October 9, 2012

I don't care about your dreams

Okay, maybe that's a little harsh, but it's closer to reality than most of us want to acknowledge.

On Project Runway last week, there were five contestants left in the final challenge before New York Fashion Week. Several contestants are chosen each season to design a full collection to be shown at Fashion Week, where the winner of Project Runway is eventually crowned.

After each contestant had discussed his or her garment with the judges, Heidi Klum asked each of them, "Why do you deserve to go to Fashion Week?"

The answers were all variations on "Because I have a dream" and "Because it means everything to me." (Except for Fabio, who determined that the show had allowed him to be loud... and that Fashion Week would allow him to scream. I think it was about self-expression.)

Here's what I wanted to hear, and what their potential customers would want to hear:

I deserve to go to fashion week because my designs are new and innovative and make my customers feel unique and special.

I deserve to go to fashion week because my designs transform the way women shop and wear clothes.

I deserve to go to fashion week because my designs make women love their bodies.

I don't really want to hear what the designers will get out of going to Fashion Week. It's pretty obvious. We've heard them talking about their dreams all season and their desire to win. They get celebrity, they get money, they get visibility, they get to build their businesses.

Now... what do I get?

When that designer wins Project Runway, it's no longer about him or her (not that it ever was... the judges constantly remind the contestants about making wearable, commercial items). It's about producing a line that will actually sell. It's about making clothes that people actually buy. Until now, the competition has been conceptual: make clothes for skinny professional models based on contrived challenges each week that only vaguely touch on the needs of real women.

Out in the real world, real customers count.

Are you focusing too much on what's important to you and not enough on what's important to your audience?

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