Starting a fashion brand

Whether you are a one-man show, or a startup with seed money and a staff of dozens, if you are starting off on your own, there are several things to keep in mind.  These are basics that apply to any product or business, but we’ll tailor them specific to a fashion brand.

  1. Tell a story.
  2. Find your value proposition.
  3. Define your customer.
  4. Plan for customer acquisition and growth.

magic open book of fantasy stories

Tell a story

Forty years ago advertising was about getting your product in front of people.  But with media consumption and always on messaging, people have evolved such that seeing an item isn’t enough.

There has to be a story and an emotional connection.  Before launching your brand you should know your story and the story behind your products – and the two should intermingle.

Let’s take a real-world example to make it crystal clear:

What not to do: DesignLondon (https://www.etsy.com/shop/DesignLondon)

Never forget that your customers are people just like you and I and they want to feel a personal connection to you and your brand.  DesignLondon failed to put their real name or a personalized image for their avatar and shop owner name for their Etsy store.  Instantly, they have created a sense of distrust – why isn’t there an image of the shop owner and why couldn’t they reveal their name?

Secondly, DesignLondon failed to create an “About” section in their store.  Providing a back-story about you and your brand creates an intimacy with your buyers.  You’re opening up to them and letting them into your life and in return, they’ll feel a greater sense of trust.

Further, your story has the possibility of resonating with their own background or ideals, and you are now beginning to create brand value, crafting an image that people will remember and ultimately pay a higher price to attain.

Who got it right: YaelAdmoni (https://www.etsy.com/shop/YaelAdmoni)

Yael Admoni named her business after herself so there is no question as to who you are dealing with.  Tom Ford, Marc Jacobs, Michael Kors, Donna Karen – why do they name their brands after themselves?  It’s a paradigm that works, but even if your name isn’t in your brand, you should be the name behind your brand.

Yael also has an excellent “About Us” profile where she tells you where she is from, where she attended school, and how to came to found her company.  She is opening up to the customer and letting them into her world, creating an atmosphere of trust and warmth.  Her value proposition is also clearly stated – minimalist designs with soft comfortable fabrics.

Hand drawing Value Price scale concept with black marker on transparent wipe board isolated on white.

Value Proposition

Every business must offer a value proposition whether you are selling widgets or wedding dresses.  Why would a customer buy from you:

  1. Are your prices better than the competition?
  2. Do you offer outstanding customer service?
  3. Is your shipping faster?
  4. Are your garments different than what is currently in the marketplace?

There must be some value that is offered to your customers in order for them to fork over their hard earned dollars for your wares.

You need to understand your value proposition and build it into your storyline.  Yael found a nitch in the market for minimalist designs (which typically aren’t made from the most comfortable fabrics) with soft textiles.

Two women shopping in a trendy boutique

Define your customer

Close your eyes and picture your customers.  Are they urban, old or young, alternative or conservative, rich or middle class, etc?

Find out as much as you can about who your customers are and create profiles of each type of customer.  The more narrowly you can define them the better.

With the ideal customer in mind you can more accurately craft your designs, story, and appeal to them.  Let’s look at Yaels’ Etsy page to see if we can identify her customers.

how-to-take-fashion-images

The images of her products feature young women between the ages of 20 and 30.  Some photos appear to have been shot in a warehouse (urban appeal) or on a minimalist gray background.

The faces of the models are all posed in a serious tone.  They come off as intellectual, serious, intense, and somewhat formal.  Are you starting to picture her ideal customer?

man drawing schedule of business growth

Customer Acquisition and Growth

The last thing to consider is how you will acquire customers.  If you are paying for advertising on Facebook, Twitter, or any other social network, you need to understand the lifetime value (LTV) of your customers and ensure that your advertising costs do not exceed LTV.

Furthermore, there are a myriad of ways to gain customers:

  1. Local news (tell your story).
  2. Blog and content creation (YouTube videos, Twitter postings, Instagram pictures, etc).
  3. Word of Mouth.  Does your packaging or product give your customers a reason to talk to their friends about it?
  4. Referral incentives.  Tell and friend and get a coupon.
  5. Paid advertising (Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter).
  6. SEO (for your website or Etsy store).
  7. Freebies to influencers.  Find influential bloggers, YouTubers, etc who target your specific customer and offer them free items.
  8. Partnerships.  A startup fashion boutique partnered with BMW to give out 100 free scarves to women who had recently bought from the dealership.  They had to pick up the scarves from her store and bring the offer letter from BMW.  On average, the women spent an additional $400 at her store when they picked up the scarf – more than enough to pay for the free scarves, and also a great way to get her first set of customers.

Your individual plan should be specific to your business, but it is a must that you consider how you will acquire your first customers and then grow your customer list over time.

Would you like some free press coverage?  Drop a comment below with your contact info and I’ll reach out to schedule an interview that we’ll post to this blog and our social media accounts.

 

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