How to Start Your Own Fashion Line

By QC

Recently, a discussion panel was held to inform budding designers on the essentials that must be known in order to successfully start a fashion line.  Taking place at the Brooklyn Public Library, the panel was moderated by Melissa Hall of The Emerging Designer and panelists included:

Here are some great tips from these professionals!

Once a designer wants to start sourcing materials and look for production, how should he or she go about doing that? What else should he or she think about?

Find a full-packaged or vertical factory is very advantageous.  It’s important to have a good relationship with these factories because they can provide past samples similar to the garment you want created, preventing future miscommunications and misunderstandings and spending unnecessary amounts of money.

Understand pricing.   If you can’t sell your clothes to 100 boutiques, it’s not a business, it’s a hobby.  Understand the brands those retailers sell and how you would compare with their price points.  This will allow you to get a pricing structure and go back to the factories and have your garments made with that certain price point in mind.  If factories know that you don’t know how much your garment would cost to make, they will exploit and overcharge you.

How can designers get funding? What else does a designer need to know about financing/ money?

O.P.M. – Other People’s Money.  You have to first put your own money down to prove that you have the skin to get into the game, but you also need enough money in order to be sustainable – that is, sustaining your business to go into the future.

Priorities.  Putting money into a business is about prioritizing and determining how you want to spend your money – will it go into your business or the new Iphone 5?  You have to pay your dues and make sacrifices.  Money will come if the action is there.

Don’t quit your day job.  Don’t quit your day job until you have enough money to survive on your own and not on your parents.

Think about the legal implications of your financing.  Designers should understand Intellectual property, trademarks, copyrights, and patents.  Additionally, designers should think seriously about protecting his or her name.  A minute detail such as labeling is also extremely important because mislabeling could have serious implications.

The Fashion Law Institute has a clinic where you can meet with an attorney and get free legal advice for your startup.  Advice can range from organizing the financial structure of your business to trademarks and protecting your name.

Public Relations 101

Be your first publicist and know how to do your own public relations.  You won’t have the money to pay a public relations firm do the work for you in the beginning, so you have to do a lot of publicizing yourself.  You have to understand and know the outlets you want your brand placed in.  You must be well-versed in all forms of social media, from Twitter to Pinterest, because that is the easiest way to get your brand known to the right people.

Understand editorial calendars.  Right now, even though the October issues of magazines are out, magazines are already working on their February issue.  Understand how the editorial calendar works in order to get your brand noticed during the right time or season.

Plan your work, work your plan.  Write your campaign plan for 3 months, 6 months, etc. ahead.  Create a spreadsheet of all the outlets you want to pitch to, with prior research and knowledge about those people and companies.  Your spreadsheet should be laid out something like this:

  • 1st column – Every outlet you want to be in.
  • 2nd column – Specific names of the people you want to get in contact with.
  • 3rd column – Contact information such as email or phone number, which can be found through Google.  If you can’t find it through Google, call the company, and obtain the contact information there. A good tip would be to start with contacting the assistants because they are the editors of tomorrow.

Do not send mass emails – send individualized emails.  You can make a basic template of your pitch, but make sure it is personalized by linking your brand to past stories or photo spreads to show that you know the magazine and the type of stories they do.

Learn how to write a quality pitch.   Be able to talk about your brand in approximately 3 sentences because editors don’t have the time to read your life story.  Provide links to your website, which must be of good quality and show the essence of your brand.

In the fashion industry, you have to be a Jack or Jill of all trades.  It is not good enough to just be a designer – you have to be able to do a lot of things.  You have to be a designer, but you also have to be a business man or woman. You must be a good illustrator so that when you are getting your samples being made, details like pattern making and draping are clear.  You have to be articulate and well-versed when talking about your brand to different outlets.

It takes a combination of both talent and business savvy to make it in this industry.  As Melissa Hall stated, “It is a great time to start a fashion business, but you also have to be smart and strategic because at the end of the day it is really a business.”

written by Alexandra Sarabia, Contributor

Alexandra Sarabia is a recent graduate from The College of New Jersey with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology.  She lives two lives – a life of art, design, and fashion and a life of Biology and research. Despite having immense experience in the scientific research realm, she has always been interested in fashion in all her life.  Her solution is to marry the two different worlds: eco-design, sustainable design, and fair trade. In addition to writing for Quality Control, she also works for KOTOBA, a knitwear brand solely created with WholeGarment® technology from Japanese knitting machine manufacturers, Shima Seiki.

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