Marketing is both the holy grail and a nightmare of corporations and young designers alike, but especially the latter. Marketing puzzles most creative minds as an inconvenient afterthought, after the masterpiece has been produced and exhibited and much after the encouraging lights of the graduation shows have gone out.
Marketing was the one question which remained unanswered for me upon graduating with an MA from CSM in London: what is the business reality of the creative industries and how does one apply all the great ideas to the material world. Speaking to the many other graduates from top London colleges and attending their designer shows over the years have proved the same point: many great ideas never make it through because their creators have no grasp of reality outside of the university walls and no commercial acumen.
This is why, when Julia Mogilevskaya, a Fashion Communication student at the British Higher School of Art and Design in Moscow, reached out about her project, I felt compelled to listen with interest.
Julia's final year project, along with the other members of the team, is to promote a fellow graduating designer from her university, but with a condition: everything has to be as it is in the real world. The assessment will appraise every element from a PR strategy to showroom sales, the runway, the bloggers, the style shoots. Their task is to launch Unum Nulla, a young trendy brand by Mariana Sbitneva and shake up the blaze Moscow crowd.
A hard task, Julia tells me, "In Moscow, magazines won't write anything unless they are offered money and the first question people ask when they get a fashion show invitation is: 'what gifts will I get." With such a dispassionate reality and materialistic approach, launching a new designer in Russia comes down to unmeasurable quantities of personal charisma, boundless drive and hundreds of phone calls, in all of which Julia and her team seem to have excelled, judging by the fact that showroom has been found, bloggers are typing their reviews, the stylist is creating his vision of Unum Nulla and runway is being prepared.
Beyond the traditional marketing, it's great to see Julia and her team exploring opportunities in the latest technologies: "We have also managed to strike a deal with a virtual fitting room Suitup.ru, a startup from our university, which has been a real success. The startup offers a platform for designers to sell their creations and buyers get a chance to virtually try the outfits before they buy. Such great technology is fantastic for retail and we have been lucky to get Unum Nulla to be represented there".
Not many graduating designers can boast a team of bright marketing minds spending days and nights on strategising and executing a plan of promotional activity, but seems like Unum Nulla got the lucky ticket. Such a practical approach to structuring a fashion course is very progressive and certainly a great way for students to get a grasp of reality and Julia is extremely complimentary of her teachers and the University in general. "We have great teachers, most of whom are practicing fashion journalists, PR directors, who know the industry and take us to the shows, ask us to watch the real thing. The hands on element is a great asset."
However practice and reality are still the domain of fashion communication, while the fashion design course is far removed from instilling practicality: "Designers have no idea of the prices, or production costs or creating scalable products. They are focused on producing the graduation show as the pinnacle of the course, I think there should be an even closer integration between courses so that we can all benefit from exchanging ideas early and bringing in the cost of real life production into designer's plans" comments Julia.
For Julia this is her first experience and she cannot get enough, but for other few on the course, who have already worked in the industry, it was a disgruntling task to promote someone for free. Eventually the common goal and nearing assessment prevailed and Unum Nulla got the full support it needed.
Next year Julia is aiming to try London as Russian fashion industry has shown to be a too materialistic and undeveloped affair. "This year as a fashion communication student, has opened many perspectives for me, event management being one of them. Brainstorming and planning events for PUMA, Ulyana Sergeenko, has really lit a spark in me. I want to explore event management further".
The practical direction of the British Higher School of Art and Design is impressive to watch in action and one can only hope to see more integration between ideas, numbers and words in Universities across the board. For now let's wish UNUM NULLA, which channels the timeless energy of nature into the smart casual lifestyle of trendy urban ladies, best of everything that fashion can offer.