One thing that is unanimous amongst successful fashion brands is that you cannot do it on your own. As discussed in previous instalments of this series, launching a fashion brand requires prowess both on and off the catwalk, and it is really the sum of its parts that will determine a label’s success and longevity.
Like anything new, the early days of seeing your first collection come together is exciting and rewarding, and usually if you are savvy, picking up a few key stockists in the beginning is not so difficult. The challenge comes with subsequent seasons where you will want to better the previous collection, keep your current retailers happy, and at the same time build your business.
Season 3 is make or break
The make or break season is usually season three, a year and a half after launching, when retailers will have their first sell-thru information. When stores buy your second collection, they will only just have received the first, so they are buying ‘blind’ without having any sales references as to what works on the shop floor, and more importantly what doesn’t.
That means by season three you may well find some stores change their buying patterns. For example, one of my department store clients originally placed 40 percent of their purchase orders in t-shirts and jersey, however after the sell-thru information became available, we learned outerwear performed better, hence they changed their buying habits.
Other stores may find your product did not do so well early on, and don’t be surprised if you lose a few clients. You should come to expect your customer base will be evolving each season.
There is no loyalty in fashion
Fashion boutiques by nature are not loyal. 90 percent of their budgets are spent on brands they know and that guarantee sell thru. Anything surplus is spent on new collections with just a few new designers introduced each season to keep their portfolio fresh. 'Limited space' will be something you hear on a regular basis, so don’t let it get you down if a store doesn’t pick up your collection immediately. Instead offer them the opportunity to place a smaller order to get your foot through their fashionable door.
From a fashion perspective, the world is a gigantic place if you are looking to conquer it with just one sample collection, and selling only from a showroom in London or Paris. To cover your distribution channels and broaden sales, it’s essential to expand in different markets. If you are able to produce multiple sample collections, you will be able to appoint agents and distributors in several markets simultaneously. The more stores that get to see your collection, the better your chances of growing your business.
Appoint international showrooms
Many markets overlap with their selling dates, and the more regional you want to expand, think Australia, China, North America, many smaller stores may not make it to fashion week. They have their boutiques to manage, so they will buy from their local showrooms. It may be a question of the mountain coming to Mohammed, and there is no shame in taking your collection on the road.
When sales growth becomes steady, and the seasons less volatile, you may want to consider finding an investor or a financial partner. Sometimes selling shares in return for investment means a company can grow to the next stage that would otherwise take years to happen naturally.
Alternatively seek out opportunities with trade bodies who’s role it is to support export companies grow and thrive abroad. There are plenty of schemes to take advantage from, the key is to remain proactive and as creative with your business as you are on the catwalk.
Next Up: Final in this series
Part I: How to Launch Your Own Fashion Label - Part I
Part II: How to Launch Your Own Fashion Label - Part II
Part III: How to Launch Your Own Fashion Label - Part III
Part IV: How to Launch Your Own Fashion Label - Part IV