Is it difficult to start a fashion brand?

Fashion industry is very fascinating and glamorous, and truly tempting to be part of,  but what does it require to start your own fashion label?

This question has probably crossed your mind if you are interested in starting your own fashion brand.

Having friends running their own fashion brands, and working myself previously in fashion industry, I’ve came to learn couple of major facts:

Fashion business – no matter how luxurious, glamorous, fascinating and tempting – is still business. You’ll learn about the industry on the go, but you need to start from somewhere.

How to get started with fashion brand.

When you have a vision of what you want your brand to be like – is a great start. Having a vision and setting up a mission how to build your brand is “business 101”.

You need to imagine the clothing style you want to design and what type of people you think are going to wear them. Also think where would your store be located and how much will your garments cost. We’re not going into specific details yet, but try to visualise how your business would be like.

How do you imagine your store look like from inside? What type of people you see working there? Where is going to be your office? How many pieces of clothing there are on racks (or displayed in an online store)? Where is your warehouse/storage? Where do your clothes come from?

Now that you’ve visualised your business, it’s going to be much easier to start with the boring part of staring up a business – writing the plans.

Writing a business plan for your fashion brand.

Writing a business plan sounds boring – but it’s truly essential. It’s good to write down your vision about your fashion brand on a piece of paper with details on how it’s going to run and what it will require to survive.

Business plan helps you to see the whole picture and prepare for the future.

Do you know how much does it cost to register a company and which documents you need? Have you though about all tools and and machines you might need to take care of a store? Do you already know which factory will manufacture your designs? Have you calculated how much money you need to get started?

These questions are just the tip of an iceberg.

Your business will shape up on the go, but knowing what to do when an obstacle appears, will help you run the fashion business much smoothly.

There are plenty of business plan templates available out there, and they are all pretty much the same – pick any, and start planning.

After you’ve finished with the business plan – look into the marketing plan.

Say whaat?! Another 30 pages of black and white? No way!

Yes way. There are so many fashion startups that fail within couple of years – do you have it to survive? Fashion industry requires a lot of homework – unless of course you’ve already set your foot into the door, and you have gained great knowledge while working with designers, production, marketing and sales team – but if not, trust me, marketing plan will help you out with your launch, promotion, as well as  brand building.

Even if you think you know what you’re doing – marketing plan helps you determine your niche (specific target group), you’ll have a marketing calendar that should cover entire year and you’ll learn the best way to communicate with your target group.

Fashion industry is seasonal, and you need to know the best time for promoting let’s say: Winter Sales. What would be the exact date when you prepare to advertise the sales? Which items will be on sale and for how long? Are you going to change visual appearance of the store and website?

It’s up to you how many details you want to write down, but it will save you time after you’ve launched your brand.

When am I going to concentrate on clothing?

No one said starting a fashion brand would be easy, but it’s not that difficult if you do a little bit of research and you’re highly motivated to go all the way through.

After writing a business plan and marketing plan – you should now know what type of fashion brand you are and who are you going to target (as well as how and when). You might have a ready collection or you start designing one now.

What I would recommend, is to test the market.

Did you hit the spot?

Create sample pieces and promote them through social media, attend an fashion/lifestyle event with your collection or find a showroom where you can have them displayed. You’ll need to do a lot of promotion on daily basis, so people can find you and your pieces. Get to know the people who are interested in your designs. Is it the same target group you had in mind?

For promoting your garments, you should have photographs taken by a professionals. It’s important to have the clothes also on real model, to see how the garment really looks (length, shape, fitting). And you can easily promote through social media if you have tight budget.

Having a physical and a digital look book is a must. In the beginning as well as through entire lifespan your your brand. Use it when you meet new people who might help you build your brand and perhaps add the items into their boutiques.

When it’s time to grow your fashion business.

You have your plans, and you’ve tested the market – and everything looks great. Now it’s time to create your next collection. You heard me right. Next collection. Seasons change, trends change and what people like – also changes. You’ve been promoting your garments, and hopefully sold out, but us consumers – we always want something new and fresh. Something we haven’t seen before.

When you’ve build a network of potential customers, you need to bring something new to the market. They’ve seen your work and they know what you are about! Bringing new designs is expected from a fashion brand. You can have basics that continue from one collection to another (e.g. t-shirts, leggings, tank tops etc.), but fashion pieces should always change.

