Every iconic brand has an epic story to tell and started small once upon a time. Once a small shop now became a dominator in the fashion business or is present in every department store.
Well that can be you too! In fact, I am on my own journey of building my fashion brand here based in Bali. I'm not going to lie, so far is has been a tough journey. Working with locals trying to get them to deliver to timelines and agreed designs has been quite the journey. Countless meters of wasted fabrics, patterns, and constant sourcing of and changing tailors. Yet a lot of lessons learnt. A lot of invaluable take aways which I will share with you here.
1. Chose your brand identity
First things first, start by identifying your brand identity. Clothing is very personal because they are a way to identify ourselves. It's how we portray ourselves to the world around us. As a result, the brands we chose to wear are generally brands we identify ourselves with.
So before getting all excited about your designs, start asking yourself some of the following questions. What identitiy do I want my clothing line to project? Who will be wearing my clothes? What is the competition like? What can customers get from my brand that they cannot from others? What is so special about my clothing line? What experience do I want my customers to have?
Having a brainstorm on the above questions will help build your brand. Not to mention any future decision making will become easier. Your brand name, logo, and design will be inspired by these too. This is when things start getting exciting..
2. Do your research
Start researching all aspects to enable your productions. From fabrics to factories. You will be amazed about how much is out there. Oh, and labels. What about packaging? Yes, there are so many things we often don't consider when dreaming about our own fashion label. All these add to the cost of production and will give you a rough idea on how much you should be budgeting. Talk to friends who already have a fashion brand and find out about their journeys. I'm sure they will have a lot to share, especially on lessons learnt.
The most difficult part for me was to find a reliable factory to work with that is also cost effective. Being a very small start up and having such a limited budget
3. Start thinking about numbers
By numbers I mean a budget. Its always best to start off simple. Start small. Start with a few designs you believe in and have a budget for them. Allow some room for flexibility as you will start off by trial and error for the first months. As I say above, do your research on fabrics, go visit all the shops possible and start taking notes. Having a budget to start with helps keep you on track when looking at fabrics and deciding which ones you will get. Also consider costs of buying bigger amounts of fabric as they tend to work out as cheaper.
4. Create your designs
Now we're talking! This has been the most fun part - product development! Even if you only have a design concept for one product in the beginning, start getting it on paper. I also do a lot of research on Pinterest and Instagram to get Inspiration. Start creating a mood board with all your favourite designs. Make notes on your sketches or images on fabric information, measurements, and specifications.
All product details and technical specifications should be finalised before moving to production. For this, you will need to identify a manufacturer that you would like to work with.
5. Finding a manufacturer
Once the design work it done and you've got everything together, it’s time to take your product to the manufacturers. This is the point where you’ll be sourcing the person (or team) that’s going to take your designs and make them come to life.
I'm not going to lie, this has been a nightmare for me! Start your search for the right manufacturer by asking around amongst any contacts you have. What type of manufacturer are you looking to source? What are the most important aspects for you? Production speed and dependability? Manufacturing is a crucial part of any fashion business so allow time finding and speaking to a good list of potentials. From experience, I found that people do not want to share their manufacturer details. Let's be real, we would not want to either if we spent months of trial and error trying to get it right.
Once you’ve decided, it’s time to have a sample made. Get your manufacturer to make a sample of a few of your designs to see their work. I recommend trialling out a few manufacturers at the same time to see which does a better job. Also to see how reliable they are and their work ethics. Factor in a good amount of time to discuss adjustments and improvements. You will be surprised about how long it actually takes to have the perfect sample ready.
Once you feel you've nailed your sample, now it's time to think about sizes and materials. Always use the cheapest and closest material there is to your end goal product. I made the mistake of getting my samples made from pure silk and ended up wasting a lot of expensive fabric. Now I use Rayon to make my samples and only once I'm 100% then I allow them to produce the sample with the actual fabric.
Think about the end look and feel of your product and how you would like to present it to your customers! Yes, this means packaging and labelling! This process I found less complicated and fun. Also a lot quicker than the whole sample production piece.
6. Test and Execute
Test your products by wearing them, washing them, and giving out a few to your friends. Their feedback on the quality, comfort, and feel will help with your confidence in your brand and help make any final changes before the launch.
Once you've tested your product now it's time to execute! How and where will you sell? These are all questions you've already thought of and have answers to but now it's really time to hustle. Do as many photoshoots as you like, share on social media, look into doing paid ads through Facebook and Instagram. Allocate a budget for influencers if you wish to grow your social media accounts. Another cool way to start getting your brand out there is through giving a small capsule collection to pop up shops or small boutiques you see yourself in.
This may all be in your business plan, but it’s a good idea to refine the details before you fully launch. All this is super exciting and I wish the best of luck to any fellow fashion label creators out there. It's a tough but super rewarding process that will eventually pay off, I promise!