How to launch your fashion business?
When I first worked for young designers in Paris, I never thought I would create my own brand. But after a few years the urge to create pushed me to place I thought I would have never gone.
You are dreaming of starting a clothing line, here a few advice I had gathered along my road.
Believe and love what you do.
I might seem normal but that is so very true. The work in fashion might be hard and harsh and we might lose sight, during the way, of the reason why we are doing what we do.
It is important to keep time for ourselves and save time for creation. The work of creation is so exciting and sometimes a little too quick for the time of production and marketing. Running a business is sometimes so much more than just designing but altogether it is also very rewarding to see the final products on the hand of the customers.
I found that selling directly to the customers in B2C allows me to create more as it is a need to have lots of choice for the visitors. That amount of creation balances my business/creative life to a happier side.
Start step by step
Starting a business is also reminding ourselves to go step by step.
In the excitement of launching your fashion business, we might want to go faster and jump steps. Taking risks is a part of the process but it should be always measured risks. Risks that would not kill the successful business in the making.
If you wish to do a fashion show, then consider a place that is affordable, a team that can help you and even if you dream about a big stage, just remember that the best way of learning is to make mistakes. But the best way to keep going your fashion business is to afford cheap mistakes.
A teacher once told me to visualise the process like a car. It is better to know how to manoeuvre a scooter, a bike before rushing without knowledge of driving a fast racing car. Step by step would the best cost-effective process and safer on the way.
Another knowledgeable man that helped me in the past also told us that the increase of Customers in a company should be smooth and regular. A sharp increased in profit is hard to balance in term of finance.
Fashion is a place where so many brands got bought when the designer needed money to support a fast increase in business. And so many designers got kick-off of their own brand because of that. So sad to think of it, so maybe slowly is better.
Build a brand
Building a brand is meant to give a clear idea of what you offer and for who. It will help your customers recognize you quickly and be more attached to your brand. It will eventually create returning customers.
To do so, you need to have a cohesive message in all your supports. The colours, the font and the image you are using with the tone of the voice and the product you are offering will deliver a clear message. You need to spend time firstly to determine your target audience to be able to clear all the decisions you would have to make.
Remember, you don’t need to do the full packaging straight away, but at least start working with a cohesive colour range, logo and voice tone. Little by little you will get your message and brand clearer.
Here a small drawing on how to determine your target audience:
Found how to produce your products
They are several ways to reply to that question that any fashion designer might have and the reply is a little bit more complex depending on the organisation.
Anyhow, if we keep in mind to focus on a slow long-living development, step by step, I would highly recommend starting with your own small production, if possible on order only.
The fact to produce on order will allow you to avoid any loose stock that is a loss of money. If you can find your partner for production that allow 1 by 1 order or only small quantities, that will be the best option.
Starting to produce in huge amount will expose you to lower your price straight away and especially could lead you on a possible problem as the manufacturing process is always a challenge and only experiences can limit those inevitable problems.
I have my line and now how do I sell my products?
To sell your products you have different options that can be built together. Firstly you could think to develop your brand on social media and taking order from there. It is a great way to do it but it does take time. Starting your social media is important and focus on 1 only to start with. As it is time-consuming, try to use the platform such as Later.com to allow you to create all your post in 1 time.
The second advice I would give is to sell online.
You have them 2 choices that I would recommend doing together. Once is giving you sells faster but the other ones will bring you further.
The first one would be to create an Etsy shop.
Etsy is a great way to start selling as it will drive customers by itself. You don’t need to do lots of advertisement to start having your first customers. It is great for small business but you need to keep in mind that the fees and the lack of branding, and marketing would restrict you.
That why I would suggest, for the 2nd choice, to have also your own online store. Having your online store will enable you to work further your marketing and attract actively your clients. E-commerce that is managed on CMS like WordPress is a great start. They are highly evolutive and easy to manage the sell and product. I personally would recommend Webo. There are the specialists in Fashion online store that realise my website and I am so happy with the result.
You could realise your website maybe yourself but as it is an online store you want to get all the process secured (with SSL, money payments…) as well as customize in term of designs. What the point to have your own website if it doesn’t represent your brand and give a clear message. You will then have a cohesive brand, through your communication, website, social media and so on.
I have waited too long to get my own website as I was working for other brands as well and was so busy but I wish I had it done before. It is important especially in the fashion industry to be able to raise your own voice.
To sell your product you can also think about the fair or event. That could be a great way to expose your brand to a new customer that need to try things on. You would need though to pay attention to reach your right public.
Fairs have lots of different population visiting them and going to the wrong place can make you lose a lot of money. The best would be to visit a previous session of that fair to see who is coming and what are the people exposing thinking of that fair. From there, you could take your decision of participating or not on that fair.
What if I want to go wholesale?
Wholesale is a great way to develop more your company, though you would need to have a good business plan in order to have a cost-effective product.
If you sell in wholesale on order, you have to think that the shop will apply a x2.5 to x3 time the price that you are selling them your product.
For example, if you are selling them a set of lingerie at 100$, they will sell that article in their shop between 250 to 300$. That might look huge but they need that calculation to cover the price of the rent of the shop as well as the people working there.
If you have found a clothing manufacturer that has manage price and that you could give an affordable price for wholesaler and still paying yourself then it could be a great option.
The fact that wholesale orders are taken in advance permits you to not have to have stock even in fabrics. The deposit that the customer will give you, will let you buy the fabric after the orders.
The other difficult part of wholesale is in the fact that you don’t need to have a collection too big. The fair stand is very expensive and it is difficult to afford a lot of meters squared. On the long term, you might feel frustrated to have such a small time in creation.
I have my channel of distribution, then what next?
When you have decided how to produce, your way of distribution (wholesale or B2C), your brand image and our target audience, then the next step would be to develop your clothing brand with your marketing.
Marketing is the promotion of your name through different processes.
You have first your social media.
Social media are a powerful platform but also very demanding to be really beneficial. I would suggest focussing on one only to start with. (here a great article of the difference in social media).
In fashion, I would personally suggest 2, Instagram and Pinterest. To work with Instagram fully you would need to have a Facebook account but I would not suggest spending too much time on facebook. Except for the fact that Facebook is going slowly at the moment, it is also the fact that people need to know about you to found you. Unlike Instagram with the hashtag, you can touch people that never knew you before.
Pinterest is also a great platform for the fashion industry. It is really targeting visual and can link all pin with your websites and articles.
An important part of social media is that if you are working a lot on it, would be to link your website with your social media with automatic integration of your Instagram post, or automatic addition of new products on your catalogue to tag on your Instagram and so on.
Another powerful marketing action is the use of newsletters. Newsletters are a great way to remind yourself of the people interested in your brand. It could bring back potential customers and raise your sells. Several newsletters website offers those services, from small business for free, such a Mailchimp.
That is why Etsy and Amazon platform is limiting your expansion as you cannot work fully on your marketing plan.
If you need help with building or improving your website, I would highly recommend the company that has built my own website. You can contact Webo here.
Overall I would say that as long as you love what you are doing then you would be fine. Fashion is a stressful, exciting and amazing work that needs commitment and love overall.
By working step by step with taking the time needed to create what is truly useful from the start (like building your collection and your website), the rest can be added after.
I do not regret that I launch myself and I wish you would not too.
If you need advice for launching your own, I would be happy to chat with you and If I can help I will be grateful. Do not hesitate to send me an email. We all need support.
Merry Christmas to you all!