Report: Moda Manhattan 1/2008

Follows is another guest entry from Marguerite Swope describing her recent experience of showing her line at Moda Manhattan. Oh, if you’re interested in contacting the rep that she mentions, email me. Thanks Marguerite!

Background: I contacted Leah Wiley, the LA rep that Kathleen interviewed for Fashion-Incubator. Leah also has written an article. I was looking for a rep, and I consulted with Leah who is great! Armed with her advice, I contacted a rep in Manhattan who decided she wanted my line. Unfortunately, this fell through, but the rep offered to share her booth at MODA with me. I later heard this may have been counter to MODA rules, but for me it was a cheap way to do the show. I paid $2700 for 1/3 of the booth, but I ended up with more like half of the booth. So that’s how I got to MODA.

Set-up Day: Because I was in a rep’s booth, she planned to have the booth set up to her liking, and all I had to do was get my clothes to her. So I delivered them a couple of weeks before the show, and she hung everything, steamed it all, and got it all to the show. I just had to show up with my order forms and line sheets. This was wonderful!

I went to NYC on set-up day to dress the forms she brought for me and to organize my part of the booth. I arrived at 1:30 and decided to pay to park (I usually look for street parking). The flat-rate parking was $50, so I drove a couple of blocks and found parking for $30 for three hours. That was enough time for me.

My badge was waiting at check-in and all went smoothly. I walked onto the floor, and my heart started pumping—I’m really here! It was very exciting as it’s the first fashion-oriented wholesale show I had done. My other shows were wholesale for artists of all kinds. I walked to my booth in a daze as I passed lines I had only heard of or seen in stores. And here I was with my line. It’s really a heart-stopping moment.

The rep had the booth looking great. Very clean. Pucci pink walls & tablecloths, vases with flowers, completely organized. Best of all, my clothes were hung on a rack already, my scarves were organized, and she had 2 mannequin forms for me to dress. She was very friendly and helpful, as was her assistant.

My goals for the show were sales (of course), but also networking as I am looking for reps, and I am interested in how other DEs manage growth, find working space, etc. So the first thing I did is find the booths of two other reps I have contacted who agreed to look at my clothes at MODA. I met one on set-up day, and he looked at my line. He liked it, but as I’m finding out, the good reps already have full packages. He told me he’d think about it and that I should call him after the show (I did, and he decided he couldn’t take a whole new line—perhaps “if you were just novelty tops I could fit it in.” I’m not, but he gave me another lead, which also didn’t work. But this is the networking you have to do.)

The other rep didn’t arrive until very late, and I had my three hour parking to worry about so I never found him that day. As I walked around the show, I saw the names of a few other reps I knew might work for me, so I just made notes in my program.

I went to my hostel on 97th & Broadway. It’s the Royal Park Hostel and I pay $60 for a private room with bath in the hall. It’s clean, I’m comfortable there, and I don’t need fancy. At shows all I do is work and sleep. There is a health-food store, Starbucks, grocery, and subway stop all within 2 blocks, so I’m set.

Sunday, Day 1: I took the subway to Times Square and walked to the show. It’s not a short walk, but I’m fresh in the AM and don’t mind. After the show, I always took the MODA free shuttle to Times Square to get the subway. The shuttles were waiting right outside the doors and as soon as one filled up, another pulled up behind. Very efficient.

Show opens, and I see young buyers walking by. Now, to put this in perspective, you need to look at the other MODA report on this site. That DE was distressed because all the buyers were too old for her line! I had looked at the list of designers in the show, and I knew I was a fit, so this started to worry me. These buyers were young and hip, and while I admired what they were wearing, they were not my buyers. (I later found out that we were in the wrong row. All the reps I was interested in and the lines like mine were in a different row. The speculation from one rep was that my rep probably signed up late because they all have to wait for clients to send them the money before they can commit to the show.)

Food coupons—hooray! No buyers, but I find out we get free food—breakfast, lunch and snacks. The food was decent, too. There were several lines—pasta, sandwiches, and something else. They also walked the show giving water to everyone.

Finally, at 10:30 someone took my line sheet, liked the line, but didn’t write. When she left, I looked at her card and realized she has an eBay store. Threw it away. I don’t want to have my line there!

Yawn. It’s slow in our booth. The booth across from us seems pretty busy, but her price points are way low. I’m discovering how many stores are saying my prices are too high for them. I’ve never gotten that at the art shows. ($65 is my lowest-priced top).

Went to redeem my coupon for a cappuccino to stay awake this afternoon. In line I met a very nice young man who designs for a small company—his first job. They produce in China. Wonder what their prices are?

Went to the booth of someone who I know sells in boutiques that could also buy my clothing. Took a peek —gorgeous, gorgeous dresses with yards and yards of skirt (way more than a full circle) selling for $72! Yikes! She must also be producing overseas now.

I have a very hard time at these shows staying focused on what I do. I began to have doubts —should I consider overseas production? Can I be competitive if I don’t?

