Ashley Cloud, Copa Style Magazine's new Fashion Law & Business Editor gives 6 great tips to develop a successful fashion brand.
6 Tips for a Successful Fashion Brand
By Ashley Cloud
Long ago are the days when fashion brands only cared about making amazing clothing, not caring if their collections made any money. Today, fashion is a multi-trillion dollar industry and lots of people want in on the action. With the success of some fashion brands comes the failure of others. Although fashion is intuitively a creative concept, in order to be a successful designer or retailer, one must remember the business side of fashion. Below are a few tips that will contribute to a successful fashion brand.
1. Protect Your Brand
Many designers are eager to get their collection online and in storefronts as soon as possible. However, it is extremely important that a designer protect her brand as soon as it has been established. That includes trademark protection, copyright protection, and possibly patent protection. First, you should check out the United State Patent and Trademark Office’s website at www.uspto.gov to make sure your trademark is not already registered. If someone already has your trademark, you should come up with a new trademark that would not be considered similar to your previous idea. Lastly, when deciding on a trademark, be sure to choose a “strong” trademark that is less difficult to defend against potential infringers.
2. Determine Your Target Market
In order to have both an effective and successful brand, you must determine who you plan to see wearing your fashion merchandise and ensure that all branding is geared toward that target audience. For example, the major fast fashion brand, Forever 21, has a target audience that is younger in age and likes to wear the latest trends. Everything from your designs themselves to the packaging, the trademark, and marketing must attract your target audience.
You might have this grandiose idea for your brand. You might picture it being worn by the hottest fashion models right off the press. You can see it now - women wearing your latest collection, inspired by your trip to New York Fashion Week. You’ve designed amazing frocks and gowns with beautiful silhouettes that will probably run your customers around $350 to $500 a pop. However, you plan for your brand to be local and mostly available in a small working-class town where there aren’t many fancy places for people to frolic in your beautiful pieces. Although you have high hopes and dreams, you have to fit your brand to your target audience. Keep in mind that your target audience may change and one day you may be producing a collection that is all you’ve ever dreamed it would be. In the meantime, you must be able to relate to and connect with your audience; whomever they may be.
If you want to stand out amongst the crowded fashion world, one suggestion is to have a niche target audience as opposed to a broader base, which will allow you to gain leverage in the overall market by providing products that are geared toward that particular market as opposed to mass production.
3. Build a Fan Base
We live in the age of social media. Brands are making huge gains by using social media to reach their target audiences. Instagram is a great vehicle for brands to get their looks in front of potential fans. This provides potential customers with the chance to experience your looks before the launch of your brand. The other wonderful thing about social media is the instant feedback you might receive from viewers. Someone might go as far as to critique your work or give you the chance to answer questions that potential customers might have so they can make an educated decision about doing business with you.
Also, please do not underestimate the power of networking. You must remember that in this day and age, fashion is not only an art, but also a business. It behooves you to go out and meet like-minded individuals whom you can bounce ideas off, who can give you advice, and also who can spread the word and be just as excited about your brand as you are!
4. Do Your Homework
Long gone are the days when designers create beautiful pieces of clothing simply because they are passionate about what they are doing and don’t take into consideration whether their collection will sell or not. The fashion industry is a multi-trillion dollar business. The designers who have been successful did not simply get lucky; they were also smart and either knew the business well or had an amazing business team to support them.
In order to be successful, you must not only follow fashion trends, but also fashion business trends. A good source for all things fashion + business is The Business of Fashion. You can find them on Facebook or you can subscribe to their newsletter. Another timeless jewel of information is Women’s Wear Daily. On both sites, you can find information about the latest trends in the fashion world.
In referring back to your market, you must determine whether you plan to be a local, national, or global brand. This will greatly shape the trends that you research. For example, if you plan to have a local brand, researching global trends may do little to help you in shaping your business.
5. Never Slack on Bookkeeping and Financing
Many times, designers get so caught up in the artistry of fashion that they neglect their accounting and budget. Without money, there is no brand! Although you might want to splurge on buying some expensive material you found in Paris to make a killer sweater or jumpsuit, it may be wise to assess your bottom line before doing so. Just for the basics, you want to balance your assets and liabilities and make sure you are at least breaking even at the beginning. As time goes on, you will begin to see profits as your fabulous brand takes off, but you don’t want your profits to be diminished by an excess of unnecessary expenses. I know I know I know, no one likes to talk about money, but later down the line, this information will become second nature to you as it is vital to the success of any business.
6. Be Flexible
With fast fashion having 52 seasons and brands like Michael Kors being able to provide price points for all consumers, which infringes on the market shares of both major labels and smaller brands, you must constantly strive to stand out in the crowd. This may require to revamp portions of your collections to ensure that you are staying on top of both local and national trends. Being flexible and constantly updating your pieces will also allow the chance to gain more new customers as well as repeat customers! In order to be truly flexible, you must always leave room for the growth for both yourself as a business owner as well as your brand. This means you must remain accommodating and responsive to your consumers’ needs. When your customers are satisfied with their experience, they will remember how you treated them in response. Although they might not have initially gotten what they wanted, most people value customer service and will appreciate your efforts in making them feel comfortable and well taken care of.
Although these are only a few tips, these suggestions are sure to point you in the right direction on your way to owning your own fashion brand! The hardest part is getting the ball rolling. So go out there and make your dreams come true!
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