Showing at Atelier

Today we have another trip report from Marguerite Swope, designer and owner of Ivy Reed who’s writing of her experiences showing at Atelier. By the way, Atelier is based out of Santa Fe, New Mexico. And people say there’s no fashion industry here. Thanks Marguerite (also a fellow New Mexican)!
The Atelier Designers Show is a hotel show in New York (Doubletree Guest Suites Times Square), and I showed in it for the first time just this past 4th -6th of May. These are my experiences pre-show, during the show, and post-show.

I first applied for the February show. There are several steps to getting accepted into Atelier. The first step is to fill in the contact form on the website, and then they contact you. If you have a website, they look at that before they contact you. They liked what they saw on my website and encouraged my application. In the application you have to list other designers you hang with in stores and other shows you’ve been in. I’m not sure the weight these have in the decision, but I was confident about this part of my application.

The next step -if they like what they see so far- is to send a sample box. I made it this far and sent a box of samples. I was surprised not to be accepted, but they wrote a very thoughtful and helpful rejection and told me they wanted to keep my application on file because they knew my line was young and they thought I could be a fit later. So, I called and asked if I could walk the February show.

Walking the show (as always) was a big help for several reasons. First of all, I got to meet Susan Summa, the show director, and her assistant, Sharon. They were very gracious (and admired the clothes I was wearing!). Looking into rooms and seeing layouts gave me lots of ideas, and I had lengthy conversations with two designers about the show, what to expect, and about production. I also could verify that my line was a fit for this show.

Atelier is in February, May, and September with dates coinciding with TNK’s Intermezzo and Coterie. They told me to let them know immediately if I wanted to be considered for May. I sent my new line sheets (I had incorporated some of their suggestions), and I was accepted.

Hotel shows mean you stay at the hotel (my big chance to have a spectacular NYC hotel—I usually stay at a hostel). The room is a suite with approx. 12 x 17 living room and a separate bedroom. It was spacious enough to have a nice boutique atmosphere in the “showroom.” and plenty of room for boxes and storage in the bedroom. I also moved out two chairs that were in the living room and there was plenty of room for them in the bedroom.

Exhibitor Support
I asked what kind of support they have for new exhibitors, and they told me they have extensive web assistance. They weren’t kidding. This show really supports its designers. Once you’re accepted you have access to a whole section on the website that shows you room layouts from past years by collection size and kind: small collections, medium collections, large collections, clothing, and jewelry. It’s hard to overstate how extensive the help is. If you click on “room layouts for medium collections” there are several designer’s room layouts to look at. Click on one and you see a large photo of the room with several thumbnails next to it to click and look at. You see the room from all views AND you can look at a drawing (blueprint) of the layout that shows what kind of racks the designer had, furniture placement, lights used and light placement. AND they have a pdf file with the empty room layout. So I was able to look at the layout of my room exactly to scale with the couch, tables, etc. I copied the layout to photoshop and then cut and pasted the furniture in different layouts, placed my racks, lights, etc to scale inside and I had a layout all ready realized when I got to NYC. We also called the hotel in advance and were able to get dimensions like width, length, height (for light poles) of the room, the width of the opening to the bar area of the room (so I could put shower poles across the opening to hang scarves).

The phone support and email support is superb. They run a very smooth operation. Oh, yes, we also were given a list (printed or excel, whichever you want) of all buyers who have attended the show for the past four years! So we had a great mailing list to use before the show.

Setting Up
Load-in was super simple. I drive to NYC and I’m comfortable driving in the city, so I just pulled up in front on 7th Ave, the bellman unloaded my car, and I went off to park. This is a union hotel, so there is a flat fee per item, but it only cost me $46 TOTAL move-in and move-out. Very reasonable and simple. My show folder was also in my room waiting for me—staff support during the show was as good as before the show.

Set-up in my room went exactly as I’d planned, but it always takes more hours than I think it will. My room looked great (if I do say so myself). I took two full-size mannequins but I don’t think they added much except labor, so I’m not taking them again. I have some blow-up mannequin forms that actually do a nice job, and I’ll probably take them.

I was a bit anxious about the show as I’d just come off a dismal show in Vegas (ACRE). Coincidentally, the woman next to me had also been at ACRE so we commiserated. A couple of other designers had already heard from friends that it had been a bad show for fiber. Word travels in this small world. Networking is one of my goals at shows.

Day 1 of the show
I was up very early the first day, and decided my clothing needed more ironing than it seemed at midnight the night before. So I spent a couple of hours taking care of that. The show opened at 9 a.m., and at 9:30 Susan and Sharon came by to see how I was doing and they loved my set up and lighting. I was very pleased because I wanted to do this show again. At 10 their photographer came and took lots of room shots. The only people who didn’t come by were buyers. It’s so hard to stay upbeat and confident when there are buyers in other rooms but not yours. As it turned out, the only buyers I had the first day were personal shoppers. I was very discouraged to say the least.

