By Frances Harder, December 19th, 2016
So many “designers” I meet through my role as consultant at the Fashion Business Incorporated are unfortunately often their own worst enemy. They seem blind to the fact that although creativity is of course important to any new business, “creativity’ alone in the fashion industry will not be hung in an art gallery! Although, I must admit that some new hopeful designers I consult with would be more at home creating wearable art. As with any business the hope is to make money, sell lots of clothes that in turn will pay to create more clothes, which is hoped will result in a profitable business.
It is fact that the many successful designers create clothes that people relate to that then in turn results in selling thousands of units. These clothes will then hopefully hang in someone’s closet to be worn often and in turn create a demand and a brand awareness. Happy customers will return to purchase other products with the same label, and so is born a new branded label. Then the creator/designer/business owner will make even more money to invest into a universal brand. This success is called understanding a niche market.
Having a creative passionate vision can lead to a profitable future, but sadly this is often not the case with new startups. Creating a garment is one thing, understanding the production process and the financing is another aspect that unfortunately is often not fully considered. If one of these aspects is ignored this could lead to the demise of that new hopeful business venture. There are also personality traits that can stand in the way of success and which could possibly make or break a new company who initially has the makings of a successful business. It is well known by industry professionals and investors that new apparel startups have a large percentage that do not survive for longer than a couple of years.
Here are a few categories of new business owners and their personalities types that I have observed, which are dittoed by many of my colleagues working with new companies.
- They may have a good idea but have no experience, either in business, or creating clothing. Plus, on top of this have no money to grow the new business. Plus, they don’t understand that no one will invest money until they can prove that the idea is investment worthy and THEY are also investment worthy!
- Ditto above, but have a stupid idea, and really want me to tell them they have an amazing idea. This is the worst type to try and help! I often want to say, “Take your money that you are prepared to invest and sail around the world!”
- Have a great idea but have no proven track record of sales and there is a demand for the product. This could be good if they have some industry experience, or business know how. However, traditional funding will be hard to find. This type of new business could do well with crowd funding options.
- Have some sales but they are a TOTAL pain to work with! This could be, and often is an arrogant and self-centered focused person who wants to tell everyone what they should wear. Maybe they had a little success that went to their head. THEY feel their idea is the best thing since sliced bread! This personality type will find it hard to find funding as no investor, or industry related person will want to work with! Me included!
- Have some good sales and a good product but have no idea about business and how to cost and reinvest back into the business. Usually do well for a couple of years then implode losing their initial investment and their ground-breaking success. I feel sad for this group.
- Business partners who have developed a new line and have some sales but do not for the life of them understand why everyone in the world is NOT buying their product NOW! FYI, it takes time and a lot of hard work to grow a new company.
- Then we have the bad business partners who have a good idea but have not clarified their roles in their new business. Maybe two designer friends start a business together only to discover that one of them needs to do the costing and bookkeeping! (What is bookkeeping?)
- THEN THERE IS THAT WONDERFUL SPECIAL COMBINATION THAT HAS IT ALL RIGHT! WHO WILL BLOW US AWAY AND GO ON TO MAKE A WONDERFUL SUSSESSFUL AND PROFITABLE BUSINESS!
I could go on in endless detail as to types of different mixes of personalities but these are a few of the major category. Maybe I need a box by each so new companies can self-diagnose!
Given the new “No Trend” environment, the successful designers of the future will need to be a merchandiser who understands demographics, life styles, all types of age groups, use of the Internet, technology to research market trends, and produce goods with the hidden value of social responsibility. It’s wonderful to have a passion, but one needs to make that passion believable to others that will translate into a sale. If you believe in the unique ability of your product to talk to a specific customer, then get out there, wear it and sell it!
Dreams don’t work unless you do!