Starting a fashion brand can feel both exciting and overwhelming - first up where do you even start?
In this post, I'm sharing the areas you need to master to do it successfully. Consider which of these you can do yourself and which you need some further help with.
Ideas & Inspiration.
It all starts with an idea. Whether that comes from a need you've identified in your life such as a product you think could be better, a gap in the market for a product you can't buy or simply masses of creativity you can no longer contain, without inspiration you'll struggle to get past the start line. Think deeply about why you want to do this and channel that "why" into the next phases.
THE BIGGEST AREA STARTUPS NEGLECT!
I'm really not sure why, but there seems to be a tendency to body swerve any kind of research before diving into design. To put it bluntly, avoiding this is insanity! If you're going to pursue a business idea, make sure you know there's a market for it, you understand that market, you know your customer you're trying to sell to and also your competitors.
You need this considered information prior to the design stage because the decisions you make from this point on will be influenced by this research. If not then you're designing for vanity's sake.
Get your season right, research trends and make sure you're falling into the fashion calendar along with the rest of the industry.
Once you have these amazing ideas you'll want to start refining these into a collection and getting your ideas onto paper. I say paper, but I really mean in a digital format.
First, you'll need to create a comprehensive range plan of your products to make sure your collection is commercial, balanced, the right size and is best suited to your customers.
From there you'll want to create your designs in a suitable technical format that a factory will understand commonly known as tech packs.
Your designs are not just pretty pictures, they are the blueprint to manufacture a garment so you'll need all the technical details of fabrics, construction, application and fit. It's a how-to for your manufacturer to calculate costs, understand the complexity of production and implement every detail that is needed to turn the idea into a physical product.
Scrimping on design, especially if you do not have the technical knowledge can be disastrous so if you're new to all this make sure the designer you use is not. You'll need the backing and reassurance of an experienced professional so watch out for seemingly cheaper graduates who have never set foot in a factory. If they don't have the knowledge either it's like the blind leading the blind. Designs may look good on the surface but missing or incorrect technical information for the factory costs megabucks in sampling, so be savvy where you invest your cash. Preparation is key.
The supply chain is everything, without it, you have no product. So it's not unsurprising that most startup brands find the prospect of working with a manufacturer intimidating, to say the least.
It's not as simple as picking a supplier online and this is another area you'll want to invest in some research or help into getting it right.
Explore the options of the different types of manufacturing available from the different methods and make sure the one you select is most appropriate for your products, collection and business model.
Have everything in place that manufacturers will expect from you and understand how and where to find suitable partners. Define which partners are required for example will you need a designer, pattern cutter, sample machinist, manufacturer, fabric mill or wholesaler and a consultant to guide you etc?
Sampling, Development & Production.
Once you're ready to work with manufacturers you'll need a level of knowledge as to what happens next. Manufacturers do not have the time nor the inclination to hold your hand throughout the process, that is the job of a designer & consultant like me, so prepare yourself in advance and know what to expect next.
Be ready with a timeline for the different types of samples you'll receive and have everything in order that will be expected during the sampling process.
Once samples are received make sure you understand your responsibilities in auditing these and relaying the results and amendments to the factory.
Some people find business finances intimidating and boring, but not getting on top of this is a sure-fire way to fail.
Most startup brands launch with a budget of £10k plus, anything under £5k becomes extremely tough. It's not impossible, but be realistic with what you are trying to achieve.
Consider where you will source this capital from and explore the various different options out there to help with this if you are not able to fully self-fund.
Work out cost versus retail prices and ensure these are profitable, if they are not something needs to change whether that be your supplier, your MOQs, your profit margin or your retail price.
Consider your other running costs for your business and drill down what you really need at this point in time.
The subject everyone loves to leave till last! Marketing starts day 1 in your business, not day 1 post-launch. You're not Tom Hanks in Field Of Dreams and if you build it they will only come if you shout about it.
Build your audience while you're building your business and don't stop once you hit live on your website. Your marketing activities are a continuous cycle reflective of your goals and strategies for your business. Plan ahead, mark out the seasons and key selling dates and create campaigns to target these throughout the year.
Mindset & Personal Development.
Launching any business takes resilience, dedication, passion and a lot of hard work. It may look like a breeze when you see Insta-brands popping up with overnight success but trust me, it really doesn't happen like that.
There will be struggles along the way and roadblocks that you come up against that you'll have to overcome.
Being armed with the right information and surrounding yourself with a key support system that can help you solve problems as they arise, or even better foresee them before they happen, can really take the stress out of the difficult stuff.
Which of these areas do you feel confident about and which are feeling a little overwhelming? Let's chat about this in a free, no-pressure discovery call where you can find out what help is available to move your business idea forward.