Event Recap: How to Start Your Fashion Line

Homework, hustle and perseverance. These were just some of the larger takeaways from the How to Start Your Fashion Line discussion held at the Brooklyn Public Library last week. The panel, just one of several events that make up the Fashion Illustration exhibition curated by Brandon Graham, founder of Would You Rock This? consisted of industry experts to fuel the conversation. The result: honest and passionate advice and tips to help emerging designers start and sustain their fashion business.
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Mercedes Gonzalez, Founder and Director of Global Purchasing Companies mentioned that this is a great time to start a business because buyers are looking for what’s new and what’s next. She also stressed that becoming a designer also means that you are becoming and entrepreneur and that business smarts are essential to win in the fashion industry. Other panelists included Jeff Trexler of the Fashion Law Institute at Fordham Law School , Sabina Ptacin, Co-Founder and Chief Excitement Officer of PRENEUR and Founder of Red Branch Public Relations, Anthony Lilore, Co-founder of Restore Clothing and Joanna Hadjiyanis, Senior Fashion Executive. These speakers confirmed her sentiment by sharing how designers can build their companies by sharing invaluable insight in their areas of expertise.

Here are a few 101’s of the evening:

Sales

1. When you are looking for stores to pitch, do your research and find 100 boutiques that you want to hang with before you begin reaching out to them.

2. As you are doing store checks and competitive analyses, find the retail sweet spot for your items and make sure you can hit that number. For example, if the the sweet spot for contemporary dresses is $395, you need to be at or around that range because as an emerging designer, you will have to compete with already established brands in the market.

3. When pitching a buyer, have your elevator sales pitch down so you can deliver it in a concise way. You should know who you are talking to, why they should buy your product and how it will fit with their customer.

Social Media

1. Social media is a must for any entrepreneur and the term “non-negotibale” was even thrown out!  It’s free and with platforms like Twitter and Facebook you can build relationships and connect with people you want to work with such as editors, boutiques and industry contacts.

Public Relations

1. Sabina Ptacin’s motto is “plan your work and work your plan.” This means that your public relations push should have a strategy. To do this, research all of the editors, bloggers and members of the media you will be pitching. This can be done by a Google, Twitter or LinkedIn search and of course, by going to the outlet and reading what they’ve covered. To keep these names organized, use an Excel spreadsheet to keep tabs of who you will reach out to and the status of the pitch.

2. When you are emailing your press contact, be sure that it’s concise and consists of a few sentences or bullets along with an image. Don’t forget, mass emailing doesn’t work as you want your outreach to be authentic and targeted to that news outlet.

Sourcing and Production

1. Whether you want to source locally our outside of the US, there are several options for young designers. Domestically, resources like the The Fashion Center, GIDC and About Sources provide a good range of factories and suppliers. If you want to explore international production, companies like Colombia, Brazil and Peru have trade organizations with match making services to connect designers and suppliers.

2. When looking for a factory, see if you can find a full package one that can do everything from patterns, samples and production to make the process efficient.

Legal

1. Jeff Trexler gave great advice about intellectual property, the importance of trademarking your business and spoke about the Fashion Law Institute’s pop-up clinic that offers free legal services once a month to designers. To learn more about legal issues facing fashion brands, he suggested reading Counterfeit Chic, a blog written by Susan Scafidi, the first attorney to offer a course in Fashion Law and professor at Fordham Law School.

Emerging Designer or have a resource to share? Please feel free to contact me at hello@theemergingdesigner.com. You may also like:
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  • Sacsha Flowers

    This was a great event!!!! I got a lot of questions answered and wonderful advice to help aid me in my journey to starting my own fashion line! Thank you for helping to make the event a success. Hope you plan to host another event!

    • melissahall

      Hi Sachsa,

      Thank you for the nice note. Glad you found in valuable and I’ll keep you posted on the next one!

  • pemmie

    Helpful! Quick question – how early can you begin PR if you’re a brand new line coming out with a first collection? I would assume you have to wait until the samples are ready – but was wondering if there is anything you can do before hand?

    Thanks!

    • melissahall

      Hi Pemmie, Great question. You want to start reaching out to press when the collection is ready and you have a place where it’s sold. This is especially important if you are reaching out to consumer publications. In the interim, start building your social media presence to develop traction and a fan base.