This month marks one year since I started the Baton Rouge Fashion Council. While it’s been a lot of work, a lot of stress, and a lot of learning, I’ve had a blast hosting events and building the Baton Rouge fashion scene with local businesses this past year.
Today, I wanted to share with you a more behind-the-scenes look into the development of the Baton Rouge Fashion Council and its evolution over the past year.
So, what is the Baton Rouge Fashion Council?
The BRFC is an organization for local boutiques and designers to collaborate through pop-up shops, runway shows, and social events. We host monthly events around the Baton Rouge area and currently have more than 50 local boutiques and designers involved.
So I get this question the most: Why did I start the Baton Rouge Fashion Council? The answer is pretty simple. There was a need for it and I was passionate about promoting local small businesses. So one day I had the idea to start some sort of collaborative organization that I could work as a blogger with local businesses.
At this time, boutiques and designers had random pop-up events happening around Baton Rouge and we had another organization from out of state hosting a “Baton Rouge Fashion Week” each year.
Everyone was so disconnected and I was noticing that local readers were unaware of some of the jewelry designers or boutiques I was working with here on Southern Flair. I heard so many times that people only knew of them because of my blog. While I’m happy for readers (obviously!), I knew more could be done to promote these local small businesses.
After hashing out my ideas for the organization and how it would work to my mom and best friend, I reached out to the sisters at Sosis and Desiree at Hey, Penelope to get their take. With me not being a boutique owner, I wanted to obviously hear their feedback and opinions on what I had brewing.
Everyone seemed to like the idea, so I went with it. I had my attorney (aka my cousin) help me establish the organization (we’re legit!), then I created a website and logo with the help of my graphic designer best friend at Blue Lemon Co.
After a month of procrastinating and not hitting the “Publish” button for the website, I finally took the plunge. It was a scary day and I was terrified that local boutiques wouldn’t respond well. I feared they may view each other as competition rather than seeing the potential of collaborative efforts.
When I finally hit publish, I posted about the organization in a Louisiana Business Women’s Facebook group. Luckily, there was a pretty positive response with about 20 boutiques/designers immediately saying they were interested. They signed up and we were off to start planning our first event!
Can I just tell you I was a mess leading up to our first event! I was losing sleep, not eating and out of my mind stressed. Tin Roof Brewing Co. (a local brewery here in Baton Rouge) generously offered their taproom for our first event. We hosted our Brew & Shop on a Wednesday night with about 6 or 7 boutiques. Unfortunately, it rained and not a ton of people showed up, but I was honestly so happy that anyone showed up!
Afterwards I was pleased to have one event under my belt and now I knew what to expect going into future events. One major thing I had to think about after this event was how to really market our events and get the public’s attention.
I was prepped and ready to go for our second event, which was a Sip & Shop at Blend Wine Bar on a Friday night. The turnout was much improved from our first event and we had three journalists/photographers from local media outlets come to cover the event. Plus a few more media outlets had posted about the event prior on their social media. I was stoked and really felt like we were getting some publicity now.
It was after this event that more boutiques started signing up and more people wanted to be involved. I was spending my summer days responding to emails and keeping up with new member requests and forms.
July was super busy. I skipped many pool days for coffee shops to work on the Fashion Council. During this time I felt super anxious because I could tell my blog was taking a backseat, but I could see the potential of my blog the Fashion Council working hand-in-hand once I got things running smoothly.
We hosted SIX pop-up events around town this month, including our Fourth of July ‘Snap, Crackle Pop-Up’, which was filmed for part of the Miss USA production. A few scenes from our pop-up were even featured when the pageant was televised live!
One thing I didn’t initially understand with event planning, is that you have to start early. At this point I was planning events month to month with no real idea of what future months would hold. If it was July, I was only focusing on August.
In my attempt to plan collaboratively, I went to dinner one night in July with a few boutique owners so we could discuss my plans for an upcoming event. I didn’t have any real plans for the event other than I wanted to host it in August and I wanted it to be LSU-themed to kick off football season. At the end of the night, we had decided to host a Fall Fashion Fest (yes, “Fest” as in “festival” as in a HUGE event).
