Taking this first step abroad outside the comforts of NYC, where a collaborative of designers have grown exponentially the past three years, the NOW Showcase begins to clear a new path for ethical designers internationally.
At the moment NOW's select group of six US based designers have joined a Paris showcase called So Ethic within a larger showcase called Prêt à Porter - complimenting an expanding collection of European ethical designers who have supported So Ethic for the past several years.
“Alliances among designers and collaborations with other companies is the foundation of NOW” says co-founder Eileen Moran. “It is how and why we started three years ago.”
Two days in and with a consistent flow of buyers from all over the world, NOW designers are reassured that this trip is the link connecting current success in the US with the potential for growth. A potential obtained by expanding the horizon of sales opportunities internationally.
Heidi of Heidi Roland was anxious to “see what is happening in the fashion pulse of the world. Paris has pushed me to the next level with my collections, to really look at who the brand is, to thoroughly research product sourcement and become an expert.” Heidi has always had plans to travel to Paris when her collection, but she emphasized the appeal of joining the NOW designers and anticipates new discoveries in this journey that will benefit her in the long run.
Dana Ayanna of ARTAYA has been developing the presentation of her jewelry collection since 2004 and now, just in time for Paris has an appearance that she knows works really well. “Keeping it simple using aged and antique wood pieces against the bold colors of the jewelry” is the secret she says. Seven years in, Dana knew she was ready to go international and will continue to benefit from the alliance of ethical designers at NOW.
While the advantages of traveling and showcasing together have played into the designers favor this season, skepticism on the buying end still needs some convincing.
Yesterday I was visiting a number of boutiques in a popular shopping district in Paris and had an extended conversation with one boutique owner about the quality of ethical designs. She said to me that her experience with ethical designers is that they are more concerned with environmental responsibility than design. I'm not entirely sure what her experiences had been in the ethical world to form such an opinion but this is a perfect example of how the presence of multiple designers, independently strong in design can challenge those perceptions. Of course I offered her a personal invitation to So Ethic :)
“We select the designers from the buyers perspective and choosing a diverse and dynamic sampling of accessories, handbags and womenswear”, says Eileen. “For Paris we chose designers that were interesting, offering something different from what other designers are showing, but the designers also had to be prepared to sell abroad and handle all that entails (early production, shipping, taxes, etc).”
Joining forces in this new experience together allows everyone go through the learning curve together and ultimately saves time in the long run.
For Kelly of Kelly Lane Designs this international trip will help her develop her brand and test out the overall reaction to her collection in a new way. “I see this as an opportunity to better understand the ethical market in general,” she says and “the ability to try something new with the safety net of a group is priceless.” Kelly plans to make adjustments in her timetable of production from now on to accommodate an international market. Her designs can now be found in Rome and Paris.
Eileen comments that “we had a vision since the beginning to take our designers and the community to other cities and this opportunity presented itself at the perfect moment. We hope to expand our horizons, be inspired, share information, learn how they do what they do and join forces where possible.”
Stay tuned for more from Paris as we continue to further investigate the international ethical world from a designer and buyer perspective!