How to survive as a fashion entrepreneur
- By Sophie Gittins -
- Aug 13, 2012
Starting your own business in the fashion industry is a daunting prospect, particularly during the current economic climate. Here’s a guest blog on how to do it the right way…
I launched my business designing and manufacturing luxury shoes in 2008 just as the recession hit hard. Driving the business forward through one of the toughest economic climates in a century in a sector notorious for its high rate of business casualties within the first three years, certainly tested my commitment. Fortunately, the shoes have steadily built a loyal customer base both in the UK and abroad so there’s a lot to be positive about.
In a market even more saturated than usual with business start-ups, due to redundancy and lack of graduate opportunities, many in the industry aim to capitalise on the comparatively liquid financial state of start-up businesses with constant offers for discounted advertising, PR opportunities and trade stand space. New companies should be cautious on this front, so do your research before committing your budget. A carefully targeted marketing and sales campaign will always deliver better results than the scattergun approach.
For me, PR was second only to management of production in terms of making demands on time so, if it is within your budget to delegate this key area, then I would recommend it. Set a realistic cap on your monthly budget (including an allowance for courier expenses) and your agency should accept and adhere to this as much as humanly possible and be able to provide you with monthly reports of press appointments, call ins and expense details.
Remember that the larger monthly publications can have a lead time of 3 months so be patient whilst still capitalising on the fast pace of online sites and bloggers who are constantly searching for news stories. Entering competitions can provide excellent opportunities to gain insightful advice from industry experts as well as generating valuable free publicity. In my case being chosen as a finalist by Manolo Blahnik in the Fashion Fringe Shoes competition proved to be a fantastic springboard for the business.
Handing over your collection to a PR does require a degree of trust and this is an area where we were ‘caught’ in the past: an unscrupulous character whose dire financial state led to him abandoning his clients’ sample collections to debt collectors – a situation only resolved by resorting to costly solicitor’s letters. For this and many other reasons I would strongly recommend insuring sample collections as they represent a large financial investment which needs to be protected.
In the early days of business, many fashion brands overstretch themselves by investing too heavily in sample collections – maybe in reaction to expectations of some retailers to view ranges comparable with larger, more established brands or to the pressure from factories to meet minimum quantities. I would advise caution in this area as I have found a well-edited concise collection can represent the brand just as well as dozens of styles and colourways.
Keeping abreast of news and developments within the industry is, of course, a high priority and with many start-ups business being run during evening and weekends -time is limited. A free quick and easy way to stay up to date is to subscribe to daily email updates on industry news via sites such as www.fashionmonitor.com. Industry magazines such as Drapers are the go-to for more in depth analysis.
I’ve been an advocate of the ‘slowly but surely’ route to growth and the brand is now well-positioned to look towards the future with this year seeing a number of projects come to fruition such as our collaboration with Italian e-boutique www.giordanodieci.com and the imminent launch of our bridal line. Any degree of expansion of business can be a risk so it is important to take a balanced view as to when to exercise a degree of caution and when to seize an opportunity in the name of progress.
By Sophie Gittins.
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