PRAGUE — Organizers of the recent Mercedes-Benz Prague Fashion Weekend here flew in buyers from several European countries, nudging a five-year-old event toward its eventual goal of boosting international exports of Czech and Slovak designers.
Representatives from specialty stores such as Doshaburi (Barcelona), Primitive London (U.K.), Temporary Showroom (Berlin) and Agentura Muuse (Copenhagen) met designers backstage after the shows, which ran Sept. 3 to 7, to discuss the possibility of future collaborations.
“Since this was the first time international buyers attended the runway shows, no orders have been placed yet,” said Lukas Loskot, general director of Mercedes-Benz Prague Fashion Weekend.
“Our platform has become the most prestigious national fashion event in the country, which provides each designer with wide p.r. coverage on a national level, complete look books and represents a quality standard for international buyers. Most of the buyers will need to review the next collections to assure that the designer is stable and has an integrated visual trademark in order to proceed,” he added.
Although there was no trade event in tandem with the shows this year, Petra Ptackova, one of the rare Czech designers represented by an online platform, notjustalabel.com, said she would follow up with buyers during Paris Fashion Week, where she is to host a showroom presentation.
Until recently an open-air showcase with full access for the general public — staged for two consecutive years on the Parizska Street, nicknamed the Fifth Avenue of Prague — the most recent edition took place in the spacious entry hall of Charles University Faculty of Law.
According to Loskot, the goal of the weekend is to “generate awareness of the creation of local fashion designers as well as to promote Czech design on an international level.”
This year’s edition hosted a total of 15,000 guests: 70 percent professionals and the remaining 30 percent admitted general public, Loskot said. International buyers and press represented about 15 percent of the official runway guest list, he noted.
The Czech fashion industry represents 3.7 percent of the country’s gross domestic product, with most exports destined for neighboring Slovak Republic, said Olo Krizova, chairman of the Czech Fashion Council.
According to the council, the average annual turnover of a Czech designer who has his own established network of private clients and commissioned boutiques is about 58,000 euros, or $79,150 at current exchange rates.
Krizova said the most successful commercial fashion brand in the country is Pietro Filipi, which collaborates with established Czech designers on a regular basis. Fourteen Czech designers out of the 25 who staged runway shows over the five days export their collections, predominantly to Slovakia, Germany and Italy.
Mercedes-Benz acquired Prague’s nascent fashion week in 2012 following its third successful edition. In order to foster international exchange, a partnership with Malaysia Fashion Week was established and designer Jimmy Choo came on board with an educational mission, meeting up-and-coming Czech designers to consult and share his professional advice.
“Presenting my collections during fashion week is a bonus service for my faithful portfolio of clients,” said Petra Balvinova, who paraded a collection that was not offered to wholesale clients.
“On average, we receive about 200 orders in a week, mostly from individual clients, but it takes about three months to create and deliver them, which is a huge problem of many Czech designers. Finding a balance between the incoming demand and capacity to produce requested amounts is always a challenge many of us need to cope with. This is the key reason why I cannot commit to any retailer, because I cannot guarantee 100 percent the delivery of requested amounts,” she explained.
The official runway schedule prohibited commercial presentations of mainstream brands, leaving the full spotlight focused on the collections of Czech and Slovak designers.
“This summer, I premiered my collection at Berlin Fashion Week, where the runway show was followed up by a personal presentation to press and buyers. I appreciate that Prague keeps up with these standards,” says Marketa Marova, the creator of Antipearle jewelry, who presented her collection along with colleagues Eva Vontorova, Boris Hanecka, LaFormela and Klara Nademlynska.
One of the buzziest shows of the week came from local fashion star Jakub Polanka. Soon after Polanka graduated from the Institut Français de la Mode, he worked with industrial designer Philippe Starck and was later nominated for the Hubert de Givenchy Award. His collections are easy to recognize by the draped silhouettes, clean lines and bold approach.
The “wow” factor of his packed show was the appearance of Rick Genest, a model and actor known as Zombie Boy for his full-body tattoos that make him resemble a rotting corpse.