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Last week I was involved in a mentoring session organised by the girls of Re Dress as part of their annual Fashion Evolution event. I met so many wonderful aspiring creative talents.
Since then I have received quite a few emails asking for further advice, so I thought I'd put a post together focusing on questions of those who are attempting to set up their own label.
I'm pretty sure I'm not the best person to give advise, I don't always practice what I preach.. but that doesn't mean I don't want too...sometimes I need to say it to myself..and the universe.. to be convinced!
So, if you are working on your first collection these are a few tips...
1. Get experience, and I know this might sound like a step back, it will be worth it. It's the only way to learn the knots and blots of the industry. Learn from their success and their mistakes. If you haven't worked for another designer for a few seasons, at least, I would say don't even think of setting up your own label.
2. Once you've gained some experience, research as much as you can in terms of the concept of your creations and who you think your customer will be. I really believe you only have one chance to give a first impression so make sure your designs are up to scratch. I would rather wait for a year or two before putting something out there that I know is not as perfect as can be.
3. Keep your first collection small and concise. A 6 to 10 piece strong collection can be enough to seduce your customers. Don't try to do everything. You can build up the collection in the future, but it will be easier to grab your customer's attention if you have a specific and clear concept.
4. Pricing. Once you've chosen a design concept and the market you think it will be for, be very conscious about costs and pricing. If you are designing for a younger market price point must be adequate to their spending capacity ( this comment is very specific to Ireland..in other countries where there is a bigger population you will find a more diverse customer base with a broad range of budgets)
5. Don't under price your collection. The temptation is to undercut yourself at the beginning trying to get into good shops. It will be hard to charge what you should be charging later on.
6. Capacity. Be very clear what your limitations are, financially and production wise. Say no when you are unable to commit. It's better to say no than to say yes and then letting people down.
6. Stay small for as long as possible. It's the only way to learn without making huge mistakes or taking huge risks.
7. Build up a private customer base as well as nourishing a few shops. Don't step on their toes by selling at discount, this may come back to haunt you.
8. Press are always looking for new stories and great images. Invest in a good shoot, it doesn't have to be overproduced or costly..having great images is priceless. Write a press release. The story is so important now. Everyone from customers to journalists want to know the story behind the label so make sure there is soul in what you're doing.
If there are any other questions I haven't covered or you'd like something more specific let me know!
Dame Edith Sitwell
I love being asked questions, they make me think...and I love thinking...sometimes caught off guarded, I usually spend weeks responding to them in my head. I wake up at night debating on my own...
I'm frequently asked questions about design, the industry and views on life...these are some recently and frequently asked questions.
I would love to hear your opinion on these...and if you have anything you would like to discuss let me know...
1.What inspires you as a designer?
Everything and anything..music, film, fabric, colour, people...and if you follow this blog you will find many treasures that take my breath away and instigate the creative instinct
2. Is there anybody you would love to design for? Who would be your ideal client?
I dream of designing costumes for a ballet or dance company. I would also love to work in film...maybe with Jane Campion or Tim Burton???
If I could be in anybody's shoes at the moment it would probably be in Karl Lagerfeld's. I would like to experience the endless possibilities he has to develop collections with no budget restrictions and all those marvelous ateliers at his service
Ideal customer? That is a very difficult question, I have many ideal customers already who understand and share my point of view in terms of design, quality and integrity.
3.What is your opinion on the ethical fashion movement?
As Vanessa Friedman quoted..."it is a matter of common sense". Unfortunately I do not believe in the institutionalisation of the Ethical Fashion Movement. I think the public should be informed and educated in this matter but I fear many use this as a marketing gimmick and public have become misinformed on the fundamental intentions of ethical fashion..
I experienced this first hand when a women came into our shop in Dublin and mentioned she wanted a 'Fair Trade' piece for an event. The irony is.. What is more fair trade than buying directly from the person who has designed or made the piece? In this case profit distribution is beneficial to producer, designer and client. Carbon footprint is minimal as pieces are made locally, locally sourced fabric etc etc.. she insisted that the products in our shop weren't fair trade because we didn't have swing tags by an approved organisation.
There is an interesting video on the Luxury Channel called Going Green: the Future of Luxury
4. How do you think social media has affected the fashion industry?
It has had a huge impact. Most companies recognise it has become an essential part of the communication strategy. It brings the brand closer to the customer and it has also broken down barriers and degrees of separation.
5. What are some of your favourite fashion blogs/websites?
Diane Pernet'sShaded view on Fashion. Before I even knew the concept of a blog I became a loyal follower of this dark and alternative view on the fashion industry. It was the first place I saw Gareth Pugh.
The Luxury Chronicles serious and intelligent stories which Helene feeds us daily
Style Rookie 14 year old Tavi's blog, I do love it. She reminds me of a younger version of myself. Her judgement sometimes is quite profound for someone her age
Limi Feu's blog, I'm obsessed with Japan so to be able to see how things are in Japan from someone in the industry is wonderful
Style Saloniste, Diane Dorrans Saeks wonderful wonderful wonderful blog...(more style than fashion... absolutely inspiring)
Innewyorkparistomorrow, Blog by a fashion pioneer. Her blog is varied and poetic. Secrets stories of the past, she has many yet to confess.
6. Who is your favourite journalist?
I like Cathy Horn and Colin McDowell
7. How do you think the death of Alexander McQueen will affect the fashion industry?
Sadly I think the impact is more personal than on an industry level.
We have lost all the wonderful future collection and shows he would have done had he stayed on...We have lost one of fashion's greatest entertainers.
But history has proven that someone will appear... hopefully sooner than later... and will sweep us all off our feet, as McQueen did season after season
8. Where do you source the materials of your collection?
Many places, Italy, France, UK and India
9. Are you influenced by other designers?
Technically.. no. But growing up in Spain and with an interest in fashion, those designers who I looked up to in terms of style and philosophy are still part of how I work and who I am so these would be of some influence in 'matter' more than in 'form'.
Balenciaga, Sybilla, Isabel Berz..and the list does go on...
10. Where do you shop and what do you look for in a garment?
Paris, one of my favourite places on this planet. I buy very very very little and if I do I will wear it until it falls apart, so durability and timelessness are important. My purchases are driven more by my love affair with the piece than if it will or will not suit me...
11. What are you working on at the moment?
I'm working on a small resort collection for my customers in the US and also on the AW1o Exclusive Collection
12. What advice would you give to this years NYFDA's finalists?
Get as much experience as you can.
Ask questions, listen and watch. Absorb knowledge..learn learn learn
Keep in touch with your peers and keep building up contacts through the years.. it's a small industry and it helps to know as many people as possible..
If you decide to set up your own company..be true to yourself, be professional, keep your feet on the ground and work with integrity. It is hard to repair bad reputation so don't build your brand around a false image.
Treat everyone with respect, those who assist you now could be in a different position a few years down the line...and nobody is impressed by 'divaish' behaviour