Many people dream of becoming a fashion designer. They dream that supermodels will 1 day walk down the runway wearing their dresses, or blouses, or $200 denim jeans. I applaud their ambition. Having been involved in the apparel business since the age of 17, I have seen my share of successes and failures. Here are some pointers that might help you become 1 of the success stories.
#1: Define Your Customer
To be successful in the apparel business, it is vital to first define your target customer. Remember that you can not be all things to all people. Let us face it, a 50-year-old lady from rural Kansas probably will not buy a pair of skinny, tight-fitting jeans at $270 a pop. But a trendy 25-year-old professional woman living in Los Angeles just might! Defining the following characteristics of your customer is crucial:
1. Where do they live? You probably should not try to sell bikinis in December to someone living in Minneapolis. But you might want to market your bikinis to cities in Florida.
2. How old are they? Age is perhaps THE most important factor in defining your market segment, as the skinny jeans example above demonstrates.
3. Where do they shop? Someone living in urban cities is much more likely to shop online. This information will determine your best course of action for marketing your products.
4. How much do they tend to spend when they shop for your particular product category? Price tolerance will decide how much you can charge for your product, and what retail stores will most likely carry your product.
#2: Check Out Your Competition
To guesstimate the chance of success of your new apparel line, look around to see if other people are already successful with similar products! Say you want to sell leopard print ponchos. You might want to go to all the major retailers and see if anyone is selling ponchos. Is animal print “in” right now? And of course, you need to consider your specific market sector first. In certain market, being first and different just might be your ticket to success. If you have not answered the questions in #1 above, answer them now. Read all the fashion magazines, as they tend to showcase products that will be hot in the coming season. Some even report trends likely to be popular a year from now.
#3: Have A Marketing Plan
After you have defined your customer, figured out how much you can charge them for your products, you need a marketing plan that will get your name out there. Should you try submitting your products to all the editors at major fashion magazines, or do you have the budget to place your products into the hands of celebrities through an agency. Remember, just because your have a great product does not mean people will automatically know about it. And the more buzz you generate for your product, the more likely stores will sell it.
#4: Know Your Start-up Cost
Apparel lines are EXPANSIVE to launch. So calculate your costs very carefully. You might want to work out of your house to start. But still, there are some basic itemized costs you should consider:
1. Travel expanses necessary to promote your line.
2. Do you want to hire professional sales reps? They could cost thousands of dollars.
3. Production related costs:
(i) How much does it cost to make prototypes?
(ii) What is the production costs? Small run custom apparel items are very costly. Consider alternative fabrics; limit the sizes you offer as it will reduce the number of SKUs (stock keeping units) you need to purchase. Do you want to make your product in high-cost markets such as Italy, or low cost markets such as India and China?
You have a plan to market your new apparel line; you know how much it will cost you; now you need to know how to finance your venture. Possible sources for money:
1. Your savings
2. Your friends and family
3. Mortgaging your current assets such as your house
4. Finding outside investors
5. Borrowing from the bank (SBA loans are available for entrepreneurs in many cases)
#6: Know Your Launch Date
In the apparel business, seasons play a crucial part in determining your possible launch date. Apparel buyers purchase their items at VERY specific time of the year at major industry events. You need to calculate backwards based on these event dates to decide when you need to have your prototypes ready for showing. You also need to decide what season your product is suited for. Is it Fall? Is it Spring?
#7: Write Down Your Plan
Like starting any other business, after you have come up with a plan, writing it down increases your chances of success. Your plan will keep you focused, and provide you with the big picture as well as the details you need to consider. And if you are trying to secure financing, a business plan is not only crucial, but absolutely necessary!
Above are the essential steps you need to take if you are serious about launching a successful apparel line. Remember, perseverance is key! If you believe you have a great idea, pursue it. But be thorough with your research; be meticulous with your planning. I wish you the best of luck! Please make sure to check my other articles regarding specific details on each of the above points. You might also want to check out my web sites for additional information.