The question every business wants to know is will they achieve success, and that's no different for fashion startups. During my consultations and mentoring sessions, I get asked a lot if I think a client's idea is a good one, so here are my tips on success for fashion startups.

1. Have Belief.

First and foremost, you need to believe in your idea, brand and product. If you're feeling half-hearted about it then it's not the road for you. The clients who have most success are those who relate to a passion in their life. You might be a gym buff who's dream is to see your brand worn in an athletic setting. Or how about your passion for yoga? Do you live in your studio apparel and want to launch your own line?

Starting up a new fashion business takes courage, determination and commitment, so make sure you're choosing something that will spur you to keep going.

2. Understand Your USP.

In business circles you'll hear that you need a U.S.P. to become successful. But what is that and how does it relate to fashion? A unique selling point is something that sets your brand apart from the rest of the world.

This U.S.P. can come in lots of different formats and relate to both the product and the business. Some examples of what can make a business unique are:

  • your products fill a gap in the market

  • your prices bridge a gap in the market 

  • the way you sell is different

  • the types of fabrics you use are unique

  • your brand supports a charity

  • your brand is ethical in trade and manufacturing processes

  • your brand is eco-friendly, organic or fair trade

3. Innovate.

I'm always amazed by my clients when they come to me with an idea for something totally new, that's never been seen before.

Innovation is a great way to boost your success. If you've tried to buy a product and couldn't find it, then you've identified a gap in the market to fill, and that's half the battle. Chances are, you're not the only person looking for that product, and there is an untapped marketshare waiting to buy it. You just have to get it out there!

  • Clothing that includes new technology or fabric development

  • Garments that perform a function

  • Apparel that is for a certain age, size, body type

  • Clothing that solves a problem

4. Be an improver.

Another set of clients that do well with their startups are those who take an existing idea but make it better. Perhaps you love a particular type of apparel but wish there was more choice on offer. Maybe you feel certain brands or markets are lacklustre and need a boost or refresh. You might already use a type of product and realise it doesn't quite perform how it should. These are all things you can improve upon by:

  • Making garments fit better

  • Manufacturing with more premium fabrics

  • Offering a better choice in styles

  • Improving how a product performs eg. in the gym or outdoors

  • Giving customers more accessible price points

  • Injecting fashion into a stale market

If you have an idea for a fashion startup, and want to chat with an expert or get help starting, just get in touch for an initial consultation here or drop me a line

Michelle Ramsay

The Fashion Expert®

#freelancefashiondesigner #fashionconsultant #startupspecialist #fashionstartup #fashionmentor #fashiondesigner #clothingdesigner #thefashionexpert #thefashionexpertuk #launchafashionbrand #newfashionbrand #emergingdesigners #newtalent #clothingdesigner #appareldesigner #designer

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One of my most favourite ways to relax is to watch films, whether that's at the cinema or at home. As most of us are staying at home just now, I thought I'd share with you my top 10 fashion films to help inspire you and your fashion brand or help channel your inner fashionista.

I have to admit my real love lies in the real-life footage of couture ateliers and so 9 of the 10 recommendations are documentaries, but I really think you'll love these, whether you're into fashion or not.

It's worth noting that these are listed in no particular order (OK number one is my actual favourite!), and all have their own merits and unique points. I've tried not to give too much away but revealed the reason I've chosen each film.

1. Valentino - The Last Emperor.

This documentary follows the last season of Valentino Garavani and tells the story of his life and career in fashion. I adore everything about this documentary from the work at the atelier to his relationship with his pugs and (former) partner Giancarlo Giammetti. It also shows the changing environment of the industry for a fashion house, and the respect Valentino holds from some of the other fashion industry legends. Expect emotion by the bucket-full!

2. Bill Cunningham - New York.

The story of The New York Times photographer who for decades documented street and society style. You'll wish you had sat with Bill at a dinner party by the end of this film, who was renowned for travelling around on his bike with his camera, always on the lookout for his next shot. "We all get dressed for Bill", Vogue editor Anna Wintour.

3. Lagerfeld Confidential

I love the whole insight into Karl Lagerfeld as a person in this film. His life, his dress, his aloof personality are absolutely fascinating to me, not mention his love and talent as an artist and photographer. And then we see him at work with the house of Chanel! It's got it all.

4. The September Issue.

This documentary chronicles the effort that goes into producing Vogue, and not least of all the September issue, which in the industry is the most important of the year. We get to see the symbiotic relationship of Anna Wintour and Grace Coddington, and how both their talents are needed to make this work.

