If you have a passion for fashion, it’s natural to think about translating your love of style into a business. You know you have a great eye for it, strangers often complement your ensembles, and you dream of designing and developing your very own collection.
It’s amazing to have a dream and a talent in life, but without developing some kind of business acumen, your beautiful ideas may well sink without a trace. Starting a fashion business is like any other kind of private company – you don’t just have to have a knack for trends and designs, but you will also need to understand sales, have a workable marketing strategy, be able to negotiate with suppliers, handle your business accounts, develop your website, get investors to come on board, and deal with stockists, manufacturers and the freight company. It’s quite a steep learning curve, but with hard work and inspiration, you should be able to get you fashion business off the ground.
Understand Your Niche
Any successful business works by understanding completely what it’s customers want and by being one step ahead when it comes to anticipating their needs. The fashion industry itself is a large and crowded marketplace, so before even thinking of launching something, you need to do an awful lot of research in order to understand what you can offer that is different. From creating exquisite lingerie to designing tees and sweatshirts with eye catching slogans, and from developing a line of children’s wear to focusing on creating accessories, the opportunities are endless. Instead of getting caught up in a million possibilities, focus closely on one thing you believe that you can do well – and differently. There will be plenty of time to diversify later on, but starting off with a limited range is not only a better investment but will allow you to get to know your customer and what they want so much better. As today’s marketplace is truly global, you will be competing with other designers and businesses from all over the world. Work hard to establish what your brand DNA is and make sure your staying true to that. This approach gives you a platform to connect with customer who like who you are and what you do.
Connect With Your Customers
One of the main reasons many start-up businesses fail? Not knowing their audience. And this is especially true of fashion, an industry where those customers literally wear your designs next to their skin and to express something about themselves. Pre-launch you will need to have built up an extremely detailed picture of who exactly your ‘tribe’ are. Their likes and dislikes, social, educational and financial background – all of the demographic data that will allow you to target the right audience with your marketing strategy. Their choices, needs and lifestyles should be what you design for. Take the opportunity to conduct plenty of market research before launching to make your business look professional – this can be done through social listening, Web-based surveys or focus groups. Be prepared to adjust your business plan based on your findings. Successful business is all about accepting that it’s the customer who leads your approach and who needs you must strive to meet. Lose sight of that and your business will soon be in a bad way. Take a competitor analysis too – look at similar brands, what they offer, how they market themselves and interact with their follows. What new element can you bring to the mix? What can you learn from? What will you do differently? This should be an ongoing process if you want to stay relevant and ahead of the curve.
Secure Your Funding
Sadly, all the vision in the world is not enough if you can’t secure the financial backing you need, and launching a fashion business is quite a costly enterprise. You need stock to begin, and that means a lot of cash up front to translate your ideas into a marketable reality. You will probably have to start with quite a limited stock and may have to concentrate on simpler, less costly to manufacture designs to begin with or limit the range of colours or sizes you can offer – expanding them later as you begin to grow. Seed funding or securing a business enterprise loan is going to be your first step. You will have done your customer research and looked into costs, so you can craft a business pitch, showing where the profit opportunity is to be made. Remember, investors are buying into you and your abilities as much as they are the concept of the business, so you’ll need to get your funding pitch right. Produce a financial forecast showing all your projected expenditure in areas such as materials, running costs, marketing budget, packaging and logistics, supplier dues and website development. It’s a good idea to build up a personal rainy day fund before you launch, as most businesses take a while to become profitable and you may not be able to draw a salary for quite some time. Consider whether you can obtain a bank loan, rely on savings, call on family and friends or gain access to an angel investor. Think about what equity you may have to give away in your business in order to secure the money you need. Plan it all down to the last penny with some additional contingency funds and be realistic when you’re doing your calculations.
Create An Online Presence
In this day and age, your website is your shop window to the world. So whether you are intended to start up purely in the arena of eCommerce, or you want a mix of physical stockists and online sales, you need to get your website right. Teach yourself the fundamentals of user experience and look at some examples of amazing eCommerce Web design to understand how to move your customer through your site and down the purchasing funnel. A brilliant search function, intuitive navigation and high quality images are not just wishlist items – they are basic hygiene factors if you want to make your site profitable. Put a content strategy in place and get producing blog posts, articles, behind the scenes images and engaging videos to connect with your audience and showcase your product. There’s a lot to learn, but if you master the basics, you could just turn your fashion design dreams into a reality.