Every year, you are bound to see a fresh crop of successful fashion entrepreneurs making their businesses soar, showcasing and selling their products in stores worldwide. But for every success story you see, there are countless more that never made it off the ground. Starting your own clothing company can be daunting, but one of the best ways you can prepare yourself for the journey is to learn from those who have come (and gone) before.
Regardless of how excellent your idea might be or how beautiful your designs are, there are inevitable mistakes and pitfalls that most startup fashion entrepreneurs make when launching their brand. Here are the most common mistakes made by fashion startups:
1 | Not conducting proper market research
Failed fashion startups often overestimate the appeal of their products because they assume that their own passion for the line will be enough to create demand. While it’s easy to form that opinion when you’re getting positive feedback on a local scale, the market will look a lot different when you scale production to the point of a full-fledged fashion line.
Your friends, family, and immediate social circles are just not an accurate pool for judging whether people are willing to buy what you’re selling. Consumers are completely inundated by brands who are all clamoring to tell their unique story. No one has time to listen to all of them.
That’s where professional market research comes in, to help you identify who actually wants your products most, how to sell to them, whether that demand is sustainable and so on. The best way to avoid false market perceptions is to seek out fashion manufacturers with industry marketing experience. They can help you develop your products, brand, and audience in tandem, so you can deliver a cohesive and appealing marketing experience to your core audience down the line.
2 | Failure to invest in adequate brand awareness
The truth is that there are thousands of fashion brands all competing for consumer attention, and most of them are selling extremely similar experiences. Understandably, providing potential customers with a new or unique product can be challenging in such a competitive environment. And it can be even harder when consumers get a little numb to being sold to all the time.
Even if you manage to create a revolutionary item, you will still need to formulate a compelling brand story to push it in the market. Like with any other industry, if customers cannot identify with your fashion brand or you as a designer, they will most likely spend their money elsewhere or go for cheaper (or more familiar) alternatives.
Where most startups go wrong is they fail to build an inclusive budget that accounts for more than just manufacturing costs. It’s well and good to develop a high-quality clothing line, but it does nothing for you if you can’t sell it. Avoid this mistake by expanding your budget plans to include brand development, online presence, and marketing efforts to cut through the noise and have your story heard. (If you already found yourself going down this rabbit hole, check out our inclusive solution for growth marketing! We’re fashion manufacturers who can help with much more than product development.)
3 | Falsely conflating consumer demand with product value
The goal of any true entrepreneur is to generate revenue. If product isn’t selling as well as projected, it can be tempting to adjust your price points to attract more customers and move more merchandise. However, going down this path can hurt your business in the long run. Your price points have a fixed value that should account for the cost of materials, manufacturing, logistics, overhead and profit margin. Any reduction in price skims profits out of your pocket, puts strain on operating costs, and limits your ability to reinvest profits into growing your business.
Keep in mind that there is always another store or market where potential customers can find more affordable products. But there is only one you. And once you start discounting that, whether it’s selling items at a loss or lowering quality, you’re compromising the integrity of your brand and product for very little benefit. It can be nearly impossible to pull out of that nosedive once you start, and many will crash and burn over it.
Avoid this pitfall by refusing to compromise quality and revenue to fix problems with demand. More often than not, changing your marketing strategy is a better angle to pursue. Your customer base can and will change over time, so it’s important to stay plugged into what appeals to them, and to adjust your strategy if and when interest falls off.
Bottom line, don’t panic if your expectations don’t perfectly align with reality.
In addition to avoiding the mistakes mentioned above, starting your fashion company will require dedication, patience, and hard work. Ups and downs are to be expected—they are a feature of the process, not a bug! The important thing is to ensure your business plan and capital can support you through the lows and take advantage of the highs, so you don’t fall prey to false expectations or panic at the unexpected.
At Indie Source, we have extensive experience helping fashion startups manage expectations and set up for success. Check out our Resources section for more free tips on starting your fashion line, and reach out to us for a Kick Off meeting when you’re ready to make a plan!