Trunk shows are fantastic. They allow customers access to brands without having to fly all the way to London, Italy, or Tokyo (although the Japanese rarely travel).
The United States is a little inconvenient for most craftsman, especially since large cities are located across the country. I do appreciate those who visit (e.g. Edward Sexton, Foster & Son, Henry Poole, Pommella, Budd, W&S, Hiro Yanagimachi, etc.).
Trunk shows are second best option next to visiting the workshop in person. But sometimes you should just travel to those countries instead of waiting for a trunk show in your city. Here are a few reasons why:
Meeting the cutter and lastmaker – Especially with tailoring, some companies send trunk show representatives, instead of your actual garment cutter. Cutters attending trunk shows will miss time away from the workshop, but their presence at consultation benefits the client. With bespoke shoes, I would never consult someone who isn’t the head shoemaker (i.e. the person carving my last and cutting the pattern). The fit and detailed consultation are too important.
You see their work in person — all of their work – Traveling shoemakers or tailors can only bring a few pieces to showcase. If you visit the workshop, you can view every style they’ve produced. You may be surprised to see shoes that don’t measure up to their photos online. See for yourself and reconsider whether this house suits your tastes.
More choice of patterns/leathers – Again, this goes back to luggage constraints. The store location grants you more choice, since it houses tons of swatches and books. Selection is a very important aspect. The leather or cloth you ultimately choose hugely defines your garment.
Observe housekeeping, employees at work, and delegation of tasks – It’s like walking into someone’s house. The workshop can be toured, but not always. Exploring the workshop for an hour will give you a sense of the production. Ask the craftsman what machines they use. You may discover that some shoemakers don’t don’t hand-stitch their welts.
Look around: what are the apprentices doing? How are tasks delegated? How orderly is the work environment?
Personality and professionalism usually impresses itself here. This experience can positively shape your opinion or turn you off to a particular maker.
The experience – is much more memorable when you visit the physical shop. Those who like bespoke and learning about the process usually appreciate the personal nature of these visits.
Trunk shows can feel rather sterile sometimes. A workshop reaffirms the personal side of the craft. Plus, you’re surrounded by sartorial history.
Weighing the pros and cons for trunk shows is useful. If your traveling time is mostly restricted, trunk shows can be a good option. If you have time and the budget, visiting is always a pleasure.