5. Diana Vreeland - The Eye Needs To Travel.

Diana's life is a journey through the fabulous, from Paris during The Belle Epoque, New York in the 1920's, her pre-war time in London and back to New York. There isn't a dull moment in this documentary which charters her career at Harper's Bazaar, Vogue and The Costume Institute at The Met.

6. Marc Jacobs & Louis Vuitton.

If there's one thing that shines through in this film is the tendency for the fashion industry to attract workaholics. It's a chicken and egg scenario. Marc Jacobs tirelessly creates and works throughout, but the results are stunning and you won't be disappointed.

7. Dior & I.

Raf Simons' debut season at Dior is captured on camera in this film, in an intense pressure-driven timeline of 8 weeks. Star-studded with celebrity cameos we see behind the scenes in both the atelier world and awards circuit.

8. McQueen.

The genius of Alexander McQueen is a great loss to the fashion industry but this documentary shows a genuine biographical insight into why his legacy lives on through his incredible art today. It's filled with passion, emotion and tragedy and I can't watch this without shedding a tear every time.

9. Coco Before Chanel.

Sometimes to understand something we must first look at the past, and this film is the perfect example. Audrey Tatou portrays the early years of Gabrielle Chanel, and the somewhat sad circumstances of her life that ultimately shaped her future and who she became.

10. Iris.

Iris Apfel is one of those people who it truly individual and to understand this you need to watch this documentary. I love everything about her maximalist style and to see her clothing and jewellery collection is insane. High points are witnessing her shopping trips and her love for Carl her husband.

I'd love to know how many of these you've already seen and which ones are new to you. Did you love them? Let me know.

If you have any questions, comments or feel you need help launching your fashion brand then get in touch and we can discuss your requirements -

Michelle Ramsay - The Fashion Expert®

#freelance #fashiondesigner #thefashionexpert #thefashionexpertuk #michelleramsaydesign #fashionbusiness #fashionconsultant #fashiondesign #startupfashion #thatsfashiondarling #startupconsultant #fashionpreneur #fashionstartup #startupspecialist #launchyourbrand #clothingline #fashionmentor #businessoffashion #fashionbusinesscoach #techpackdesigner #fashioncads #techpacks #businessadvice #emergingfashion #sustainablefashion #startafashionbrand #launchaclothingline #fashionfilms #vogue #stayathome

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Until recently working from home was mostly reserved for freelancers, the self-employed or those cheeky Fridays when you "must" be at home to take in that important delivery - read early finish to get a head start on the roads for that weekend away!

But in all seriousness, we now find ourselves in a time where self-isolation and social distancing is dictating that a large percentage of the population, who wouldn't usually, are now working from home.

Although the idea of working in your onesie or skype sessions on your sofa sounds like the dream, there are a lot of drawbacks to WFH, and without some self-control, you could find that reality a lot harder then you thought. It's actually not for everyone. Some of you will love it but some of you will find it a very difficult situation, especially if you relish the company of others or lack self-discipline.

As I head into my sixth year of self-employment I thought I'd share my top tips that will hopefully help you stay on top of this situation and how you can use it to your advantage.

1. Set A Routine.

It sounds boring but this will be the backbone that stops you melting into a pool of self-indulgence. Get up the time you would normally get up and make sure you're ready to start work on time. Define clear working hours so you're not chained to your laptop all evening and remember to schedule things into your day like breaks and lunchtime. Try to stick to these working hours. You might also want to try to stick to those eating, drinking and snacking times too, depending on how much willpower you have!

2. Get Dressed For Business.

There are two schools of thought on this, but I firmly believe in getting dressed for work, and often will do hair and makeup too. For me it sets the tone, it helps me put my professional head on, and as I'm often video-calling clients I like to dress appropriately. I have friends that work in their PJs, but I prefer to save relaxing loungewear for my downtime. This helps me mentally separate the two parts of my day.

3. Use Your Time Wisely.

Flexibility is the number one advantage of working from home. In theory, you can pick and choose your hours and as long as you get the work done it shouldn't be an issue. But don't be fooled. It's so easy to be tempted by household chores and jobs that "will only take a minute!" Save these tasks for your breaks or personal time. If you struggle with keeping on track or productivity then do the hardest job first. Break it down into bitesize chunks and use a timer to get through tasks you're not enjoying.

Set your timer for 25 minutes work, then take a 5 minute break where you get up from your desk and do something else. Walk away from your desk and make a drink, stretch your legs and back, look out the window for a few minutes or fuss your pet, then return to your desk. Repeat 4 times rewarding yourself with a 30 minute break on the fourth cycle.

