Retail Spotlight: Our Interview with Betabrand Director of Design Liz Rossof

Betabrand Emerging Designer
via Betabrand

If you’ve ever wanted to test a design and see what the consumer thinks, then Betabrand is the perfect destination. For emerging designers, the online retailer challenges your creativity, gives you the opportunity to earn cash and alleviates the burden of production with their already successful model.  

We spoke with Liz Rossof, Director of Design ideas to talk more about the company, retail insights and how to win with Betabrand.

What is Betabrand?

Betabrand is a crowdsourced crowdfunded online clothing company, built on a social network where designers (who post ideas) and customers (who vote, comment and poll on those ideas) decide what we should make next.

Can you talk about your role as Director of Design Ideas?

I run the area of the website where designers, design thinkers, and even other apparel companies are posting their Design Ideas for immediate audience feedback. Getting your design ideas in front of a crowd is the first step in having success on our platform. 

I am always looking to find designer talent with great ideas to put in front of our growing community. The exciting thing is that the idea is all they need to start. If the crowd likes the idea, the Betabrand team carries the load of creating the pattern, techpack and sample for crowdfunding. And when a design is successful in crowdfunding Betabrand manages all the production, the fulfillment and returns, while the Designer gets 10% of the sales for a full year.

I love the opportunity that Betabrand has created for designers. It’s really incredible to think that a designer can have their own following, their own fans, and be making money off their own designs without having to invest in starting and managing their own brand.

I know that it is a dream for a lot a designers. The Betabrand platform can help get you to that dream. It can amplify your label ( We are closing in on nearly 2 million subscribers) or become a way to earn a passive income while you are getting your brand together.

 

Betabrand Emerging Designer

Why is the concept of Betabrand so attractive? 

We have data on the customer’s preferences on a style before the first stitch of the first sample is sewn. This immediate information helps us (a small $28M revenue company in 2016) make incredibly accurate merchandising and inventory decisions. Imagine the resource and expense it would save a bigger company? Larger brands are interested in that and work with us on designs they may have otherwise shelved. Through our platform they can see which designs they should focus on, or give a closer look to before disregarding. Our platform is also a lot of fun for the customer- they feel like they have participated in real decision making around the clothes they end up buying.

Bigger brands are looking to us to bring this community/crowdsourcing opportunity to their audience. It is a total disruption to the way clothes have been selected for manufacturing in the past, and as it is a great platform for emerging and young designers, it also works for larger brands as well.

What are your best selling products to-date and why?

Our Dress Pant Yoga Pants are our best selling product. They came out in 2014 in response to women asking for a version of our then best selling product Dress Pant Sweatpants. We knew we couldn’t just “pink and shrink” the men’s product and have a hit, we really needed to examine what about the mash up of loungewear and workwear was working and come up with a unique product for women. We did, and the audience went crazy for it. Twitter debates over the appropriateness of yoga pants in the work place were spawn.  I mean, we knew we created a great product but the web responded with a love it or hate it crazy debate that carried the pants into a spotlight we couldn’t have paid for.  Now, three years in, we have a very dedicated fan base of these pants, and several successes that have come out of designs to “go with” them. 

What are some of your success stories?

Our single most successful design has been Melissa Fleiss’s All Day Coat. It’s a coat that Melissa designed with the Dress Pant Yoga Pant wearer in mind. It is actually made of the same fabric as the pants, in a heavier weight and a brushed finish that gives it a look of wool. We’ve sold thousands of units of this coat, earning Melissa a very handsome revenue share from a single design. 
 
Tony Wloch is a designer who has had a lot of success on our site as well.  He is prolific and it pays off! He has a strong understanding of our customer and posts 3 to 4 products a week.  We take 2 to 3 of his products to crowdfunding every month! 
 

Other designer success stories come from Nicole Haddad, Clark Sabbat, Sonjia Williams, SethAaron and so many more! 

Are there any trends that you are seeing in a specific category or across categories? 

We have seen rapid growth in our travel and casual outdoor categories. To me that means comfort, ease of care, great pocket (storage) placement, multi occasion and great looking clothes. With travel, we want to be organized, comfortable and looking smart enough for the first class upgrade. For the casual outdoors we want color and comfort. We are constantly taking pictures, so even on a camping trip, you want to look good for the Instagram posts that are sure to follow, or be published from the hike.

In both categories we want to continue to see the mashup of technical fabrics and everyday apparel that has worked so well in the past. Why not have a sweat wicking cocktail dress, or a wrinkle resistant blazer?

What are consumers looking for?

Comfort, ease of care, fit, value- and to have a say in what they will be offered for purchase. Customers come to our platform because they have an interest in design and want to participate in deciding what will offer in our assortment by weighing-in with their vote.

How can a designer benefit?

Not only will designers make 10% of sales for a full year when we go into production on their design, they also gather a following of fans that they can communicate with on the site, and can have access to demographic data (gender, age, location) on the people who vote for their designs.

Designers are also able to link-back to their own sites on their profile page, as long as the designs that are up for voting on Betabrand are not for sale on their site. This can drive traffic, and sales to your own site!

Does a designer need to know how to sketch or make a tech pack?

It helps if a designer can sketch out their idea, or at the very least send us reference images. Designers do not need to make a tech pack or pattern, our staff will do that. If a product is selected for crowdfunding development and the designer happens to have a tech pack or pattern, they may be asked to send it in. The more information we have during the development process the faster it will go and the closer to the designer’s original version we can get.

What makes a good submission?

Good submissions are well illustrated, have a clear use-case, strong positioning and a great name. Our customers really respond well to products that not only look good, but also solve a problem. A good submission will paint the picture of when, how and why the product will useful in the wearers’ life.

It seems like there are on-going opportunities for designers! How often are your open calls versus on-going submissions?

Our submission process is open 24-7. We have contests, like Big on Betabrand every 6 weeks or so. Sometime they are around a specific theme, sometimes they are just a fun prize and deadline to encourage people to get their idea in.

We have the contests to bring a bit of extra fun and excitement to the process as well as give people a date to work around.

Do you have any other tips to share (design, production, sourcing, etc…) to make a designer successful?

Stay disciplined in your creative practice. Creativity is a compulsion but without practice it can turn into an unruly beast.

Don’t get to hung up on IP and copyrights and patents, they won’t help you unless you plan to spend your valuable time and money in a court house. Do your best, challenge yourself, and be the best what you do, and the copycats won’t be able to touch you.

Don’t hold on to ideas to tightly or you will kill them. Set them out into the world and let them live.

Remember that in the end you are designing for the people who will buy your products. The biggest challenge it to create something the masses will love, while keeping your creative and distinct voice.

Learn more at Betabrand.

Note: This is a sponsored post. 


Emerging designer or resource to share, please contact us at hello@theemergingdesigner.com. 

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