If you’re an entrepreneur at heart, then you’re like me. It’s almost too easy for us to launch ourselves into new business adventures at every mood swing or whim.
The harsh reality however is that starting a business is like having a baby. It completely and irreparably changes your life.
That’s why you want to think through the decision to develop and launch your own collection, before committing. It’s a decision that you need to feel natural at every level.
Every entrepreneur knows that the chances of being successful on your first try are slim. It’s just like running a marathon, your first attempts at running 42 Km are not going to be your best athletic performances.
But that’s O.K.. Or it’s even more than O.K., as the ability to commit to your vision despite all of the issues that you may experience on your journey is the very definition of entrepreneurship.
So that’s the first thing we needed to say. Failure is not a risk, is a necessity, the harder the fall the steeper the learning curve.
Having said this, I feel that there’s a lot to be learnt by sharing experiences and providing some advice to help new designers understand where to focus one’s energy.
That’s why in this post we’re providing 5 simple notions I wish somebody told me before I started my own fashion business. Which failed. But still paved the way for new, amazing opportunities.
It’s About Building an Audience Not a Product
That’s the first thing of all. Starting a complex project like launching a fashion collection is like coaching a football team, you want to attract talent as well as an audience. In order to do this one needs to understand the following principles.
Business is personal
It’s about the people you meet and how you engage with meaningful exchanges with each and every one of them. It may be a good idea just to start your collection by writing a list of people who could be involved in your project at some level, whether they could provide advice or join your team.
Building relationships takes time, but they become a long-term asset.
This is why launching your own collection requires you to build meaningful relationships with people who will help you achieve your vision. This stage of building an audience could start much sooner than you “break ground” and launch your actual collection. It takes time and you need to be patient so that you have every help possible when it’s time to commit.
Your effort should be focused on understanding your audience, the community that surrounds you, and understanding what types of challenges they are overcoming every day.
Only when you will have created a unique connection to your audience and you have identified their struggles you’ll be able to use these unique insights to develop the perfect solution for their needs. In the form of a fashion collection.
This is a market orientation, based on identifying an unserved or underserved need, but still, it is focused on making sure your product or service will have value in the eyes of your customer. Designers usually approach collection development by focusing entirely on the product but in doing so they may risk investing time and money to create a product nobody wants.
If you’d like to read more about ways in which your business can build an audience by tapping into influencers and thought leaders in your sector, we’ve got you covered with this article.
Forget Seasonality – It’s Wasteful – It’s All About Iconic Pieces
Seasons are not a thing anymore. Haha. Of course, we mean it as a joke, but not really. Unless you are a huge corporation it’s unlikely you can churn out collections for every season or trend. Although it’s necessary to provide variety it’s also important to remember that collection development is expensive.
For this simple reason, we want to make sure that we have a strong stylistic identity, one that would allow us to avoid re-inventing ourselves too often.
A collection focused on a clear vision and style will increase the chances of creating iconic, easily recognizable pieces, which can really catch a lot of wind if you hit the right trend.
Moreover, focusing on fewer pieces with a strong stylistic identity can help with limiting the carbon footprint of your brand and making your design and production stages more manageable.
This approach is also echoed by the way in which brands are now launching their own collections. In order to increase the perception of scarcity and urgency of their garments, brands are using collection drops as a way to mix elements and strategies which are typical of luxury distribution with regular products, that are able to gain stronger aspirational associations because of their distribution strategy. To some extent, by limiting production artificially they are increasing the brand value while limiting waste.
Lots of brands are taking advantage of this innovative approach connected to collection drops to launch a collection, if you’d like to read more about this, we’ve got a case study on Nike you may be interested in reading.
Test Your Ideas With Crowdfunding
If you’re launching a collection with no financial support from a larger brand, then the crowd is your friend. Crowdfunding is a great way to achieve two goals at once:
It can help you test the market.
For as much as you can be confident about your designs and strategy, it’s always a challenge to understand exactly what the market needs.
What better way to make sure your collection is betting on the right numbers than actually test-selling it to potential buyers before production is ramped up and money is irrevocably spent?
What crowdfunding allows you to do is to make sure that your collection will not just be “interesting” but will be able to test whether you are actually able to sell it for a profit. We need to remember that our collection needs to be so good that people are actually going to spend their own money to buy it. That’s not as easy as complimenting you on it.
Exactly for the reason just discussed, a successful crowdfunding campaign can allow you to make sure your collection is a good investment for your potential investors.
You may need to resort to funding at some point if your designs really take off, and having tested the market’s response through crowdfunding can help you show the promise of your collection pieces.
It can help you experience what it takes to run a fully-fledged business.
The process of running a successful crowdfunding campaign is a huge challenge, and it provides one of the steepest learning curves you can experience as an entrepreneur.
It can be really beneficial to experience this rush to fully understand what your future may hold if your collection is so successful that you will consider starting a company as part of your launch process.
There’s a lot to learn from crowdfunding as it’s a very exciting and useful tool, remember however that it is not a simple donation system, it does require a lot of work to be used correctly.
If you’d like to read up more about this topic, here’s a resource that can be useful for you.
Wait Before Attracting Investors
As expenses start to stack up it may be difficult to make ends meet. Unfortunately, however, attracting equity finance too early, in the form of investors wishing to pour money in your company may not be the perfect solution we imagine.
If your company gets funded too early, it may not be able to fully display its potential and you may not receive the funding you deserve. Early-stage seed investments are also tricky because investors may not feel comfortable with investing in a business that has a lot of risks connected with establishing operations. Ideally, if you are able to successfully bootstrap your first collection without resorting to professional investors, you will be in a great spot to get your next collection fully funded.
If you’d like to learn more on the topic of fashion investing at a startup level, we’ve got the perfect resource for you to look into. Check out this article.
Plan to stay but also to Exit
As you are starting a venture, as a possible consequence of your successful launch remember that this project could become your full-time job.
Just as likely this new initiative could exhaust itself in the span of a few months.
It’s therefore important to plan your brand and business so that you are not banking everything on it. Make sure you know what the deals you are signing entail, and how much responsibility you are taking on.
Make sure you are asking for all the help you need to sign contracts and papers, and take time to understand what each contract entails.
We say this because in many cases entrepreneurs who launched their own collection with the goal of escaping the “rat race” may have ended up still tied to a desk, working for their funders as if they had a traditional boss.
Now that we’ve covered all relevant bases, it’s time to draw some conclusive remarks.
There you have it. In this post, we’ve listed some of the opportunities and tricks that can be helpful to address the typical issues that fashion designers and entrepreneurs find when launching a fashion collection.
With our 5 pieces of advice, we’ve provided some recommendations that can help you understand how to think about your business in a way that is future-proof and at pace with a fast-moving industry.
Also, if you’re looking for some up-to-date material on developing a sustainable fashion brand in 2022, we’ve got you covered, here’s an article you may enjoy.