4. Limit Distractions.

TV, social media and your personal phone will suck time from your day. If it's too tempting not to look at these then put them in a separate room and check them on break times. This can also apply to pets too! My cat has an annoying tendency to want to be involved with client skype sessions, so I do have to lock him away until they are over!

5. Decide Where You Are Going To Work.

Having a specific work area stops your work life spilling into your home life. While you may not have the luxury of a home office, your dining room table or similar will help you mentally separate relaxing spaces like your bed or sofa, from working or more formal space in your home.

6. Put Work Away On An Evening.

I'm lucky enough to have a separate work studio on which I can close the door at night and switch off. Putting away paperwork, that report you're working on and your laptop on an evening can really help your mental wellbeing. If you're constantly looking at work during your downtime you won't fully tune out.

7. Go Outside.

If you stay cooped up at home every day you'll go stir crazy. Take 20 minutes from your lunchbreak and go outside. Sit in your garden, walk into town or your nearest park. Even a stroll around the block will do. Seeing daylight will lift your mood, even if the weather isn't great, and your afternoon will be far more productive after that break from your desk.

8. Exercise.

Working from home makes you lazy! You no longer have that 10 minute walk to the train station. Your walk downstairs to the kettle is significantly smaller than heading to the staff canteen. Your usual trip to the deli for lunch may not happen anymore. Trust me, your average step count will reduce drastically so make time on an evening or morning to schedule in some exercise. If you're no longer able to attend a gym then do a home video or set up some circuits in your garden.

9. Socialise Online.

Just because you're not heading down the pub tonight doesn't mean you need to miss out on all social contact. Schedule time to speak to friends and family via video after work. During the day call colleagues about queries rather than just emailing. Working from home can feel isolated, so maximise time where you can have virtual contact with others. Your mental health will thank you for it.

10. Take Advantage Of The Extra Time At Home.

Most Britons spend 58 minutes on their commute. If you're working from home you could be gaining back 2 hours per day - 10 hours per week. Think of what you could do with that commute time now. That side project you've been thinking about for years. That startup idea you've sat on for months. That business you want to start but you're always saying you can't because you don't have the time. One of the biggest positives to come out of WFH is the time you could potentially gain back. This scenario won't last forever so use that time wisely now.

I'd love to know how you get on with these tips and if you are working from home.

If you have any questions, comments or feel you need help launching your fashion brand then get in touch and we can discuss your requirements -

Michelle Ramsay - The Fashion Expert®

#freelance #fashiondesigner #thefashionexpert #thefashionexpertuk #michelleramsaydesign #fashionbusiness #fashionconsultant #fashiondesign #startupfashion #thatsfashiondarling #startupconsultant #fashionpreneur #fashionstartup #startupspecialist #launchyourbrand #clothingline #fashionmentor #businessoffashion #fashionbusinesscoach #techpackdesigner #fashioncads #techpacks #businessadvice #emergingfashion #sustainablefashion #startafashionbrand #launchaclothingline

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Launching a fashion brand is not a quick process and many startups enter into this with rose-tinted spectacles, only to be met with the minefield that is the Fashion Industry.

Common complaints include the fact that everything seems to take twice as long as you’d thought! Combine that with a 9-5 day job, family commitments and a social life and suddenly what you‘d naively expected to be a 6-month job, rolls into a year or perhaps 18 months to launch your collection.

So how do you keep going? How do you stay resilient and full of motivation when things seem tough?

I Believe It All Lies In Reflection.

A technique I use with my clients as part of my goal setting and planning workshop is to review the previous year, quarter and month to reflect on what has gone before. Taking stock of how far you’ve come, what you’ve achieved so far and where you are still to venture really puts things into perspective.

Being an entrepreneur and running your own business is so very different from being employed. In your average 9-5, you’ll often have a manager, supervisor or boss who will hopefully give you a level of praise or recognition for a job well done. Some achievements might even be rewarded with a bonus or salary review.

As entrepreneurs, we all too often hit those achievements but immediately move on to the next goal. Our happiness and sense of pride is invariably short-lived and pales over the coming days and weeks. Perhaps that business goal is now being implemented in the day to day running, so whilst we are actually living it constantly, the accomplishment can often be absorbed into the background.

Our to-do list is never going to be done, so what’s left is a continuous cycle of striving to the next goal and an ongoing road of things that are yet to be accomplished.

Taking stock to recognise how far you’ve come is what will keep you sane - trust me!