I got a few much deserving negative responses from a few boutiques who didn’t think an event this size could be pulled off in six short weeks. They were probably right, but I was determined to make it happen, and I was ready to dedicate the rest of my summer to bringing it to life.
Within a week, I had secured a venue (back at Tin Roof Brewing Co. who has a big empty lot next door) and had FORTY (YES 4-0) local business saying they wanted to participate. I was pumped and ready to plan a badass event that was different from anything Baton Rouge had had before.
Since fall in Baton Rouge means football season, we hosted a tailgating-inspired event featuring an all purple-and-gold fashion show and tents with 40 vendors selling tailgating apparel and merchandise. We had AcroYoga, a DJ and live music, beer, food, and more.
While the temperatures were insanely hot that day we had more than 350 people show up, plus at least five local media publications covered the event. I had mixed responses from some vendors who maybe didn’t sell as much as their competitors, but overall it was a success in my book. When someone for Baton Rouge’s tourism office tells you this event has major potential for upcoming years, I take that as a win!
Little did I know that after putting together a festival in August (aka the most stressful month of my LIFE!), that I would land right in the middle of holiday shopping time. At this point, school was back in full swing for me and I was starting to really feel the stress of this never-ending cycle of monthly event planning.
At that time I decided I really needed to prioritize, schedule, and get a system in place to make sure I could accomplish everything for school, blogging, and the Fashion Council. You can read more about how I schedule my time in this post (p.s. Google Calendar is a lifesaver).
I also knew I needed help.
Luckily, my best friend works for Visit Baton Rouge, and she took a lot of holiday shopping stress off me by pitching the idea of the Holiday Shop Hop to her boss. This was a huge take-on for her and a great way to get other local vendors not in the fashion industry involved. She had businesses all over downtown Baton Rouge open their doors to local vendors for a one-day shopping stroll experience.
Thanks to her and Visit Baton Rouge taking on the major Christmas event, I was able to plan a few smaller events in the fall/early winter including a pop-up at a local photography studio and an event benefiting the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank.
We didn’t host a single event in January since holiday shopping season had just ended. I really used this month to reflect on 2015 and get ahead on plans for 2016. By the end of the month, I had already planned events through April and outlined how I want the rest of the year to look. I even secured a venue for an event all the way in September! Talk about getting ahead!
January was also a monumental month for us because we accepted our 50th business into the BRFC. That number was huge to me. Fifty local boutiques and designers who were once competition are now working together to promote each other while building their own brands!
So far this year we’ve hosted our Spring Soiree at Blend Wine Bar and we’re hosting our Spring Style Brunch at Pelican House this Sunday, April 17. A few major things we still continue to work on include promoting our events through advertising, event coverage, and social media.
We also want all our boutiques to feel they have a fair chance of making sales at events. This can be challenging when some vendors are priced lower than others with similar merchandise.
On the horizon, we have a Clothing Swap coming up this summer, plus a HUGE boutique blowout sale happening later in the fall. To make sure you don’t miss an event, you can sign up for the Local Edition of Southern Flair or follow the BRFC on Facebook or Instagram.
I want 3 major things to happen for the Baton Rouge Fashion Council in year two.
First, I want more local students involved in the Fashion Council. This can be intern positions (which I will be posting about next week- I’ll make the announcement on BRFC’s Instagram) or more student fashion designers participating in fashion shows or event planning. The Fashion Council is valuable real life-experience and obviously one can learn A LOT! I want to share more of that with students who are interested in going into the fashion merchandising industry.
Second, I want to give back more. We hosted two events this year where we were able to donate either clothing items or canned goods. I would love to do more where we can give back to the community. I would also like to start a scholarship fund for a local emerging designer or fashion student at LSU.
Third, I want to continue to grow. Fifty is a large number, but with more businesses involved comes more ideas and potential for growth and awesome things to happen in this city.
Wow! You’ve made it the end! Thanks for reading about my journey with the Baton Rouge Fashion Council. Since you’ve stuck around this long, be sure to add this Sunday’s Spring Style Brunch to your calendar!
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