While the industry continues to question the importance of New York Fashion Week, Shanel Campbell, a 26-year-old Parsons graduate, believes the platform is still important.
She will embark on her first fashion show on Sept. 5, a little bit ahead of the official start of fashion week, and here she outlines how she’s producing a show and what she hopes to achieve. This is the second story in a series that will follow Campbell as she develops her collection and builds a business. WWD previously spoke to Campbell about what she envisions for her brand after being endorsed by Solange Knowles and Issa Rae.
WWD: What are your plans for fashion week?
Shanel Campbell: It’s going to be a runway show into a presentation and it’s 18 looks. I want it to be very intimate so you can take your time and look at everything. I don’t want too much thrown at people. When you see too much, you start to not care. When I see a huge collection on my phone, I just start swiping and swiping and swiping. It’s going to be really fun. Very informal and more of a community gathering than an uptight fashion show. But the fashion show element will be there for sure because I didn’t make all of these clothes for nothing.
WWD: You previously said that you want to work with women of color for all elements of your show. Did you achieve that?
S.C.: Mostly. I’m showing at Ludlow Studios, which is run by a black woman. She was really flexible with me in terms of rates. Raisa Flowers is doing the makeup. Arielle Mosses is doing the nails. Susy [Susan Oludele] who owns Hair by Susy in Brooklyn is doing the hair. And all of the women in the show will be black or mixed. I’m street casting everything. Martine Ali is doing the jewelry. Matthew Mazur, who goes by Mazurbate, went to Parsons, so he’s helping me out with music. And Cala is doing PR. I’ve been to a few of their parties before and they know so many amazing people. And Jeffrey Campbell is providing the shoes.
WWD: How did you connect with each person?
S.C.: I sent an email to everybody who is working with me. I maybe spent one week just sending emails.
WWD: Did you work with the CFDA at all?
S.C.: Yes. Joseph Maglieri from the CFDA is the reason I’m showing on Sept. 5. He told me I probably don’t want to compete with bigger brands on the fashion calendar. It also costs about $550 to get on the calendar. Next year I can look forward to that. But I want to start slow. And they were great about sending me contacts.
WWD: How much does it cost you to put on this presentation and where did you get the money?
S.C.: I would say it’s going to be a total of $10,000. And that’s for the show and the making of the clothes. Some of it is coming from my savings and the rest comes from friends and family. I’ve never asked my family for this amount of money in my life, but they’ve been so supportive and know it’s something they will get back at some point.
WWD: How are you making the clothing?
S.C.: I make everything myself with interns. If you are a young designer and want to do this, I would say you need a team of two or three people to work with you each day for three months. I made all of the patterns and samples myself in February. Then during the summer, I added more samples. And I was lucky enough to be able to use studio spaces in Parsons.
WWD: What do you want to achieve with the show?
S.C.: I want to create an experience for women of color to see something different. I want to create a vibe and challenge what fashion week can be. It’s a presentation, but it’s supposed to be fun. I want to create a show that I would want to go to. I have a meeting with Opening Ceremony the next day, and maybe people will buy the pieces, but I really wanted to blur the lines between artist and fashion designer.
WWD: Did you consider the commercial viability of what you made?
S.C.: When I say artistic I mean hair is a big part of this. It makes a big statement. I was willing to go cheap with a lot of things but not the hair. I love the clothing I’ve made. It’s super salable. But the show isn’t entirely about the clothing. It’s about the look and the women wearing the clothes and the representation. These images can reach one girl from the ‘hood and she can say “I can do that.” That’s the point.
WWD: What has been the biggest challenge?
S.C.: I sound light and free right now, but there have been moments when the pressure felt like too much. And I’m not even doing some huge crazy show. At one point I had to find another venue when I had already told my team that I confirmed the space. When you tell yourself you are going to do something, that’s one thing. But when you tell people in the industry, that’s another. And if something goes wrong, it has to be fixed.
WWD: What’s your advice to other younger designers thinking about doing a show?
S.C.: I would say get your team together before you focus on the clothing. I did it the other way around. I started the team building a month before the show but it should be at least five or four months just so you have peace of mind. Or no less than three. And when you are reaching out to people, tell them who you are already working with. People might be interested in helping out for free if they have wanted to work with the hairstylist or the makeup artist.