Many fashion designers who think of starting a fashion business make some mistakes and end up closing their shops. You may be a talented clothing line designer but that does not automatically make you a successful businessperson. When starting a business, you should stick to some basics to run your venture successfully.
Deciding whether to start a fashion business requires a lot of upfront thinking. Here are the things you need to know first:
1) Behave as a business For a successful label to be built, one will have to think like an entrepreneur from the start. This means to understand how a business works and putting together a plan that lays out short-term, medium-term and long-term goals.A good entrepreneur also means having the hunger and determination to give it your all. Saks Fifth Avenue President Marigay McKee spoke to Caro and Basso about Christopher Kane: “The day I ﬁrst met Christopher, he had borrowed from his mother to buy the fabric for his collection from a Glasgow street market. In his year at Central St. Martins, there was also a very wealthy student who spent a substantial amount of money on his collection. Christopher has gone on to become successful. The other hasn’t. Christopher had hunger and passion and the other designer didn’t.”
2.) Recognize the importance of product development. Always endeavor to start small with one product line – then develop the brand from there, in a way that feels consistent and carries forward the same design DNA.Setting the right price for a product is crucial in finding success. Work it out by starting with the amount that a customer would be willing to pay, and working backwards to calculate how much you can spend on materials and manufacturing while still turning a profit.
3.) Be clear about your unique brand proposition, and support it with a marketing and communications plan. It’s important to have a strong vision of your brand’s identity from the beginning. “Young designers need to understand what they are and why they are starting their own businesses,” says Vanessa Friedman, fashion director of The New York Times. “If they do it, it is because they really believe that they have something to say that cannot be said in the context of Paul Smith or Oscar de la Renta or Dior.”
4.) Understand and address the challenges of production. Some businesses can struggle with production – you’ll be ordering small quantities at first, which leaves you in a poor bargaining position with manufacturers. They may ask you for a deposit long before you’re going to receive payment from a retailer. This can be difficult, but it’s essential to pay promptly so that production is not delayed – otherwise you could end up late to deliver to retailers, damaging your relationships.
5.) Find the key to sales and distribution. To be successful, you’ll need to get the attention of buyers. They’ll want to know what’s unique about your product, how it fits with their other brands, whether it’s at the right price point, and whether your business is well-structured. “I think what could be improved is the designers’ sense of place,” says Anne Pitcher, managing director of British department store Self ridges. “They need to know how they compare to the competition. Who is going to buy the product? Where you would like to be sold, realistically? Will it be the right price? These questions have to be answered before picking up a pen to design.”If you’re planning to sell online, be aware that colorful and printed products are usually most popular, and any garment with an unusual shape or fit is going to be a tough sell on a website. You’ll also need a complete range of sizes. Once you can afford it, setting up your own website will maximize your profit margins and give you direct access to customers.
6.) Understand the importance of cash flow, funding and ﬁnancing. One of the biggest challenges you’ll face as a new business is that cash flows out – for product development and manufacturing – long before it comes back in from retailers or customers. From the very beginning, you’ll need to know where your funding is coming from and keep your finances under control.