Ask now, look good later
With the internet it’s easier than ever to get into the world of fashion. Print a cool t-shirt or stitch a dress, post it on Instagram and you might just attract special attention and be whisked away to Paris Fashion Week.
It’s possible for some. The bar of entry has been lowered. But that also means the competition is fierce. Whether you’re going for a line of affordable basics or activewear, streetwear or high couture, you need to ask yourself five key questions before you get your brand up and running.
Who is it for?
This is your first and biggest question. When you close your eyes and imagine the clothes that you’re going to make, who do you see wearing them? What age are they? What’s their background? Are they in high fashion or casual streetwear? The better you know your target audience, the more focused and successful your brand is going to be. The best path to success in this competitive industry is to know exactly what you’re doing.
What’s the competition?
Think about the brands that you return to when you buy clothes. What makes them so appealing to you? Why have you built up a loyalty to those brands? Ultimately this is how you want people to feel about your clothing line, because lasting success lies in repeat customers. Read into the brands that inspire you, and try to imitate their best qualities while avoiding any obvious mistakes. The fashion world is large, so make sure you do thorough research before you start planning your own garments. It’s about seeing where you fit.
What’s your USP?
What is your unique selling point? Can you condense the essence of your clothing line into a single sentence or image? If you can’t, then your idea isn’t ready yet. In this crowded market, the easiest way to succeed is to do something that nobody else is doing. This will make your clothes easier to market and means you have less competition in a narrower field. If you’re not sure about your USP just yet, think about your personal passions. What insight do you have into a place, a subculture or an aesthetic that you can bring to your clothing line? Ultimately it’s your personality, your inspiration and your business sense which are going to set your line apart.
How will you market yourself?
There was a day when young seamstresses would bring their newly sewn clothes down to the local market and peddle their wares. That was then, and you’re probably going to want to start online, since it carries the least financial risk. When you’ve started selling garments, think about presentation: wrap your clothes in tissue paper for a classy touch, or include a business card or discount code for the sake of promotion. Try to get in touch with members of the fashion press to plug your new clothes, or try the modern tastemakers and influencers who have enormous audiences hanging off their every post. Ultimately, as with all marketing, you want to tell a story about your brand, a coherent narrative and aesthetic that people will remember.
How will you produce your clothes?
You have a lot of different options, from stitching everything yourself to outsourcing to a factory on the other side of the world. First gauge your own skills — are you a born haberdasher or is your best skill your taste or your shrewd business acumen? Make sure to maximise your talents and delegate the work which isn’t your strong suit. Consider whether you’ll make clothes to order or in bulk. Then there’s the question of materials — customers are bound to judge your garments by their quality and feel, so make sure to experiment with different fabrics to make sure you’re completely happy. One cracked pattern or scratchy hoodie and you may have lost a customer forever. Always keep in the forefront of your mind: if I was the customer, what would I want most? This thought should help you with the trickiest decisions on the rewarding path to starting a fashion empire.