It's tough to remain positive if you come up against knockbacks. If you've had demands from other areas in your life and have neglected your business for a while. It can sometimes feel like it's taking an age to move forward at all.

But if you look back at where you were 6 months ago or a year you suddenly realise how far you've come already.

When was the last time you sat back for ten minutes and gave yourself the credit you deserve for getting to the stage you're at today? Just because you might not be at that launch stage yet doesn’t mean you’re not headed in the right direction.

Getting rid of the hierarchy.

Why do we assume that some achievements or goals are better than others? During mentoring sessions, a common theme with my clients is to only consider the ‘big’ achievements as worth discussing.

The focus is always upon things like sampling or production but little thought is given to what went prior to this stage. The research, the ideas, the inspiration, the design and perfecting this with a designer. Business admin such as registering your company, choosing a name, creating a logo securing a domain name and social media accounts seem trivial to some but they are certainly not. And let's not forget the decision to be your own boss, to start up something unique, to chase that entrepreneurial spirit inside.

Those baby steps you take each day, each week, each month, soon start paving the way for greater things. The cumulative effect they have should not be ignored, for those longer-term goals could never be achieved without the small stuff.

Do something for yourself today.

Set aside some time away from your phone, desk and computer. Allow yourself 30 minutes with a pen and paper and start brainstorming what you've achieved this last year. Don't overthink things, and don't try to put things in any order, just jot down what comes to mind. Remember to sideline that hierarchy and write down things that were both easy and hard to achieve.

And then take some time to review that list, bask in it's glory and remind yourself that you are moving forward.

Sometimes it may not be as fast as you'd like but nothing worthwhile is ever easy!

I'd love to know how you get on with this exercise and if you find this useful.

If you have any questions, comments or feel you need help launching your fashion brand then get in touch and we can discuss your requirements -

Michelle Ramsay - The Fashion Expert®

#freelance #fashiondesigner #thefashionexpert #thefashionexpertuk #michelleramsaydesign #fashionbusiness #fashionconsultant #fashiondesign #startupfashion #thatsfashiondarling #startupconsultant #fashionpreneur #fashionstartup #startupspecialist #launchyourbrand #clothingline #fashionmentor #businessoffashion #fashionbusinesscoach #techpackdesigner #fashioncads #techpacks #businessadvice #emergingfashion #sustainablefashion #startafashionbrand #launchaclothingline

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Updated: Mar 19, 2020

5 issues factories have with fashion startups.

There's no doubt that launching a clothing line is tough. It takes dedication, knowledge and time. Many of my clients find dealing with manufacturers the hardest part. It can take a while to find a good fit for your product, and the sampling process can feel laborious, so making sure you've got your process streamlined will help.

Make yourself a desirable startup client.

Often start-ups take an unconventional approach with factories, because they don't know any better and this sometimes leads to frustrations from potential suppliers. In turn the startup can feel deflated, deterred and not sure how to move forward. Learn the processes involved and educate yourself in the stages of manufacture.

I've put together the top 5 issues factories have with fashion startups and some tips to help you avoid these.

1. Lack Of Design Information

One of the biggest time wasting approaches I see amongst start-ups is contacting a prospective manufacturer without any tangible information in the form of completed CAD designs, tech packs and size specs. You might know what you want to launch in your fashion range, however a collection of photos, rough ideas and a vision is not going to cut it with a factory.

At best you'll end up with some cobbled together samples that don't represent your ideas. At worst you'll come across as unprofessional, a newbie they'll have to hand-hold and probably someone they don't have time to coach.

This raw information is what you should discuss with someone like myself - a designer, not a factory. It's tempting to be pro-active and find a factory early on, but you have a much better chance of striking a professional relationship with a potential supplier if you can hand over factory packs for each style.

2. You Don't Speak The Fashion Language

Understanding the correct fashion terminology will help you extensively when discussing your designs with a factory. Take some time to find out the relevant vocabulary that describes your styles, whether that be the fabric quality, the types of trims being used and any special details that make up your design. This information should be itemised in your factory packs from your designer, but make sure you can converse with your supplier in the language of the industry and understand the details. If you can't then use a fashion consultant who will have your back every step of the way.

3. Unrealistic Expectations

Being aware of minimum order quantities versus price per unit is incredibly important. It's great to have target prices that you hope to produce something for, but if you only want to produce something small like 50 pieces per style then the price is going to reflect that small order.

Equally so, your small MOQ may have an affect on how many colours you can order per style, how specific you can be with base fabrics and how much it will cost to produce anything specific to your brand such as branded hardware.

