There are many pros and cons to starting any business in today’s economy. Actually, there are pros and cons to starting any business in any economic forecast. The fashion industry is no different than any other. On the contrary, things might even be all the more competitive and it may take many years before a label is able to win over enough markets to make it one of the leading players during the Fashion Week. There are hundreds of thousands of different fashion designers, who have found the glamorous lifestyle that comes with such an occupation extremely appealing. They are creative people who desire nothing more than to be recognized on an international platform. Unfortunately, for many this life is but a fairy tale they may never manage to reach. Of course, there are always those who do make it out there, who graduate from a prestigious school like St. Martins or Parsons and suddenly set up a shop to become quick climbers up the fortune ladder in the fashion world, but there will also always be more of the failed labels, the ones who have had their hopes dashed and their desires crumpled on so cruelly. We do have new upcoming stars, especially in America, who will someday soon reach a global sort of fame. But how exactly do you set up a fashion business?
There are many steps to starting a fashion business and they need to be followed meticulously. First of all, there are a few questions you should be asking yourself:
1. Do I want my own business or do I prefer to work for a big fashion brand?
2. What exactly is most attractive about starting a fashion business? (If it’s the perceived fun and frivolity, then you might want to reconsider; unless of course, you find the prospect of packing boxes at 2 am a really fun activity…)
3. Do I really want to be running a full-fledged business? (If you do not have the time or the passion to do so, it might be wise to put it off until you do… which could be never)
4. Do I have the skills, contacts and funding to get this show on the road? (You certainly cannot do it all on your own and require a team who believes in you enough to invest in your efforts, knowing the money will come right back soon enough)
5. Do I have something unique to offer? (Make sure you find out exactly who you are designing for and why because that will allow you to pick up on a market that inspires a unique design to fill a need)
Just so you are clear on one thing, just because you graduated from a fashion design school does not mean that you will be spending 100% of your time designing the latest fads. You won’t even be spending 50% on that one thing you love to do. On the contrary, all the time spent creating something new and getting those juices flowing for new designs will be within a whopping 10% of your time spend at your business, the rest of it spread between managing production and employees, working with magazines, networking, dealing with suppliers, begging door to door to be granted a chance for a meeting, while also trying to get at least a few hours of shut eye, eat and shower in the midst somewhere. If you own a business you have to make it your life; you must eat, drink, breath and entirely live through that business that will need you to be its slave 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
The thing is that to own a fashion business is to be more than a fashion designer but to think outside the box in order to ensure you succeed at some point of your life. This may actually take many years of meticulously relentless hard work. It can even begin to turn into your worst nightmare trying to coordinate it all within a 2-month period. You are a CEO of a company once you start your business, and not just a fashion designer. That part comes second to the first title. Partners will also come in handy, as they will bring fresh ideas and new skills to the table, thus enriching the company that you have definitely decided on founding. A partner can be in the form of a best friend, a family member or a spouse with whom you share an equal passion.
See also: The Business Of Fashion Blogging
The last question you ask yourself, about having something unique to offer, is probably the most important one of all. A business concept is doomed to fail if it is but a copy of an existing enterprise that already has a loyal clientele. What you want is to ensure you offer something more, something different, and certainly something better in the long run. Once you are able to figure out your target market, this process gets much easier, for you will be blending your own business with the aspects of their lives you cater to. You don’t need to be a luxury brand to achieve this either, though many a fashion designer aspires for just that. You want to be influential and set a certain standard, but most of all, you want to penetrate the markets that are clutter-free for the most part. The less the competition, the better your chances are of success, especially in terms of developing a loyal clientele base.
Once you decide on creating the fashion business and the route you wish it to take, you will need a well thought-out business plan which technically helps you organize your own thoughts as well as telling a potential investor quite frankly that they will gain much or little (hopefully not) from venturing into this endeavour with you. The roadmap it creates is invaluable and it will help you in deciding on the right partners in your fashion business. Once the place is set up, you will need to make sure you are up to date on all the latest marketing tips and tricks, that you know how to maximise your margins and coordinate your production efficiently, that you are great on the commerce section as well as on the design and development end. Each link in the chain or piece of the puzzle is important and no business can succeed without having them all fit against each other perfectly. At the end of the day, all we can say is a great big good luck to you!
Photo courtesy of JouJouVilleroy