back to my table I found some p****d person(s) using it as a depository for their drinks.  I'd only do it again with somebody with me who could growl at them when I wasn't there.

All in all, I think several of us would have been better off doing something else entirely - perhaps something in Leeds city centre, or at another type of event.   That's completely our own fault - we should have been talking about it and making the decision months earlier, but we weren't organised enough.

A number of people to whom I've mentioned the event didn't understand why we were there at all.  To quote one person 'why on earth would you go to an event to sell hats when they're already wearing their hats for the event...'.  While I can see that people who go to Wetherby may attend other functions where they may need hats, and they may go to other races and not want to wear the same hat more than once, that idea makes a lot of sense to me.  But more from the perspective that most people who go to the races are going to be in 'races' mode, (or at Wetherby, in 'night out, let's get plastered' mode), NOT 'shopping' mode.  The mindset of most people there will be entirely different.

In terms of PR for the event, I think we left that all a bit to the last minute too.  on reflection, we should have been thinking about it back in January or February, to maximise the possibility of getting some sort of coverage in magazines, and monthlies.  Leaving it till the last minute, as we all did, was a bit like shooting ourselves in the feet.  Admittedly, it's not as simple as sending out a press release and getting coverage, I know, but based on the 'shy bairns get nowt' principle, we should have been hitting with as wide a spread of bullets as we possibly could, contacting everybody under the sun that might (even with a sliver of a chance) have been interested, and we all drastically reduced the possible publicity by leaving things so late.

I'm not sure where that leaves me for summing up...  that I might do it again, if the conditions and the pricing were right?  That I think I'm better finding other venues to promote my work?  That my work appeals more to younger (and slightly edgier / more fashion focussed) people, and at the same time, older, more traditional people (a bizarre mix perhaps)?  That I need to be more organised about publicity and press?   That I need to treat events with hats in the same way I do my costuming events, and be sure to have a full staff?

Anyway, below are pictures of my hats in the fashion shows, and on my stand.

My metallic pink headpiece with hand dyed biot feathers, on Becki

My blue and neutral suede headpiece (not part of my final collection), on kelly

My big sinamay coolie - part of a previous collection - sitting a bit awkwardly, because the 'model' was drafted in when one of the booked models flaked on us (i.e. didn't show up), and she had her hair piled up at the back of her head, meaning that elastic fitting didn't quite work!!

My black leather beret with red organza flowers

My silk and wool tweed beret, with holographic flowers, on Louise

My red fur felt cloche, with cut-outs

My little round table

My little round table from the other side - the box at the base had nothing to do with me -  another hitch of being on the end of the row, by the door!!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank you for commenting. As you might expect, all comments are moderated, so there may be a delay in them appearing.

Obviously, unless you're spamming or being mean, in which case, go away!

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.