The party was that evening and I talked to designers who told me some people don’t write at all their first show, and one told me he didn’t write until the last hour of the last day. YIKES! Most everyone also told me they had a customer base and they knew nearly everyone who wrote. That helped. I did notice that people came to the room across the hall from me with a list in hand looking for her room, and then they’d look at it as they left and say, “Okay, now we need to go see….so & so.” They didn’t even spare me a glance. It was helpful to talk to people and to be encouraged by them.

Day 2 ot the show
The second day I got two orders, locations I’m really happy about. The next day I got two more. I’m really happy with four new customers, and while the orders weren’t huge, they were decent. I had to keep confident about what success means to me versus what I see going on across the hall with designers who’ve been in business over 20 years.

A market analyst from a huge buying group came in to see my line. A division of this group had called me before the show (as a result of my postcard I sent out), although this woman didn’t know the other division of her firm had contacted me. I was thrilled she came in, and I have a rep working on follow up with her. (Leah Wiley, whom I’m using as a consultant—Kathleen has written about her and she’s written a guest entry here).

The contract for the show included the night after the show, so I packed up that night and spent the next morning sourcing fabric. Check-out was simple, and I had until 1 p.m. They took my boxes to the downstairs lobby, and I got my car after I checked out, and the bellmen were waiting to help load my car.

I consider this show a success, and I met almost all of my goals.

Here were my show goals in no particular order:

  • Network with other designers
  • Get new accounts
  • Get leads of interested buyers for follow up
  • Find reps (or at least get leads on reps)
  • Make some money
  • Make lots of money
  • Advertise my line
  • Get ideas for my next collection
  • Get sourcing/production leads

I met all of them except make lots of money! Sure, I’d be thrilled if I did, but right now a bigger goal is to get new accounts and exposure so I can build a customer base. I don’t yet get huge orders, but I am getting reorders. I feel as if my line is growing at a pace I can handle.

A couple of miscellaneous items: I got the name of a sewing contractor in NYC (he’s in Chinatown, but he’s not Chinese—his sewers are, I think). I plan to visit him in June. He will do very small orders so he could be a good DE resource. I’ll report back to Kathleen after I meet with him. I also got the name of a fabric jobber and I saw him after the show. He had Italian wools, and I was looking for some. It’s Natalie Textiles, Inc, 251 W. 39th St., 5th floor. 212-997-1528. He’ll hold fabrics for you up to a month while you take samples to market.

Post-show follow up
I got a fax within a week asking if I want to do the September show. About two weeks after the show they sent a wrap-up letter about the show and what they heard from buyers and they sent a list of the names, store names, addresses, and phone numbers of every buyer who was at the show. How wonderful is that?

Show costs
No one seems to mention these, so I will. We figure the average show cost (total) is $3500. That doesn’t include line sheets, postcards, and other booth promos, but it does include transportation, food, hotels. Our booth was a one-time expense, but we have our own drapes, table cover (all fire-retardant as required), photo posters, lights, mannequins, folding 6’ table, and clothing racks. I don’t order anything from a show. I can pack in two big suitcases and a carry on (samples in the carry on!) and ship the rest across country in three boxes UPS ground. For east coast shows, I drive. I have a 5 lb. stepladder that fits into my suitcase.

The shows I have done are BMAC, ACRE, MODA Manhattan, NEAC, Atelier (this one) and in August I’m doing WWIN. I am happy to share my experiences with any of these shows. My previous trip reports written for Fashion-Incubator are ACRE, Material World (a buying trip report), and Moda Manhattan. Feel free to email me or post to the forum.

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  1. Lisa Cantalupo says:

    I found this article and your story (I checked out your website) to be quite inspiring. Thank you for sharing!

  2. Heidi B says:

    Hi Marguerite,

    Thanks for your great review on Atlier. I too was at the ACRE show as an emerging artist (it was my first tradeshow and although slow, I did write some orders, learned a ton and all in all it was a very valuable experience). A lot of folks there suggested I do the BMAC show in August, so I met with one of their reps and overall have gotten a really great feeling about it, but have yet to sign up. I’d love to get some feedback from you, and if you’re even willing to write a full overview like the one above I’d be thrilled! Thanks so much and continue on with the great work!

    Heidi B

  3. Todd,
    People were writing immediates as well as fall orders. I heard retailers saying they were being cautious about the fall. I don’t think anyone was writing for spring. It’s really confusing to me to know what to take. I’m taking both immediates (which includes Fall) and Spring 2009 items to WWIN in August.

    Heidi, I have done BMAC twice. August is known for being slow. I didn’t make show fees last summer, but I got new stores. I did really well in February and that helps. I don’t have time to write up a report, but I’d be happy to talk to you. If you send me an email, we can set up a time to chat.

    And…if you wrote orders (plural) at ACRE you did better than many. I wrote 2 orders–one a big reorder and the other cancelled by phone before I even got home.


  4. Eva says:

    Thanks for sharing. I would like to know, since it was your 1st show, if you had financial gains from selling to 4 clients ? Did yur sales at least cover the average expense to participate in the show?

  5. Natalia says:

    Thank you for sharing. I would like to ask you if buyers from Barney’s and Nordstrom etc show up at Atelier. Or are they exclusively boutique buyers?
    Thank you.

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