There is an exception! Pick one, max. two pieces from your very first collection that sold very well, and promote them as brand favorites. You have probably witnessed this kind of promotion by many fashion brands – most common pieces of clothing are specific jeans, leather jackets and/or pair of shoes.

Your pieces might become fashion style icons for your specific target group.

Things you need to consider.

Size chart.

With a help of an pattern-maker, you can create specific size chart for your target group. This will help the pattern-making process, and garments will fit like a glove. There are size charts available online,  and of course it will save you time if you use one of them – but to ensure perfect fit, having own size chart is always better than generic one, if you want your pieces look good on your customers.

TIP: Pick your sample size. Find people from your target group and invite them for a fitting. Create a long sleeve t-shirt and pair of trousers. By having real people trying out basics, will help you create a more specific size chart. You’ll determine the basic lengths (shirt, sleeves and trousers), openings (neck, cuffs, legs, etc.), as well as widths.

Fabrics and textiles.

Attending to fabric and textile trade shows you can find unique fabrics for your collections. The most popular one in Europe is Premiere Vision (and it’s worth visiting if you’ve never attended this type of an event). It’s MASSIVE and you’ll definitely find what you need from there. Fabrics, tectiles, buttons, zippers, buckles, patches, yarns etc. All from one place.

For me, Premiere Vision was a little bit too much. We have small trade show twice a year in Finland, and it’s enough for a small brand – but if you’re looking for something really unique and really stand out, you’ll find it on big events.

Factories.

Do you know where your products are going to get made? Make sure to visit the factory and build a relationship with people who are in charge there. If something goes wrong/delayed/missing, you need to make sure that the factory is ready to carry the responsibility.

TIP: Have couple other factories up in your sleeve. If factory gets over booked, your designs might not ever get sewn together. By having stand-by contracts with other factories, which can start production as soon as possible, is good way to ensure you’ll get your garments in stock on time. It will cost a bit more per piece, but at least you’ll stay in schedule and have less stress about your business.

Supply chain.

In order to make sure your garments get produced, you need to think about the supply chain. It’s more likely that your fabrics will come from different factories than buttons and zippers, and tags and labels from third one. You need to plan how you get everything into the factory which will put everything together. After that, you need to plan the logistics – how to get the ready garments into your storage and store.

If you’re selling online, you need to plan how you will pack ordered goods and get them delivered to your customers.

There’s loads of things to think about! Write about the supply chain into your business plan to get a clear picture how it should work.

Visual plan.

Another plan?! Are you kidding me?! Well, I bet you’ll like this one! Because you get to build the visual part of your brand. Decide the colours, logo, font type and overall feel about your brand.

By creating a brand identity your brand can differentiate it self, and you’ll know how your tags and logo should look, and how to use the visuals to stand out.

Going digital with your fashion brand.

You should open your own website, and merge it with your social media to get traffic. Although you can nowadays shop through social media, your fashion brand website is not only a potential store – it’s your business card, whereas social media are the platforms where you engage with your potential customers.

Having a good design and thinking about user experience is important when considering digital marketing. Your visual plan should help you decide on the colours, images, fonts and layouts of your website.

Pick one or two social media platforms, where you will be most active and create a content plan for them. Types of images you’ll post, hashtags you use, links you generate. How often you will post and at what times. Set a target for your social media marketing and learn what works best and what doesn’t for your brand.

Setting up a physical store.

First things first. The location. It’s important to know, what’s the best place for your store. Is it easy to get to? How much foot traffic is there at that location? Before you sign the contract, go to the spot and spend few hours looking how many people pass the place – and how many of them are your potential customers. Also, how big are the windows? Can you visualise how your window display will look? If the place is easy to get to and there’s enough people around, and you feel confident, it’s time to move inside.

Is the store big enough for you? What type of furniture fits there best? Where you’ll put the fitting room? What about check out? Can you install new lights easily? Also there should be enough space for a storage, possible office and a toilet.

If the place needs renovation, don’t forget to add this into your business plan and calculate the costs on paint, floor, electric work, etc.

So what is the answer?

It can be difficult to start a fashion business, but it doesn’t have to be. Do your reseach, write your plans and maybe take online courses on entrepreneurship or attend entrepreneur meetings and discussions via Meetup.

If you’re passionate enough about Fashion industry, creating your own brand will be piece of cake.

Follow your dream.

PS. I have a short post about branding your fashion label, make sure to read it!

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