L.C. was my favorite alum on the MTV reality television series, Laguna Beach. I looked forward to each new episode every week. The drama was tantalizing and addictive. Yet, I watched mostly to see what the kids were wearing and trying to figure out what the next hot trend would be.
During the Laguna Beach/The Hills run, Lauren Conrad, known as L.C., put together runway shows for charities while still in high school. Years later, Lauren became a big name in fashion with her new fashion line. She sells her designs at department stores like Kohl’s. Quite the accomplishment!
Living the designer lifestyle can be exciting and lucrative, but starting a new fashion line takes money, traveling in the right circles, and talent. For the young, entrepreneuring designers of today, it’s not as “easy” as it was for Lauren, but it IS possible! If you’re ready to start today, we have a quick and dirty cheat sheet that’ll help you get started for development.
With a little talent, ingenuity and a lot of hard work, the dream CAN become reality. So, where do you start?
1. RESEARCH THE MARKETPLACE
When you want to start a new fashion line, from shoes to under garments to hats, you have to first and foremost, know your market.
Knowing your market entails researching trends and market powers. Most importantly, it means understanding who your ideal customer is. For whom do you want to design? Which customers are you targeting?
Knowing your target customer helps you determine the following:
- Marketing Strategy
So, who is your target customer? Understanding your customer’s demographics goes hand in hand with determining your marketing strategy. Think:
- Income Level
- Geographic Location
- Shopping Habits
- Interests & Hobbies
IF YOU DESIGN IT, WILL THEY COME?
Lauren Conrad lived in an area that lent itself to developing major trends. She was able to play this into her marketing strategy. Younger, impressionable customers looked to the West Coast for the next fashion trends and she grew up in an affluent neighborhood, which definitely played an important part in her success.
She lived within her market base and her following on MTV was huge. Her marketing strategy was built from her own backyard. To be that lucky!
If you don’t live in a fashion metropolis, how do you research and find potential customers? Here are a few ideas:
- Google your product and analyze competitors
- Check subreddits
- Talk to people
- Follow relevant social media brands and personalities
- Shop (online or offline)
- Go where your customers frequent, i.e. clubs, music festivals, beaches, business districts
UNDERSTAND THE BRAND OF YOUR NEW FASHION LINE
One of the best ways to find customers is to actually go shopping! Go to the stores that reflect your style and where you would love to sell your line. Observe everything from the actual customers to the showroom floor. Visualize your product in the store.
Focus on your brand’s personality. Here’s how:
- Imagine staking your claim in the market – where do you fit in?
- Find your unique selling position (what do you have that they don’t)
- Give your brand/product a personality:
- Simple or Extravagant?
- Bookworm or Sexy?
- Serious or Goofy?
- Modest or Over-the-top?
- Outdoorsy or Corporate?
- Dry or Flamboyant?
Describe your line as you would a person. Give it a personality!
KNOW THE COMPETITION FOR YOUR NEW FASHION LINE
Knowing your competition inside and out will help you define your line. As with all things, keep an open mind and look at everything from different perspectives. Find out what works and what doesn’t and why.
Analyze, analyze, analyze!
Look at these aspects:
- What are your competitors doing well?
- What are they doing poorly?
- How do they position themselves?
- How do they market themselves, i.e. look at:
- Their business model
- How they target customers
- How they advertise
Visit their blog or subscribe to their newsletter. Keep them in your sights and you’ll have a leg up on your competition.
THINK QUALITY, NOT QUANTITY
When starting out and finances are tight, keep your collection pieces to a minimum. Instead of creating 20 pieces, stick to 5-10 pieces, maybe even 3-5.Less is more. If you make too many of a product and it doesn’t sell, you’re out the money and your shelves are filled with stale product. As with all businesses, it will take a good season or two to create your best collection and you don’t want to go all out before you’ve tested the market.
Keep your collection and marketing fresh and current. Building a win-win relationship with buyers is crucial, so keep your line fresh and moving. They don’t want to see the same pieces over and over, any more than you want overstock that doesn’t sell. Stay smart, stay fresh and don’t over-produce.
PLAY TO YOUR AUDIENCE
Talk to your customers and test in small batches. Lauren Conrad already had an audience in high school, through television exposure and parents with deep pockets. It worked for her and that’s cool, but most of us do not have that luxury.
You want to create products that excite people. A line that they are willing to max out their credit cards for. (Been there, done that!)
You want something that resonates with your audience and totally engages them. Communicate with your customers through:
- Brand Ambassadors
- Social media advertising
- Sampling events
It’s better to lose $100 finding out that a product doesn’t work, then to spend $10,000 on producing a product that doesn’t sell and sits in the storeroom.
Two ideas that can really help and are smart moves:
- Convince a retail shop to carry your samples
- Give out gift cards/promotional goods to consumers for taking surveys on your product
- Test 1-2 sponsored posts with influencers to see what happens
- Run $100 in ads on social media to see if your product resonate with customers – and start meanwhile experimenting with digital marketing
RESEARCH, START SMALL, AND TEST YOUR NEW FASHION LINE
Minimize risk by testing the market and learning about your consumers. Two designers tell you how they create successful lines.
Fashion designer Meir Yamin of Donatella Dress goes for the vibrant colors, embellishments, and sophistication that would come out of the Kardashians, bringing out the celebrity persona in everyone.
He believes in testing designs by showing samples to customers and getting any feedback that will direct and promotes an upcoming collection.
The fashion design house, ICTZN, uses social media campaigns to test markets abroad, including:
- Pinterest (my favorite)
They also use:
- Short video posts
- Online competitions
- Videos of their fashion shows
- Behind-the scenes footage
They use this guerilla marketing technique, which is a low cost, unconventional way to create buzz about a potentially killer new fashion line. It’s online marketing at its best. The key thing is to research, smart small, and test.
Finally, there are crowdfunding campaigns. If you think your product is incredibly unique, you might have a shot at building some early buzz. Kickstarter is one of the most popular crowdfunding platforms for creative and artistic projects.
Here you can, according to Jake Joseph, who ran a successful campaign for men’s underwear on Kickstarter, “genuinely understand your audience while developing an approach to providing them with a highly unique outcome.”
BUILD ON THE SUCCESS OF YOUR NEW FASHION LINE
Start by following some of the examples here and, along with your talent and hard work, you’ll be able to grow a line that may even rival Lauren Conrad’s someday! If you’re ready to get going, download our quick and dirty cheat sheet that’ll help you get started for development.
We can all dream, can’t we?!
Sure, and nothing is impossible with the right marketing technique and hard work! Pound that runway, research your intended market, and know your customers. The customer is always right!