Clockwise: The eye-popping artistry of featured Expose designers: Intricate dresses from Yeojin Bae, masterful one-of-a-kind textiles from Levi Okunov, and fetish-worthy shoes from the new high-end shoe maverick, Jerome C. Rousseau.
As part of SASSYBELLA.com’s New York Fashion Week coverage (which we wrap up this week!), we had the opportunity to check out the premiere of the new, very cool Expose NY showcase on September 4th. We met a dynamic range of enticing new designers (some of whom you may see on Sassybella.com very soon!). We are intrigued by the premise of Expose NY and thank Matt for inviting us to take part its inception – we look forward to February 2009’s installment!
Expose NY – a designer showcase which selectively and simultaneously targets buyers, editors, writers, and stylists alike – was created by PR mastermind Matt Meyerson. He believes Expose NY’s conceptual and promotional strategy fills a void in the trade show circuit through allowing promising brands reach out to multiple media outlets at once. Below, in a SASSYBELLA.com exclusive, Matt Meyerson sheds light on what makes the Expose NY project a truly unique enterprise.
SB: What is Expose NY and why we should take notice?
Matt: Expose is the first fashion trade event geared toward fashion editors, writers, bloggers and stylists. It’s an all day open-house event that showcases some amazing premium to luxury RTW and Couture brands from around the world. It gives guests a chance to actually meet the designers, touch the samples and interact with the collection in a relaxed, yet professional environment. Expose brings designers that don’t normally have a voice during NY Fashion Week to the spotlight by showing them beside a baker’s dozen or so of other amazing collections.
SB: You’ve held a prominent position for one of the largest PR firms in the country. What led to your decision to change course and initiate the Expose NY project?
Matt: After about 4 years of helping boutique brands grow extensively through my PR/Placement efforts, I felt it was time to expand my own practice. Though I was good at pitching and forming lasting relationships, it became less and less exciting for me and I decided to leave the game before the game left me. However, I had built so many amazing friendships within the business and I did not want to throw those away. Expose is a natural extension of what I had done while working at the PR firm so I concepted and executed the first show in less than 4 months. I enjoy producing events since they involve a lot of problem solving, negotiation and creating of new relationships so the challenge to create a successful trade event in an already flooded marketplace (not to mention a down economy) was a challenge I decided would be a fun one to undertake.
SB: What outcome would indicate to you that the first Expose NY event is a success?
Matt: This is a trick question since I am very very hard on myself in anything I do. No matter what the outcome, it is my nature to ask myself “What could I have done better?” I am usually never happy with my own performance and always strive to better my last effort. HOWEVER…if I had to place some level of personal success on Expose, the goal would be to pull off an effortless, clean and efficient event where the guests walk away with a feeling that their time was well spent with my showcasers, sponsors and staff. I like to make people happy and if people don’t feel Expose was a good usage of their time then I would never do it again.
Also, though this event is not based on quantity of guests that come through the door, I would love for every top tier market and fashion editor from the major fashion, lifestyle, weekly and electronic outlets to make an effort to attend. Also all the stylists that I have worked with in the past and select buyers would make this show a success in my eyes. I know the value of the relationships I have built over the years and participating in Expose (in theory if the attendance is as expected) is a bargain.
This is the first time EVER that I have opened up my personal rolodex to anyone besides my retained clients and they never even got face to face time with my contacts unless they did costly editor/market events.
SB: What makes the Expose NY showcase preferable to other trade shows?
Matt: This show is concise, well curated and you can be in and out in under an hour. I have painstakingly picked brands which are best in category so that the guests that come can discover new collections while seeing others that they are interested in. Editors and stylists are very busy folks and the goal of Expose is to make sure to bring them a few handfuls of new brands they want to work with and be a part of “breaking” to the consumer.
SB: Did the featured brands and designers come to you or did you seek them out?
Matt: It was a little of both. I got a lot of referrals from editors and stylists who know my reputation for doing great work with brands and events. I also did a TON of research into the type of brands I wanted at the event and personally reached out to them. I am very very happy with the first roster. With standouts like Jerome C. Rousseau, House of Bastion and Yeojin Bae the initial buzz has been exactly what I had hoped for.
For the next show I already have enough brands interested in showing Fall ’09 so that I don’t necessarily have to see out lines…but me being me, I am still going to blanket the fashion environment with info on the next showcase.
SB: Who among those showcasing is likely to be hailed the Next Big Thing?
Matt: I hate to single out people since all brands at Expose were hand picked and accepted as showcasers (we turned down about 50 brands who wanted to participate) but I think the ones that will capture the media’s attention and be hailed Next Big Thing is either Jerome C. Rousseau or House Of Bastion. Jerome’s designs are so sophisticated and elegant, as well his being a lovely person, he is without a doubt a rising star in the shoe game. So much in fact, that I heard rumors of his first deliveries in stores like Fred Segal selling out in a matter of a few days.
