Five Tips:: Launching your Fashion Company
It seems like just yesterday that I was sitting in fashion school with books in front of me and learning about the history of costume, fundamentals of draping and fashion illustration. One of the first questions I usually get when someone learns that I have my own fashion company is “How did you begin?” So I've put together my top five tips for launching your fashion company...
Tip 1:: Educate. Educate. Educate.
Education makes one more knowledgeable, but it also gives one the confidence to pursue their dreams. When I finished fashion school, I knew I wanted to have my own fashion company, but I wasn’t passionate about clothing design. My heart wasn’t in it, but I always loved accessories especially handbags. However at the time, there wasn’t much education on handbag design like there is now. My professors had touched on it, but it wasn’t enough. So I had to learn on my own. I would go to local sewing stores and buy handbag patterns and would study them. That combined with my knowledge of clothing construction, I was able to teach myself how to create my own handbag patterns. What I didn't learn in school, I figured out on my own by taking a different route.
Tip 2:: Perseverance
The hardest part for me was finding a sewing house to produce my designs. In the beginning, I was sewing them myself, but I needed to take it to the next level. I feel like I had looked for ages. I spoke to fabric suppliers. I seeked out tradeshows. I spent months searching online and I kept coming up empty. I had no problem finding overseas manufacturers, but I didn't have the quantity to use them yet. Finally, I met the owner of a sporting bag company who produced their products in China. I visited her at her office and we spoke for a long time that day. I am forever grateful to her because she introduced me to a local woman that she worked with when she was first getting set up. That day I went to visit her and I learned that this woman worked with many up and coming handbag designers. Within the first few minutes of our meeting, she presented me with a four page list of domestic handbag sewing houses. I wanted to cry tears of joy. She didn't ask for anything in return and I don't think she ever realized what her kindness meant to me. That day, a door unexpectedly opened for me. So during my years of business when things got hard, I would remind myself to keep persevering and other doors will open.
"What I didn't learn in school, I figured out on my own by taking a different route."
Tip 3:: Work in the fashion industry
Working within the fashion industry was a source of great experience for me. For seven years, I worked at Nordstrom in sales and management and I worked as Director of Sales for a fashion dress company. The knowledge I learned from working on the sales side of the industry offered me knowledge that I couldn't gain in school. I worked directly with buyers, merchandisers and store planners. I traveled selling product at tradeshows. I worked with marketing departments assisting with advertising campaigns and I also worked behind the scenes at fashion shows. This kind of experience cannot be gained from sitting in a classroom. I learned many different aspects that go into getting your products in stores. This put me in a better position when it came time for me to sell my handbags. I understood the inner workings of a retail store. This was extremely important when I worked with buyers because I was educated on how "it" all worked. Overall it made their job easier and as a fashion company that is what you want...A happy buyer.
Tip 4:: Be social
Nowadays when people hear the word "social" it automatically brings to mind Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. Yes. Social media is important when it comes to building a brand. However, I'm referring to getting involved in clubs, groups and building a network of like-minded individuals. Luckily being in Southern California, I was able to regularly frequent the Garment District, the California Market Center and the New Mart located in downtown Los Angeles. I subscribed to the fashion trades such as Apparel News, Retailing Insight and WWD to help stay informed. I attended events like fashion shows, store openings and mixers sponsored by fashion organizations. The fact that I was in close proximity to these resources was great, but you don't have to be nearby any of this to build your resources. Infact I had placed so many calls to the Fashion Center BID in New York City (now known as the Garment District Alliance) that they came to know my voice on the phone. So when I did finally visit, I had become so friendly with many of them that they invited me to fashion events in NYC. So definitely get out there. Not only is it a good idea to meet others in the industry, but the energy is uplifting and will keep you motivated.
"No one has the passion for the products more than the designer, so getting out there is going to equal success for your fashion company."
Tip 5:: Show your wares
Being in the Los Angeles area, I seeked out local boutiques that were popular with celebrity stylists and consistently getting covered in the magazines to help me gain exposure. I would talk with the staff and find out who handled the buying for the store. Sometimes, I would get lucky and they were there and I would politely ask them if they were willing to give me some feedback on my collection. Often times, this would turn into an order. It's fun and scary at the same time getting your products out there. Sometimes it was intimidating especially when meeting some pretty important key figures in the retail world. So confidence in yourself and believing in your products will help put you at ease during those high pressure meetings. As my brand grew, I turned to sales representatives, but I learned the best salesperson that my brand would ever have would be me. No one has the passion for the products more than the designer, so getting out there is going to equal success for your fashion company.
Good Luck and go get em!