Finally, a very interested buyer looked at my line. She said she will order. Another “I’ll be back.” (Note: She actually did order —she was at the next show I did and came right to me to order.)

4 p.m. I wrote an order. Whew! This woman got the postcard I sent about two months ago and remembered me. We have compiled a list of 500 stores that seem like it fits for our clothing, and we send postcards to them through We’ve gotten three orders so far and other inquiries.

When it rains, it pours. While this woman was writing, someone else who had gotten our postcard stopped by. She took a line sheet and said she’d come back. Also at the same time a catalogue company stopped and asked if they could photograph a piece on the wall. They told me they take the photo back to their company and they sit around and look at everything and decide what to buy. I don’t even remember which catalog (I hadn’t heard of it), and I didn’t think to get her card (rookie mistake). I’ve not heard from them.

Monday, Day 2: I consider yesterday a success. One order, several very interested, some “be backs”, and I talked to a couple of reps. Unfortunately, the bad news about being in a rep booth is that everyone thinks she’s my rep. All the other reps I’m interested are in her territory! So I am approaching them to let them know that’s not the case. The rep I didn’t find on set-up day came by today, and he likes my line, but his package is full (which I knew from talking to him before the show). I’ve seen him at three subsequent shows and he’s been very friendly and helpful. He did tell me it would be good if I could get to NEAC next week (New England Apparel Club), and that was helpful because I managed to do that (next report).

Had several interested buyers this morning. It’s always interesting talking to them because I learn so much. Like to say “no” when they ask if I can change things (ie, add buttons, pockets, etc…hey, who’s the designer?). Another very interested woman was concerned about the skirt price and wondered how much she could get for $1000 (I had a show discount at that level). We talked a bit, but what I should have done was tell her I would work up an order for her based on that and give her the show discount. On the spot. Instead, this occurred to me later, and so I mailed her a suggested order —but I haven’t heard from her. Note to self: Follow up on this!

A fashion editor stopped by and took a postcard, saying they look for lines to write about. This is where I wish I’d had the press kit that was written about here recently. Just make it easy for them to write about you! I have a press release, but it wasn’t with me.

2 p.m. One of those moments when I feel like a complete failure. A wallflower. It’s so hard when people around you are writing, but you’re not. When that’s happening, it’s hard to remember the pep talk you gave yourself before the show (you know, the one that says, “it’s not all about sales; it’s about experience, networking, being seen, yadda yadda yadda). I’m tired & discouraged. The day ended with no orders.

Tuesday, Day 3: My attitude is up. I spoke to a designer who manufactures in India and he was full of good information about manufacturing in Bali (where I get my fabric) since he had done that until he moved to India. Found out that the knits across from us (so cheap!) are made in Bali. I guess if I want to compete in their market, I have to figure out how to lower my prices.

I’m coming to the conclusion that MODA may not represent my market —at least with how I manufacture currently (just me in my living room!). I like making to order, being able to mix up fabric instead of making 100 things all alike, and being in control. However, all this networking is what helps me determine my path.

I have been surprised that more people are not coming to my booth because of my rep. Unfortunately, she’s at another show and her assistant is here. Many people have come by looking for her.

Spent this day talking to more reps. The woman next to me said she has someone in mind that might be perfect and she took my information. (Ultimately, this someone did become my New England rep.)

I’ve been told so many times that you have to show up a few times before people have confidence in buying from you. I’m writing this report after two more shows, more postcards, and more advertising, and I’m finding that name recognition is starting to happen. People are remembering me, and I guess you just have to have the stamina to wait for it all to come together.

The show ended with a big order at the end of the day (from the woman who came the first day and said she’d gotten my postcard and would be back). Hooray!! Also at the end, a small store came and bought some things off the rack.

7 p.m. It’s so wonderful to just know I only have to pack my own clothes and leave. No racks to break down, no booth to break down. So easy! MODA is very organized. By the time I got uptown to get my car and return, the line of cars was small and it took very little time to get to pull right up to the Javits Center, load in my clothes and leave.

My orders paid for 2/3 of all my show expenses (booth, hotel, gas, parking, food, etc). And I think the two new stores that bought will be good customers. They were both targeted by our postcards, so I know they are a fit for my clothing.

Would I do MODA again? Probably not. By myself it would just be too expensive, and I’m not sure there’s a high enough percentage of buyers coming through who are right for me. On the other hand, if I had a rep doing the show, then, yes, I’d ante up my share of the booth fee.

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  1. Colleen says:

    Marguerite, Thanks, your show reports are great. I especially appreciate you including an affordable, Manhattan hostel.

  2. Marketa says:

    Marguerite, thank you for your detailed post. I found it very helpful and insightful. I am about to do Accessories the Show in May [which runs in conjunction to Moda] and I need all the insight I can get. My first show. Needless to say, I’m super excited and nervous.

  3. Marketa,

    My friend, who has done the Accessories Show with jewelry basically since it started, said the Jan. show was the best ever. She wrote a ton of orders. MODA was slow, Accessories was not.

    I hope you have a great show!


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