Ramona Boucher from House of Bastion is another anomaly. Her design sense is so unbelievable I truly feel that she could become as big a designer as anyone out there. Her jewelry is amazing (hence used as part of the plot in the film Sex and The City) and is a favorite of royalty all over the world. She debuted her new “angels” dress collection that is so elegant in detail it has small slits in the back for wings. Ramona too, is as lovely as it gets, and I feel in this game that really and truly does make a long term difference in one’s success.
Both brands are run by a single person and get so much press without having to put forth effort that it humbles me that they would want to do my show. I promise you that both of these designers are one’s to look out for in 2009 and beyond.
I also think Levi Okunov, Stephen Jones of Shadows and Dust, Priestess NYC and Yeojin Bae are all set for stardom.
SB: Describe an ideal candidate for Expose NY. What kind of brand or designer is a perfect match for inclusion in this event?
Matt: Expose judges each brand on 3 criteria: Product, current accounts, and past press coverage. Product, being the most important thing we look for, is judged on originality, construction, wearability and press-worthyness. I pride myself on being able to spot talent and I could probably just pick brands on this category alone however I make sure the stores and media are on board with my instincts as well. This sort of discerning eye is critical to the success of my event. If the product isn’t good or the stores and media don’t love the brand then they will not attend Expose.
SB: What are your future plans for the Expose NY project?
Matt: Expose is something I am fortunate enough to be able to do relatively effortlessly, in terms of putting the logistics together (venue, sponsors, rentals, etc.). The show itself will never be much bigger than the dozen or so brands I had at the first show. I do not want to compromise the quality and expediency which with my guests will become familiar. That being said, in 2009 the plan is to come back to NY in February for the Fall ’09 Collections then bring the show to my hometown in LA for the summer to capitalize on all of my celebrity and Hollywood contacts and then return to NY for the Spring ’09 Collections in September of 2009. The year after I am eyeing possibly moving the format overseas to locales like the UK, Barcelona, Sydney, Shanghai and Milan.
Expose does not aspire to be the next Coterie, Project, Designers and Agents or Bread and Butter but rather a supplementary show that brings a well curated and tight group of designers into the forefront.
Matt also spoke to us about his views on the New York Fashion Week experience:
SB: What is your take on West Coast vs. NYC fashion culture?
Matt: Ah… this is a debate that is near and dear to my heart. I started my “fashion career” in the surf industry. It is a culture I grew up in and one that frankly resonates around the world…including in NY. But even as someone who was known for promoting California designers, I have to say that NY dwarfs LA in terms of fashion culture. LA Fashion Week is abysmal, at best. The problem is that they are two totally different markets. There are some AMAZING designers based out of LA however the incubation of talent is, for some reason, done much better in the dark design studios of the Meatpacking District.
I would love to see West Coast fashion culture explode however the media does not take it seriously yet. The West Coast will need to prove to the Right Coast that it can design fashion for people who aren’t necessarily living on the beaches of Malibu. Perhaps we can take notes from what is going on with fashion in Australia. Aussie designers are doing an amazing job of exporting their flair and culture to the world and making no apologies for it.
SB: Will you be involved in any other Fashion Week events? What designers excite you right now?
Matt: I unfortunately had to head back to LA so I only got to spend day one at the shows. I attended a couple of collections which did not impress me one bit, however Academy of Art had some designers that showed some promise. I never like to downplay what anyone is doing since I know how much hard work, time, dedication and money goes into making a collection so I prefer to only name names of brands I feel are doing great things. I come from a culture of shorts and flip flops so my fashion sense is not necessarily that of someone who would love Balenciaga and Louboutin. I enjoy emerging artists. When I was in PR/Placement I preferred to take on brands that had a chance to grow exponentially since they were the best in their category but just needed to get some help getting out there. SO…for me I love brands like Rag and Bone, Ever, Jerome C. Rousseau, Bastion, Shipley and Halmos.
SB: New York Fashion Week is famous for launching the careers of many notable American indie designers. Do you feel that it is the smaller labels capturing the zeitgeist these days or does the legacy of long-revered luxury labels still dictate the fashion forecast?
Matt: In a down economy, buyers and consumers get very wary of where to spend their money. The smaller designer often is the victim of this fallout and is unfairly affected by economic cycles. However, people are always looking for the next best thing to couple with their legacy brands. Though people follow trends and eat up information ravenously these days, nobody really wants to look exactly like everyone else. This is where indie designers can capture a piece of the pie. Their toughest challenge is to let people know who they are and where to get their pieces…this is what Expose hopes to help some of those brands do.
Thank you again to Matt for speaking with us!
Readers can check out www.expose-ny.com to learn even more about an exhibition what is sure to become the must-see trade event of many Fashion Weeks to come!