You have a goal to set up a fashion brand, amazing! But don’t know where to start? Not so amazing. Well, I’m here to help you with that. I have created this very simple 6 step guide to help you. Firstly you should know that you have a long road ahead of you the fashion industry is not for the faint-hearted, the lazy or entitled. This is an industry that you have to break into with every bit of passion, fight and strength that you have. You need to be hardworking and able to stay motivated. The fashion industry is one of the most fast-paced industries in the world and it’s important that you keep up with that, I am not here referring just to style and design but technology and marketing strategies also. There’s an awful lot that goes into starting a fashion brand and I work and connect with experts from all areas. My personal expertise lay within marketing, communication and business growth.
(Mark Tungate – Fashion Brand)
Step 1 – What’s your idea and will it work?
Firstly, I would like you to think about your idea, What’s your unique selling point? Let’s face it it’s hard to be unique these days, I have so many business ideas just to find that they already exist, although I was reading a book recently where Dan Norris (author of content marketing) suggested that most people think that entrepreneurs look for gaps in markets and enter those gaps. Norris believes that the most successful ones go into existing markets with a unique offering. There are many ways to look at this but most importantly you need to do your market research. See who’s already doing what, check out your competitors and what there selling strategies are, you may, for instance, have a similar product to someone but with a unique design element or selling strategy, maybe you deliver quicker or people subscribe to your service. Do your best to nail that USP.
Secondly, will it work? As an entrepreneur we all have to make an assumption at some point, Eric Reiss of the lean startup refers to these assumptions as leaps of faith. “Acting as though these assumptions are true is a classic entrepreneur superpower. They are called leaps faith precisely because the success of the entire venture rests on them. If they are true, tremendous opportunity awaits. If they are false, the startup risks total failure.” There are however ways to test your assumptions, try to think of ways that you can test your product as quickly as possible without putting to much time and energy into it. If you have designs on paper, before you send it to the manufactures, show it to potential consumers, see what they really think, what they really want in that product, share fabric samples, print and design elements with them, get as much feedback as you can in the early stages. It may feel like a long process when you just can’t wait to get going but it will ultimately save you a lot of time, money and tears in the bigger picture. This process will give you room to learn and pivot if necessary.
Step 2 – Create your Brand
I’m sure that you have heard it before but a brand is so much more than just a logo. By creating a strong brand, you will establish a deeper connection with your customers and build a brand with an authenticity that people learn to trust therefore resulting in a loyal audience. The word brand originally comes from farmers branding their animals, making a mark that will last forever. A horrible thought I know, but you get where I’m going with this. A brand is so much more than a logo, a tagline, packaging and a website. A brand is how people feel about you, What people say about you, a consumers experience and expectations.
(Marketing Author – Seth Godin)
So is your brand defined by your customer? Well, strictly speaking, it is, but if you do a great job of communicating your brand’s identity, essence, values and personality then your customer will see your brand for what you set out to achieve.
To create a strong brand you will need to think about the following.
- Brand identity, Thinking about your brand’s beliefs and values, your visions and goals.
- Whats your brand story? Every brand needs a story. A good story will help to build trust. A good brand story will have personality, shape your reason for existence and connect with your customers.
- Create a manifesto (I have a blog post and workbook for creating a manifesto – CLICK HERE)
- Tone of voice, getting your tone of voice right is imperative to your brand, it will help you communicate to your consumer in a way that which reflects your product, for instance, it might not be fitting to have a woman’s luxury handbag brand that spoke to its consumers in a playful and quirky manner.
- Online presence and style, You need to think about your online presence including areas such as your website, e-commerce store, cookbooks and social media. This is where the design and style element picks back up. It is important that your online style reflects the aesthetics of your product. Take time to think about colours and fonts and make sure that you stick to them exactly throughout your online presence. A great way to start this is by creating a branding board, it acts as a great starting place to be able to communicate with designers or social media managers.
Step 3 – Think about finances
Creating a business plan that includes all of your financial information is key. You also need to be thinking about how you are going to raise money. You may have savings, or look at angel investors or look into crowdfunding, think about taking a loan or look into government initiatives and funding. There are many ways to raise capital but bear in mind that being in a lot of debt isn’t the best place for a business to start, you might want to think about a slower approach where you don’t need so much capital but can reinvest all of your profits as you go. You will also want to give thought to the following.
- Production costs and creating cost sheets
- Shipping and logistical costs
- Set up costs
- Marketing and promotion
- Retail costs, online or brick and mortar
- What will be your income and expenditures and how will you turn investment into profit?
Step 4 – How are you going to produce your product?
You have now had a good think about your product have the best designs and are ready to get the ball rolling. It’s time to move into the production phase.
- Firstly you will need to create a design brief, this will help you to communicate in a clear and concise way to anyone else involved, you can download my free design brief template here.
- Prepare tech packs, these will be from designers given to the factory to save any errors. They are very precise guides that when created accurately will save you time and money.
- Source factories and fabrics, take your time with this, try asking for recommendations in our Fashion entrepreneur, Facebook group. Attend trade fairs. Get quotes and consider quality control. This is also a good time to be thinking about ethical and sustainable factors. Sustainability is very important to today’s consumer and is something that all new fashion brands starting out should be thinking about. You will also need to think about the pros and cons of choosing a local or overseas factory.
- Create a prototype (this can be used for a vast amount of market research, don’t hide away your prototype, get it out there and check that you are on the right path)
Step 5 – How are you going to sell it, how will you make money?
How you’re going to sell something is just as important as what you’re going to sell. The main idea here is to know your consumer and make it as simple as possible for them to buy. Below are some examples of different routes to market.
- Online store
- Brick and mortar store
- Pop up shop
- Selling to retailers
- Selling to wholesalers
- Through catalogues
- Online through a 3rd party or social media shops such as Etsy or a Facebook shop
- Markets and fashion fairs
Step 6 – Create an awesome marketing plan!
Every brand needs a marketing plan but within fashion, a marketing plan is quite specialised, this is why I have written a step by step guide to help you understand what needs to go into it. In the Fashion Marketing Manual, I cover everything that a fashion brand needs to create a successful marketing strategy to help grow your business. Creating a marketing plan for your fashion brand gives your brand clarity and direction. It ultimately becomes the heart of your business by giving you a space to explore your brand, get it down on paper and a tangible product to be able to share with investors and team members, ensuring that everyone understands and is working from the same intent. Creating a marketing plan will help you to ……
- Summarise your business
- Understand the industry situation
- Recognise and explore your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.
- Strengthen your success rate
- Add value to your brand
- Research and analyse your competitors
- Define your customer
- Analyse and define your brand identity
- Strengthen your product
- Create a clear strategy
- Set clear objectives and goals
- Explore business growth and expansion potential
(Harriet Posner – Fashion Marketing)
Marketing fashion should take a holistic approach and bridge the gap between the certainty of business and the magic of fashion, it is as relevant to couture as it is to an independent label. Marketing is the common ground, Creating a successful marketing plan is where we join the dots.