STARTING FASHION BUSINESS: KEY TAKEAWAYS
You need all-consuming passion and a bright vision to start a fashion line, but you need some strong entrepreneurial skills to sustain it. Many young designers hurry to start their own brands, allured by the glamour and poshness of the fashion industry.
[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#778898″]“Wheresoever you go, go with all your heart.”
There are cool stories about prodigies graduating from the most prestigious fashion schools and establishing big fashion houses. However, the industry is harsh and there is an ocean of failures. You must be ready to give up steady income, savings, predictable career path, and embrace the risk.
At the very beginning, it is good to ask yourself if you want and can start your own fashion business. You might consider working for other brands first or strive to get into a big fashion house. You must be clear about your final goal and you have to be ready for a long and hard road to success.
Being more precise, you need a good business plan. You may have a fantastic business concept, a motivated team, and all the passion in the world, but without a good strategy, it will be difficult to have sustainable growth. Your brand should have clear mission and vision. Access your competition and the market that you are planning to operate in. What is your business model going to look like? Are you going to sell online or in a physical outlet?
You can download free strategic business plan templates here and customize it to your enterprise.
When establishing a fashion brand, it’s easy to get carried away by focusing on the product or marketing only. Many fashion entrepreneurs neglect to give enough attention to the financial part of starting a business. It’s important to be able to answer the critical question: how am I going to finance my fashion business?
You can start small. Many fashion businesses are funded by designers themselves and with the help from family and friends. The products are sold via word of mouth and displayed through social media accounts. With certain skills, most of the work can be done in-house rather than outsourced to professionals. Consider hiring freelancers instead of full-time employees. Read some real stories of designers that started with little and had their brands grown.
STARTUP COSTS TO CONSIDER
Operating costs: registration, licensing, insurance on business assets. Consider hiring an accountant to have your books managed correctly.
Workspace – retail or office space (renting or buying, security deposits), website costs (hosting, web-design, maintenance, etc.), monthly utilities.
Marketing – brand identity assets: logo design, letterhead, business cards, packaging, storefront design, marketing campaigns, PR, KOLs, online advertisement (Facebook, Instagram Ads, etc.).
Training and support – attending courses, exhibitions or workshops to prepare yourself for your new path; consultancy expenses.
Salaries – compensation for tailors, embroiderers, seamstresses, photographers and other employees; own money withdrawals.
Travel – visiting suppliers and manufacturers, prospects for new customers; attending trade shows and important fashion shows.
Business equipment – desks, chairs, computers, printers, phones, stationery, store fixtures, mannequins, and a POS system.
Starting Inventory – merchandise ready (consider size and color options). If you’re starting your own brand, manufacturers may require you to pay upfront to produce your product line.
Leasehold Improvements – space customization, renovation, lighting, fitting rooms construction, etc.
It is always a good idea to build a strong social media presence; this will let you interact with target customers and develop a clear ‘voice’. Visual sites like Instagram and Pinterest are great options for free marketing. Since recently Instagram has launched paid advertisement service to assist small businesses.
Strive for press coverage. Good one, of course. It is free and it is powerful. Contact well-known blogger and magazines that are relevant to your brand and try to be featured by them.
Building the business ‘noise’ on social media ahead of launching is wonderful, but it does need to be part of your main business strategy. If you want your brand to be luxury and be sold in Selfridges, for example, the way you display it initially needs to be aligned with the values of Selfridges. The Industry is a good forum for supporting designers and helping with their growth.
A frequent mistake of new brands is when they don’t know exactly who their customer is. As a result, they go too broad and wide in their proposition, with a too wide product range within the offering. At the start it’s important to create a brand identity, find a unique proposition for your customer persona and stay focused.
Consider how the people who will purchase your clothes think, their shopping habits, demographics and what information they pay attention to.
Everyone can offer you some form of mentoring – feedback, advice or even helpful criticism. An outside look is always useful. Ask your family members and friends for their opinion. You can also use consulting service when needed (e.g. for legal questions).
There is plenty of information online: case studies, free templates, forums, contact, etc.
Consider attending courses and workshops that can improve your skills that are needed in fashion business. Learn more about design, textile innovation, merchandising, business administration. After all, as the business grows, you’ll have to spend less time designing and more time overlooking the operations of your enterprise and its public perception.