4. Unworkable Timelines

When you hand over your designs for manufacture, the samples won't appear instantly. Your prototypes will take less time than your bulk production, however you should always allow enough time for re-sampling, allowing for your factory's workload and general turn around time. Each factory will have a different lead time, often booked up weeks to months in advance depending on the time of year. Just because you're ready to go doesn't mean you can dictate timescales for your suppliers. Utilise a realistic fashion calendar to plan your critical path.

Be realistic with times and expectations

5. Unwillingness To Compromise

It's great to aim for that gold standard with your collection but sometimes a little compromise goes a long way. It may be your factory can't source the exact composition of fabric specified in your tech pack, however if they have an alternative does it also do the same job? Sometimes your need for small MOQ's might dictate what you can do in terms of design for branded items like buttons, badges, labels and trims. You may have a better chance at getting what you're looking for by using an available quality and branding that.

Understand where to compromise.

In summary the main takeaways here are:

1. Prepare your designs in a professional manner with all technical and sizing information in place.

2. Do your homework and liaise with your designer to understand what it is you're asking for.

3. Research MOQs.

4. Be realistic with your timeline.

5. Compromising will get you a long way.

If you need help launching your fashion brand then get in touch and we can discuss your needs -

Michelle Ramsay - The Fashion Expert®

#freelance #fashiondesigner #thefashionexpert #thefashionexpertuk #michelleramsaydesign #fashionbusiness #fashionconsultant #fashiondesign #startupfashion #thatsfashiondarling #startupconsultant #fashionpreneur #fashionstartup #startupspecialist #launchyourbrand #clothingline #fashionmentor #businessoffashion #fashionbusinesscoach #techpackdesigner #fashioncads #techpacks #businessadvice #emergingfashion #sustainablefashion #startafashionbrand #launchaclothingline

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Updated: Jan 15, 2019

January and February mark the start of the fashion calendar in lots of ways. Firstly the Menswear collections will show AW 2019/20 on 11th January swiftly followed with Haute Couture SS 2019 in Paris.

8th February will see the offerings of Women's A/W RTW 2019/20 starting in New York followed by London and giving way to Milan and Paris.

Image Copyright Magic

These dates will be punctuated with pre-collections and cruise collections and if that wasn't enough to keep you going, all this in conjunction with the season's influx of fashion tradeshows.

Tradeshows can be really exciting, inspirational and informative events to attend, and whether you're an established fashion brand, or a startup entrepreneur you should be attending these shows for a whole host of reasons.

Image Copyright Sourcing At Magic

As well as great places to gain new contacts, suppliers and manufacturers these events give you an opportunity to get really hands on. You can touch and handle fabric samples, ask for cuttings, have swatches mailed to you and explore trims in close detail.

On the flip side of these sourcing based shows come the product based shows, where brands and retailers present their new and up-coming collections. This is a perfect chance to gain inspiration from some of the more established retailers, and a chance to learn from the professionals.

Image Copyright The London Textile Fair

There are too many shows worldwide to mention in this post, however I have put together a list of my top 10 recommendations for January and February in the UK.

9-10th January

The London Textile Fair

Olympia London

15-16th January

Fashion SVP

Olympia London

23rd-24th January

Jacket Required

Old Truman Brewery

27-28th January

London Edge

Business Box London

3rd - 7th February

Spring Fair

Birmingham NEC

10-12th February

Pure | Pure Origin | Pure Man | Bubble

Olympia London

10-12th February

Scoop International

Saatchi Gallery

15th -19th February

London Fashion Week

15th -19th February

London Fashion Week Festival

17-19th February


Birmingham NEC

If you are one of my international based clients, or you'd like a recommendation on a specific type of show to visit you can drop me an email here with your questions and I'll try to help.

For further reading on making the most of a tadeshow ready my post 10 TipsTo Ace A Fashion Tradeshow here.

Let me know which tradeshows you are considering this year in the comments below.

Michelle Ramsay

The Fashion Expert®

#freelancefashiondesigner #fashionconsultant #startupspecialist #fashionstartup #fashionmentor #fashiondesigner #clothingdesigner #thefashionexpert #thefashionexpertuk #launchafashionbrand #newfashionbrand #emergingdesigners #newtalent #clothingdesigner #appareldesigner #designer #fashiontradeshow #fashionsourcing #fabricsourcing

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Registered company address 10 Stadium Court, Stadium Road, Wirral, Bromborough, CH62 3RP  |  Tel: +44 (0) 7528 659 583

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