As part of our PowerWomen Chat series at Huckletree, this month we focused on the Business of Fashion. Buyers and investors in the fashion industry are almost always looking for the latest trends, and for designers this means constantly pushing the envelope and searching for new ways to build their brand. What creates a buzz? How to choose the right team? These two women provide their insight on the industry and the strategies they used to tailor their fashion businesses.
Look outside of the traditional business of fashion when it comes to funding and design inspiration
Think ahead of your investment. Have your own set of rules in terms of what, when, and where you plan to sell and who you plan to sell to
Use influencers to your advantage, whether they’re micro or macro, make sure their values align with your brand
Tina Lobondi, founder and designer at Tina Lobondi
Kristy Emery, co-founder and fashion director at Unmade
Beauty Behind the Brand
As a designer, I’m sure you’ve been asked about your creative process hundreds of times. Of course it may feel like you’re reciting a speech over and over again, but think about it as a constant reminder—a reminder about what direction your brand is headed.
If you’re still unsure of that direction, not to worry, what’s most important is having a story to tell. It’s about what you want people to perceive about your brand and how you can use that story to market your fashions towards a specific audience.
At the PowerWomen Chat, both Tina and Kristy described how their stories influence their designs and furthermore their role in the industry. For Tina, the influence of her Congolese background allowed her to advocate for the arts and design through charity. For Kristy, the unique combination of fashion and technology allowed her to bring a different approach to the industry. Their two stories are very different, but somehow still very similar in that they both use the story behind their brand to set themselves apart from others in the industry. Ultimately, it's about finding out what works best for you, or better yet, what sells for you.
Creating a Buzz
Nowadays designers use social media platforms more than the average pre-teen. They’re using social media (Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, etc.) to gage current trends in the industry, to find out people’s interests, and to circulate designs with little to no cost. Sure you can post as much as you want, but when you’re an up and coming designer, your posts may not gain as much traction as you’d like. So now you’re left with the daunting task of finding the right audience to market your product towards.
Here, is where macro and micro influencers make your job in the business of fashion much easier. Macro influencers are bloggers and other media figures with hundreds of thousands of followers, whereas micro influencers are those with only a couple thousand. It’s true macro influencers bring in a larger crowd, but with so much buzz around their profile, your business could possibly get lost among the many other businesses they are promoting.
Kristy explained how this is often why Unmade uses more micro influencers than macro influencers to expand their outreach. Micro influencers make for a great resource when you want to start out small. As long as the influencer produces a decent following, believes in your product, and aligns with your creative values, both parties can benefit from the relationship.
Yes, this all sounds promising, but before you start sending out your products to just anyone… do your research! Who cares if the influencer is a YouTube sensation or has fifty thousand followers. They could be in it for the free clothes for all we know. I mean really, who doesn’t love free clothes? You want to make sure that influencer is a perfect fit for you and your brand.
The same rules apply for non-paying clients, like major actresses/actors. Without any set contracts or fees when sending garments, these clients could potentially send your garments back to you damaged, or even worse, not send them back at all.
Envisioning Your Team
Creating a team in the fashion industry takes just as much skill as starting a new design. All stitches must be in place. No overlap in the fabric. You might even have to snip a few loose ends. You get the gist. It all comes down to having a refined team that supports and enhances your business.
If you're working with a co-founder in the fashion industry, know that it won't always be easy. You'll be in a constant cycle of disagreement and compromise even when working towards the same creative goal.
It'd be nice if we could all be superwoman and take on every task alone, but even successful founders like Tina and Kristy understand the importance of having a great team behind them, especially when you're trying to make it in the business of fashion.
To hear more from Tina and Kristy’s PowerWomen Chat on the Business of Fashion, check out their full interview here.