Starting Your Own Fashion Business

If you’re a fashion student or a recent graduate in the subject, it’s likely that you’ve been spending a lot of time lately thinking about your future and wondering what your role will be in the fashion industry. Students are often told that the only way in is through slaving away indefinitely as an unpaid intern, but another option is to set up your own business.

Start your own show? Now this may sound like an extreme decision to make, but starting your own business doesn’t have to mean a madcap, all-or-nothing venture. Throughout history there have been Fashion Greats who never had formal Fashion Design training; it’s certainly not unheard of to come into the Industry from a different industry altogether.  We wrote about Ralph Lauren in an earlier blog, there are many more like him.

But back to you: You can set up a business from home, and even get started while you’re still studying. Starting your own fashion business allows you to take your future into your own hands and pursue your own creative interests. Aside from all that, it’s an opportunity to make money. The fashion industry is extremely valuable – according to the British Fashion Council it contributed £20.9 billion to the UK economy in 2009 – so with talent and hard work you could potentially make a lot of money.

To help you on your way we’ve put together this list of the top six craft secrets for success in the fashion industry.

A guide to starting your own fashion business

Get online

A huge amount of people now shop online, so it is vital that you create a website that gives you the best possible advantage in terms of attracting customers. If you’re not sure about how to set up a website don’t worry, there are plenty of great resources and step-by-step guides available online. Now if e-commerce is not the business design you have in mind for your craft, then bear in mind that the online space is not just a place for you to sell your goods, your website can also be used to attract the attention of fashion companies looking to buy new lines for their store.

To make your site more interesting, why not start a blog on the same domain talking about industry news and your work? Try to view your website as a sort of CV, which demonstrates your talents and achievements, while making a visual impact in showing off your personality. Include Pinterest in your daily Social Life by starting boards and embedding pins in your blog or webpages. Everything from Big Fashion to Haute Couture are trending in Pinterest right now. New York Fashion has in fact just chosen Pinterest as its official Social Hub. Start some boards to spark your inspiration, and invite online interest in your style today…

Find your niche

While it is true that the fashion world is extremely competitive, this mainly applies to the mainstream side of the industry, so if you’re looking to break into fashion then it’s a good idea to consider carving a niche where the market is less saturated. There is a great deal of interest now in environmentally-friendly and locally-sourced fashion, so why not research these areas to see if they are markets you could provide for?

Vintage fashion is also an area that many people have an interest in, and if you have an eye for good pieces, it’s possible to pick up some high-quality items from vintage trade fairs and even charity shops. One good idea is to buy cheap pieces and ‘upcycle’ them – that is, modifying them to make them more appealing – to create a truly unique product.

A London Story:

Gemiliana is an exceptional young designer based in Shoreditch, London. Her niche is personalisation – and we’re not talking just customised marketing  campaigns, although she does that too.

She orchestrates very personal experiences when launching a new fashion line as she did in “Death of Culture“.

After a recent performance art show, every invitation to the next one was handwritten and crafted with a unique token from the very first show they attended in 2012. She creates Haute Couture.

Create a business plan

This is undeniably the less exciting part of setting up a business, but without a plan, your fashion start-up is unlikely to be successful. Figuring out what your start-up costs will be seems obvious, but you will also need to set realistic expectations of how much money you will make, and how much profit you will be in once you’ve subtracted the cost of postage, advertisements and any other necessary costs. If numbers are not your favourite thing, read up on a recent blog on Financial Information for Beginners and other articles in StartUps 101.

It is also important to investigate the insurance, tax and other legal ramifications of starting your own company. Another key aspect of setting up your business is creating a brand name and trademarking it. You’ll know from your experiences of fashion that there is a lot in a name, so think carefully about what you want your business to be called.  Read up on a recent blog on Choosing the perfect business name.

A guide to starting your own fashion business

Start networking

It goes without saying that your talent is obviously the main key to your success in the fashion industry, if people don’t know how good you are then it’s unlikely to get you very far. This is why networking is so important. Aside from being a great opportunity to discuss your work with like-minded people, it could also be your chance to get investors for your business, and potentially sell your line in larger stores.

Many organisations such as The Fashion Network and Fashion Meet up organise networking events, which give newcomers in the industry the opportunity to meet seasoned professionals. If you’re shy about networking face-to-face then there are plenty of online opportunities. Use Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn to connect with businesses and designers that you’re interested in, and see if you can get them interested in your work. Particular areas of Mayfair London are also excellent locations for a more casual form of networking during London Fashion Week.

Create a plan for “The Collection”

You may already have an idea of some of the pieces you’d like to sell in your store, but to keep customers coming back you need to offer them a well-rounded collection. The easiest way to plan a collection is to make sure you cover these three fundamental elements: base, middle and top. At the base are your signature items; that is, the items that you’re known for and that don’t change dramatically from season to season.

From high end to high street, the majority of brands rest on the success of a signature item, such as Louis Vuitton’s leather goods, Hervé Léger’s bandage dresses and Converse’s canvas plimsolls. In the middle are the products that you update each season with new colours, fabrics or prints, but the basic silhouettes remain the same. This part of your collection consists of the tried and tested shapes which have already been proven in the market. At the top of your collection you should have seasonal clothing. These products are intended to create a buzz and drive traffic to your site.

Never forget the inspiration that fuels your love for creation

London Fashion Week is all about the glamour, pomp and ceremony behind this multi-million industry.  Of course it is.  But it is also intrinsically about inspiration.  Nature inspires art, Art becomes life, and Lifelong fashion careers are built on hard work and inspiration.

What or who inspires you? To know and foster this is indeed crucial to creating: “Look for the woman in the dress. If there is no woman, there is no dress,” says Coco Chanel whose inspiration is every woman, and one woman. Coco Chanel is known the world over. Chanel, for many, is the epitome of elegance and sophistication.  Who inspired her? In many phases of her life she expressed that she was moved by the clothing pioneered by Gabrielle Bonheur. It is however Coco who revolutionized the fashion industry by going back to basics incorporating elegance, class and originality and is an inspiration to many.

And the ultimate in fashion inspiration? Every year Fashion Week takes over the world and the London Fashion scene in February and September (Yes it’s all fun and games twice a year).  It grows more and more in grandiose and tech decadence every year…From DVF models wearing Google Glasses in last year’s Fashion Week wearable tech to Eco-Fashion in all forms. Everyone from Newbies to legends like Karl Lagerfeld grace these events.  His ability to continuously mine the Chanel archive for inspiration testifies to the importance of Coco Chanel’s contribution to the world of fashion. He and many others cite exactly how important it is to stay at the forefront of the scene, be it avant-garde wearable art or the everyday fashion that defines men and women of distinction and style.

Did you read Fashion Startups from Kitchen Table to Catwalk? Stay inspired, do the basics, and do reach out to The Formations Company when you’re ready to register your business…