London – The first rule of commercial fashion is to understand the design process is
but a fraction of running a successful business. If you are solely of a
creative mind it will help to have a business partner who can complement
your skills and work alongside you to help launch your label. Having a
sound business idea already makes you one step ahead of the many designers
who may be talented at designing clothes, but who don’t have the acumen to
turn ideas into a business. This is not an industry where you can do
everything yourself, so surrounding yourself with the right people is key.
Perhaps the first question to ask is are you ready to run a business? Are
you ready to put in all the hours, weekends, free time and holidays to get
your company off the ground? Have you considered working for a fashion
house to get hands-on experience in all facets of the industry?
There is little glamour in running a fashion company
Whilst there is plenty of glamour in the fashion world, there is little of
it in running a company. The industry is cut-throat, with collections
lasting just six months before they become out of date, so having some
understanding about how to plan your commercial and creative calendars will
be vital to your success.
If you have a mentor or a business partner, the first thing they will
advise you is to start with a business plan. Outlining how you see your
business developing over a period of three years is a good place to start.
You will be able to update your plan and use it as a reference to see if
you are achieving the goals you set each season or if you need to make
adjustments. When it comes to seeking industry support, like financing or
sponsorship, you will almost certainly be asked to provide your business
plan, so it’s better to have one from the outset.
Key things to include in your plan are who your target market is, which
age group of consumer, what stores you are aiming to sell to, identifying
who your competition is, and how your brand will stand out from the rest.
If this is your first business plan, you can find templates online, or
alternatively the British Fashion Council or your local college should be
able to provide a template.
From the moment you start your collection you will want to establish
yourself as a business. Setting up a limited company is easy, and in the UK
this can be registered online in less than 30 minutes at www.hmrc.org.uk.
Applying for a VAT number is highly recommended, even if you don’t sell
over the threshold of 82,000 pounds in your first year. The VAT number will
make it easier to work with suppliers and if you buy fabrics or manufacture
abroad, having a VAT number will mean you don’t have to pay VAT on certain
Draft a realistic budget of what you need to start your label
Your next step is budgeting. How much start up capital do you need to start
your business? You will need to be frugal, getting friends to do favours,
working out of your parents garage instead of hiring an expensive studio,
but there are some costs that you will not be able to avoid. Firstly you
should budget for getting your collection made and do costings for your
fabrics, trims, haberdashery and sample-making. Then you need to cover your
operational costs, which should include an accountant for your accounts,
your staff, rents, supplies, travel and anything you need to do your job on
a daily basis. Thirdly you have to budget for sales, whether that be a
showroom, a tradeshow or a salesperson. You will need to show your
collection in several key fashion cities, like Milan, New York and Paris,
and all of this will require some sort of investment no matter how
financially astute you are.
There are plenty of resources available for start-ups
If you are a recent graduate and are looking to launch a ready-to-wear
collection London is a great place to find support. There are plenty of
schemes in both womens and menswear that are in place to find and nurture
new talent. The BFC is useful reference to source sponsorship
opportunities, but you can go one step further and try to have them appoint
a mentor who can guide you personally. Sadly London is not the most
supportive fashion city for brands that are not on the catwalk and you may
find yourself working extra hard to get noticed by the fashion council.
Perseverance, therefore is the key to success in fashion. Many brands that
are household names today have suffered their fair shares of trials and
turbulations, somen even faced multiple bankruptcies. So don’t give up,
Rome wasn’t built in a day, so don’t expect your brand to be a global
must-have after the first year.
Next up: Part III – how to stay ahead in the game