Launching Your New Fashion Business
How many fashion designers and design companies can you name? If you read a lot of fashion magazines, you might be able to make quite an impressive list, but most people can't think of more than twenty. Now, how many new fashion businesses do you think launch in the UK each year? The figure is considerably higher. The public never hear about most of them. How can you make sure that yours is different?
Launching a fashion business requires a double-pronged strategy. You need to get yourself noticed by both the public and the existing industry, especially retailers who might be interested in stocking your work. Don't try to use the same marketing for both audiences. Business news organisations might appreciate a well-worded press release but they'll have little interest in media stunts. If you want to get their attention you'll need to demonstrate that you have a product which deserves it, and a good head for business besides.
Business MarketingOne of the good things about internal industry promotion is that it can begin even before you start trading, giving you something useful to get on with whilst you're waiting to hear about funding etc. Much of this sort of marketing is done through networks, so find out which networks you can usefully join - your local business support centre will be able to provide you with lists. Online organisations like Linked In (www.linkedin.com) can also be useful, and Fashion United (www.fashionunited.co.uk) provides a networking service specific to the industry. Networking makes it easy to keep up to date with business news and to meet useful contacts in a relatively informal setting.
When meeting in person, the most important thing you'll need is your business card. Never use a standard design, even if you can save money by doing so. Choose something which reflects what your business is about. Don't be afraid to be a little bit quirky or unusual. The same applies to business dress, though it is important not to be seen looking as if you don't care about your choice of outfit. In this business more than most others, you will be judge by your personal appearance.
Working with the MediaOnce your designs are out there, you need to let the public know about them. To do this, you need to be able to work with the media - but don't restrict yourself to the fashion media. A new business is unlikely to get a mention in Cosmopolitan but it may well make the front page of your local paper. The trick is to give the media what they want. Send out your press releases to as many people as possible, but don't do it carelessly - always address the recipient by name. Include internet links to pictures of your work - ideally both colour and black and white images which show it at its best. Adjust press releases to particular publications. Vogue won't want to hear about your personal journey but women's magazines like Bella and Best love that sort of thing. Local papers will want a picture of you, will want to know your age, and will be thrilled if there's a local connection. This sort of thing may be laborious but it can lead to invaluable publicity.
Fashion and Direct MarketingWhen you're creating a product which is all about public satisfaction, the most important thing for you to do is to connect with the public. Fashion is a visual business, however, so don't waste your time on promotional materials which don't actually show what you do. Stick to strategies like postcard marketing, placing exciting pictures of your designs in the sort of venues where you expect your target customers to go.
One of the most important ways to announce your arrival in the fashion world is to get your designs seen. If you have friends who are famous, see if they are willing to wear your designs in public if they get them for free. Even ordinary socially popular friends can be useful in this way, helping to generate a buzz about what you do. Get yourself or your friends on television wearing your designs, even if the programme is about something else (it's easy to get onto talk shows and game shows). Arrange for small public gatherings of people who look good in your designs at busy times. And never miss an opportunity to tell people about your work. Fashion is all about publicity, and you can make it happen.