How Exactly Do I Start My Fashion Business?
Great! Glad you’ve taken the first step and decided to take your love for fashion more seriously. But you have no clue how to go about it. So, we’ll start from the very beginning… hopefully these steps will help shape that vision and move you from concept to reality.
Oh…P.S… It will not happen in one day, or a week, or even a month! If you want to do it properly, it will take a while. So remember these words… baby steps.
First Step? Making the decision!
You need to decide what exactly what you want to do in the industry and stick to it! This really is the hardest part because you might not even have a clue. And even if you do, people will advise you to go down a different route. So please make that decision before you start off or else you will be miserable – or worse, act on that advice and end up wasting a lot of money in the process. But the money isn’t really the issue here. The issue is you waking up one morning 10 years from now wondering how exactly you got there.
So if, for example, all you always wanted to do was design wedding gowns, find a way to make this work even if there is a lot of money to be made from sewing uniforms – EXCEPT you are doing it just to gather enough funds to start off. In which case, give yourself a time limit and stick to it as best as you can.
Next Thing? Writing a life plan for your fashion idea!
No no… don’t roll your eyes yet… I am not talking about a business plan here. Yes many of us tune off when we hear the term “business plan” (including me). Don’t worry, the business plan will come later and you can always outsource that. For now, get a notepad and a pen and begin to write – in clear terms what you want to do. If 5 years you have deviated from this plan, you can find your way back.
For example, you can start off with… (let’s pretend I’m the voice in your head in brackets guiding you along OR you can do this with a friend):
- I know I like fashion: Ok… yes we have established that. What aspect of fashion do you like?
- Ladies wear: Oh nice! Why ladies wear?
- I don’t know… I just love clothes and dressing ladies up: Ok… so why do you need to become a fashion designer to do this? You don’t have to be a fashion designer to dress people up. Perhaps all you really want to be is a stylist. Or do you want to do this because being a fashion designer sounds cool?
Hmmmnnn…. Well… At this point, you need to know who a fashion designer really is. So conduct some research and be sure this is what you really want to do. Convince yourself of why you want to be the person designing the clothes the ladies will wear… while I move on from this point…
Ok great! So ladieswear! What aspect of ladies wear? Everything! I would like to design everything a woman can wear! Errrr… Seriously? How is that even possible? Even if you can, let’s take one idea at a time.
Let’s get down to specifics. What do you want to start off with?
- I think I’d like to design ladies casual wear: You think? You’re not sure?! Let’s try again. What is the first thing you sketch when you put pencil to paper? [Now would be a good time to quickly sketch something. Even if you are not great at sketching. You can also explain your design in words. That will determine who exactly you are as a fashion designer.] You might think you want to design casual wear but find yourself designing evening wear.
- Okay…. Done! I know I want to design casual wear: Oh-kay! Nice! What type of casual wear?
- Maybe t-shirts: Maybe? Or certainly?! [Try your hand at another sketch]
- Actually I’ve always wanted to have my own T-Shirt line: Ok great! T-Shirts then! What type of T-Shirts?
- Printed Tees with an interesting twist: Ok… now I’m rolling my eyes. Please narrow it down.
- Okay, I’ve always wondered what it would be like to draw faces on t-shirts with safety pins and sea shells for example: This is the point where I tell you it does sound bizarre but hey… stranger things have happened in fashion. So who knows… it can work.
And that’s it! You go on and on until you begin to narrow it down or till you hit a road block. If you do hit a block… take a breather and start over from where you left off.
When you are done with soul-searching…
It’s time for Research! Research!! Research!!!
Oh this part is vital! Many of us hate doing research but it is key! Obviously, the Internet Institute is your first point of call! Many consume themselves with just the production aspect of design but I believe it is important to start from scratch.
Find out everything you need to know about making T-Shirts, right down to the history of t-shirts, how they evolved over time, who buys t-shirts, who wears the most t-shirts, how much do T-shirts costs, where are t-shirts produced e.t.c. Why? You might think ladies wear t-shirts but find out during your research that the type of t-shirts you want to design might actually appeal to teenagers. The question is, do you want to design for teenagers? It’s all up to you. Talk to people, ask questions, meet with t-shirt designers, etc. The research never ends – even when you start off. And whatever decision you make based on that research goes into that notepad as well.
After research (which is on-going by the way), the next step is to:
Get the Relevant Knowledge to Excel in That Field
Now is the time to get the skills – either through some form of formal education or through work experience. If you cannot sketch learn how to sketch. If you feel you want to learn how to sew, then learn how to sew – though it is not mandatory for fashion designers to know how to sew. However, with the horror stories I have heard from fashion designers about their tailors and machinists, you might be better off learning – no matter how little if you want to live longer.
SO! You can choose to go to a fashion school, be self taught (there are enough resources online if you do the research) or get some form of work experience – either paid or unpaid. That knowledge is necessary to guide your production team – regardless of whether you are producing the T-shirts in-house or outsourcing production. I tell you, it will save you a lot of headache in the long run!
Testing the Market!
You need to know if people will buy your designs before you take off! Ask people what they don’t like about your work – that way they give you proper constructive criticism. It helps you improve your product and also builds you a thick skin.
Testing the market also helps you know if what you believe was the greatest invention since… errr… cellphones is really that fab. You just might find out that the “oh-so-brilliant” idea you had of designing t-shirts with seashells and safety pins was a pretty dumb idea after all. Should you dump that idea?! Nope. You might choose to go ahead and take the chance or go back to the drawing board and restrategize by replacing the safety pins with bugle beads.
And just when you are about to launch out:
Pray! Pray!! And PRAY!!!
You really need that divine intervention. Only that inner peace can trump the fear that you are bound to feel deep down. And you will feel that initial fear but just go ahead and launch – no matter how small.
Launching does not necessarily mean having a fashion show. It could mean uploading your items or sketches on your site or online platforms, selling to your friends and colleagues, or just simply showing people your designs and taking their orders whilst working with your tailor. In my opinion, as long as you are ready to start accepting cash for your creative ideas, you have launched out.
Truth be told, it really is not that hard to become a fashion designer. The difficulty lies in being a successful one and I doubt anyone has the perfect recipe for success. But what I always say is what’s the worst that could happen right?You fall flat on your face or get some mean comments from people who hate your work. What do you do? You pick yourself up after crying for days and try again! Someone out there is bound to like your work and you will eventually carve out your own niche market!
Great! Those are my tips. I do have more but I’ll stop here. I’m sure there are a while lot more out there as well so if you also have tips and pointers for us, do share them as well so we can learn from you!