Thursday, November 20, 2008

Response to WTMJ4 - "Why Milwaukee's Fashion Week Went Bust"

Recently, WTMJ4 Reporter Shelley Walcott ran an interview with Barb Berg of Boutique B’lou, “Why Milwaukee’s Fashion Week Went Bust”. Although she ran the story, she did not contact me until a short window before it aired, stated she did not speak with Ford Models, and could not give specifics to the non-sponsor information. When I asked to meet with Ms. Walcott, she declined, and after our brief phone call said I could send a statement in.

Due to the false and damaging information in this report, I am asking TMJ4 to give a full and proper retraction, on air, on website and in writing – wherever this has posted or aired. This segment is of libelous and defamatory nature, and care should have been taken in researching before airing.

Statements reported by Shelly Walcott:

1. “A couple of venues were not secured for the Milwaukee Fashion Week”:
There were to be two venues for MFW - the first location was Harley Davidson Museum and the second location the Milwaukee Art Museum

· Milwaukee Fashion Week had a signed contract with the Milwaukee Art Museum and they were paid in full.
· The Harley-Davidson Museum was booked back in May 2008. The finalized contract arrived from Harley-Davidson on Monday, September 29th, 2008 for final approval. Barb Berg of Boutique B’Lou, one of MFW sponsors and the organizer of the designer trunk show at the Harley Davidson Museum was set to have a meeting with Harley-Davidson to discuss the show and contract with representatives of the Museum, and have a follow-up meeting with me on Tuesday, September 30.

2. “The Ford Modeling Agency’s models were never hired”:
· Ford Models was an active sponsor in promoting and preparing for MFW. Ford Models had committed to supplying all the models for the event as part of their sponsorship to MFW and had announced so in local advertisement.

3. “Several sponsors listed on Fashion Week’s website were not sponsors at all”:

· All sponsors listed on the MFW website were sponsors of Milwaukee Fashion Week. These sponsorships included monetary contributions, product contributions, and service contributions.

4. “The calls from TMJ4 went unanswered”:

· The one and only call that I received from TMJ4 was received late on Friday afternoon and it was answered by my voicemail system. After hearing the message on Saturday morning, I did return Shelley’s call and discussed the facts surrounding the cancellation of MFW.

5. “The designers have been unable to reach her by phone and email”:

· I have personally spoken to each designer involved in Milwaukee Fashion Week at least once to let them know what happened and informed them of the circumstances which led to the cancellation of MFW. I have had multiple conversations and emails with several of the designers.

6. “Barb Berg of Boutique B’lou didn’t know why the Milwaukee Fashion Week was cancelled”:

· The answer to why Milwaukee Fashion Week was cancelled is due to the actions and unfulfilled financial sponsorship by Barb Berg of Boutique B’lou. Yes, I also bear some responsibility, but the main reason MFW was cancelled is that Barb Berg sought to see the event did not go on after she did not fulfill her commitment.

· In exchange for Boutique B’lou becoming a major sponsor of MFW, Barb had committed to the following that she proposed:

1. She would purchase (150) VIP tickets as gifts for her ‘best customers’ at $200.00 each for a total financial contribution of $30,000.00. These tickets were to be purchased well in advance of the event so that her contribution could be used for items needed for the event.

2. Barb also committed to run the trunk show and help secure Harley Davidson Museum. Barb claimed that she was in a good position to do this because she was a friend of Nancy Davidson and this could help at the museum. As it turned out, her primary contact with Nancy Davidson was as a Customer in her store. This relationship or lack of one was only disclosed to me shortly before Barb pulled out of the event.

3. Barb Berg had also committed to purchasing two designer spots to show and sell designer clothing lines carried in her store, initially promising the designers or reps would be present and it would not just be a boutique fashion event.

Barb received press and was promoting Boutique B’lou as a “co-sponsor”. She proposed various times she would pay, such as the week after Labor Day. She kept promising she would come through.

(Please click to enlarge)
On the afternoon of Tuesday, September 30th , Barb Berg completely backed out of the event after only honoring just over 7% of her total monetary commitment. That evening, she emailed designers and sponsors for an “emergency meeting” for Wednesday, October 1st , and used it to railroad the event into cancellation. She had planned her own 3-day fashion event at her boutique for October 3, 4 and 5th.

After meetings and phone calls with several of the sponsors, designers, celebrities and other involved parties, it was decided to make every effort to save MFW and try to continue on without Boutique B’lou. On the evening of October 1, before beginning a walkthrough of a location with Ford Models to move the event, I received a flurry of calls and emails from celebrities and speakers that they had been called and told the event and their hotel rooms were cancelled. This was a sold out weekend in Milwaukee. I did not make that call or announcement. Our options were eroding quickly. Guests began cancelling flights and booking other work. Despite efforts, MFW was forced into cancellation.

All ticket holders were also notified as quickly as possible, and we began processing refunds almost immediately. We are doing the best that we can and continue issuing refunds. I realize the pace at which we can do this is not ideal, but I am doing whatever I can to expedite.

Any cash purchases would have been made at Boutique B’lou. We have never been given an accounting of the tickets sold at these locations, and purchasers should return to one of the three locations for the boutique for a refund if they bought their tickets there.

Hillary Fry
Milwaukee Fashion Week

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Whoa Hillary, very thorough and detailed account of what happened. Its a shame when other growing businesses hurt the growth and visibility of "a growing business." Suffered through this myself with Boevo and Katie Felten. Lost thousands of dollars and most importantly public embarassment.

Its a lesson learned, a tough one for both of us. But continue with the growth of your business. Turn your professional dreams into a reality and create more opportunities for those who care about your mission, growth and visibility.

Karma is real!

And no, not liable or defamatory regarding Boevo or Katie Felten. I was sold a service, promised a solid working product and received a bastardized Free program instead.

You are my hero Hilary.