To make your big break in the fashion industry, you’ll need to make a firm commitment to succeed and stick to it. Willpower, however, isn’t the only attribute of a successful fashion entrepreneur, and starting your own clothing line also requires countless hours of hard work and unrelenting focus on the types of efforts that will make your business a success. Learn more about what it takes to run a successful fashion startup with these five expert tips.
1. Set Your Sights on Success
Are you sure that you want to run a fashion startup? If you have any doubts, you’ll need to address them before you move forward. Having a plan is important, but you won’t be able to follow through if your heart isn’t in it.
Ask yourself a few basic questions. Have you always wanted to run a fashion business, or did the idea to get involved in the industry just occur to you recently? Are you primarily interested in fashion because you want to make beautiful clothes, or do you mainly want to make money?
While it might seem that intentions aren’t important in the world of business, unrealized doubts have a way of tripping you up at the worst times. According to
2. Make a Solid Plan
If you want to make it big in the fashion industry, you’ll need more than just a strong passion for fashion. Even the most heartfelt intentions can fail if you don’t have a practical plan to back up your lifelong dream, so taking the time to plan out your big break into the industry will pay off big time in the long run.
Start by figuring out the basics. What will you be selling, and who will you be selling it to? Say you want to sell 1950s-style miniskirts to young Millennial office professionals. How will you market your product to your target audience, and what platform will you use to bring your dreams to life?
You’ll also need to figure out basic logistics like how you’ll source the materials for your fashions and turn these fabrics into saleable clothes. If you’re planning to use that sewing machine in your basement for the rest of your career, you’ll need to reconsider your plan; it’s best to account for future growth even if your business has yet to make a single dollar.
Don’t worry about over-planning; it’s better to be exceedingly careful than reckless, and it doesn’t matter if your plans don’t work out in the end. As you move along in the process of running a successful fashion company, you’ll probably need to alter your plans to a significant degree anyway.
Making a useful plan for your startup is more of a constantly evolving process than it is an end destination; no matter how detailed your plan is before you start selling, everything can change in the blink of an eye. Get specific. Which influencers do you want to work with?
Which fashion icon’s recognition of your brand means the most to you? When you have the money, how do you want to expand your production facility? What are your standards for employees, and, perhaps most importantly, what is your company’s ethos? If you have a firm commitment to slow, fair-trade fashion, for instance, your business plan will be very different from that of a traditional startup.
3. Build Your Network in Fashion Industry
No fashion brand is an island. Even the greats of the fashion industry had the help of trusted advisors and well-wishers as they traversed the path to international stardom. It’s a bald fact that you’ll have to work with other people from the very start of your career in fashion, so you’d better get used it and start networking now.
Sewport CEO Boris Hodakel suggests that visiting fashion trade shows is one of the best ways to get a foot in the door of the industry with very little risk. Even if you don’t have anything to offer clients or potential partners yet, you can start shaking hands, taking business cards, and having interesting conversations with people who are in the line of work that you aspire to be in one day.
Fashion trade shows are important for aspiring fashion entrepreneurs to visit for another critical reason. By closely observing the habits of other fashion professionals, you can use a fashion trade show as a backboard for developing your own brand identity and business plan.
If a designer at a trade show is doing something that you like, take note of it. You could even go so far as to ask designers about how they achieved their success, and you might want to start keeping a journal or using an app on your smartphone to take notes and cross-reference ideas.
There’s nothing more powerful than testing your ideas in the context of a real-life tradeshow, but you can also start networking over social media. Even if you don’t have a storefront yet, make a profile on LinkedIn and request to connect with prominent fashion entrepreneurs and influencers. If you already have contacts in the industry, make sure to keep in touch with them and deepen your relationships.
After you have a number of contacts who are at least vaguely aware of your skill sets and what you intend to do with them, start making your value known. You don’t have to have a single garment for sale online, for instance, to become known as a promising designer in a certain niche, and the more who people come to associate you with your work, the easier it will be to propel yourself off the network you’ve made once launch day finally arrives.
4. Focus on Your Clients
The fashion industry has a reputation of being snobbish, but that doesn’t mean you have to look down your nose at everyone. In fact, good customer service is just as important in fashion as it is in any other industry; the better you treat your customers, the more loyal they will be, and the more likely it will be for them to recommend your services to their friends and business associates.
One of the best ways to provide excellent customer service in the internet age is to be active on social media. It isn’t enough to make a LinkedIn page that will make it easier to connect with potential clients; you’ll also need to make profiles on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram if you want to stay as connected to your customers as possible.
Instagram will play an especially key role in your social media toolkit; in fact, many fashion startups find it possible to gain customers and grow their reputations with Instagram alone. Since this social media platform provides each business user with a storefront, you can make money with nothing more than an Instagram profile.
In addition, this Facebook property has become known as a fashion paradise; since its interface is image-based, it’s incredibly easy to associate your brand identity with your fashions if you make regular posts on Instagram.
Twitter and Facebook are each important for customer outreach in other ways. Facebook is great for making longer posts and connecting with groups, and your Twitter handle will be one of the first lines of connection that your customers will use to reach out to you in emergency situations or leave feedback.
5. Be Resilient
The fashion industry can be brutal. Critics don’t hold back, and there’s so much competition that it’s hard to get noticed. If you’re expecting to experience immediate success the moment that you poke your head out the door, you’re due for a rude awakening. However, if you adequately prepare for struggles along the way, you’ll set yourself up for long-term success.
One of the best ways to achieve resilience early on in the process of putting together your fashion startup is to keep your goals reasonable. It’s great to shoot for the stars, but remember to make clear delineations between your practical and aspirational goals.
An aspirational goal, for instance, might be to have your designs displayed on the covers of fashion magazines all over the world. If you set your sights on this goal and don’t think about anything else, however, you’ll fail to focus on the daily minutiae that will gradually propel you toward stardom.
An example of a practical goal, on the other hand, could be getting your e-commerce website set up or keeping up with your contacts in the industry. If you make efforts to achieve small practical goals every day, you’ll gain the self-confidence necessary to withstand setbacks.
Never let go of your aspirational goals, however; even if it seems like they’ll never come true, they have the power to keep you going when times get tough.