Posts in: fashion-business-advice-and-tips

Fashion Business Advice

Recap of Gilt Groupe Discussion with Alexis Maybank

Last week I attended one of those exciting opportunities that always seem to take place in New York City.  In this case it was a talk by Alexis Maybank, co-founder of Gilt Groupe in an intimate setting that fostered more of a discussion-friendly environment  than say a keynote situation.

Gilt Groupe Discussion NYC

Ms. Maybank discussed a little about the founding of Gilt Groupe from idea to execution which, by the way was only a four month period, to current and future digital and mobile initiatives for the discount-based luxury e-commerce platform.

Admittedly, I wasn’t fixed on tedious note taking as I wanted to enjoy the setting and soak up the lessons learned and insights shared.  With that said, here is a list of interesting points, smart lessons, and things to think about from the brain of one of Gilt Groupe’s innovative founders:

  • When developing your website, you must give people a reason to come back every day.
  • Learn to tell a story with your imagery.  People have a much stronger respond to images than to text. Usually.
  • Styling is key when it comes to website imagery.  Editor’s Note: as independent labels, you may not have a big budget for shoots and stylists.  But you need to figure out a way to work with people who are maybe new to the industry but still creative and talented and won’t cost you an arm and a leg.
  • Always focus on the mindset of your customer. What are they doing and where are they when they make purchases.
  • Every product should be pinn-able, tweet-able, like-able, stumble-able, you get the point.
  • Never just have a product; merge editorial and commerce.
  • Click through always needs to be easy. No more than two clicks to purchase or you’re risking losing them.
  • The store is migrating to the pocket. Think mobile from the start.
  • It is becoming increasingly difficult to standout among all the noise.  You must really know your customer.  Remember when it comes to customers, less is more.  They tell you ” this is who I am and this is what i stand for”… you just need to listen to them.
  • Learn to anticipate what your customer wants before they tell you, and you’re half way there.
Fashion Business Advice

How Do You Deal With a Lack of Creativity?

Creativity on StartUp FASHION

Do you ever feel uninspired?  I’m not just talking about when it comes to designing your fashion line. I’m talking about all the different aspects of your business. Because these aspects require creativity and sometimes that creativity is just stunted.

This time last year we wrote about the importance of taking some time to just turn it all off and allow the creative juices to flow.  Finding time to get away is not always easy.  But getting away isn’t the only way to foster creativity.

There are a lot ways to regain your creative ideas.  Sometimes it’s as simple as closing the computer and taking a walk and other times it requires something like visiting a museum or watching an old movie.  We find that one of the best ways to feel inspired is to focus your efforts of a creative outlet that differs from your everyday. Meaning, if you’re a fashion designer, spend the afternoon cooking or redecorating your apartment.  How about looking through a travel themed coffee table book or go out dancing.

Inspiration can come from some of the most unexpected places.  Sometimes just walking away from the task at hand can have a big impact on how you approach it and the results that are attained.

We’re curious, what do you do when you’re not feeling creative?  How do you get the ideas flowing again? What are your tricks for feeling inspired?

Fashion Business Advice

Fashion’s Simon Doonan on ‘Being An Icon’

Simon Doonan, the Creative Ambassador-at-Large for Barneys New York, spoke at FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology) earlier this month about what it means to be an “icon.”

Doonan, who was dressed in his signature button down and tie, answered questions from the audience regarding the influence of musicians, stylists, celebrities, fashion designers, bloggers, and whom he considers icons.

He started with the music world.Their [musician’s] influence seem to be very spotty”, stated Doonan. Since most singers and bands tend to change their style rather quickly and sometimes drastically, they make it difficult for us to consider them iconic. For example, Lady Gaga. She has changed her look so many times over the past few years, it is hard to point out one specific look or style that defines her.

Next he moved on to stylists. An audience member asked about a stylist’s role when it comes to dressing a celebrity for the red carpet and Doonan replied, “A stylist makes sure that a celebrity doesn’t end up in the section in Star magazine ‘What Was She Thinking?’ which is a shame because it’s boring.

When it comes to fashion, excitement stems from those who push the envelope. Celebrities such as Cate Blanchett and Tilda Swinton are known for pushing the boundaries of fashion by wearing pieces that are haute couture or are considered ‘out-there.’ “Cate and Tilda are showing to be a broader frame of reference,” said Doonan, “They don’t care if people think that they look funny nor they care if people think that they look interesting.”

From stylists to royalty, the question that most people seemed to want to know the answer for was, ‘Is Kate Middleton a fashion icon?’ Doonan’s answer is: not yet.  “Kate needs to look remarkable. If she dressed like Daphne [Guinness] she would represent everything a royalty shouldn’t be.” The role of being royalty has its toll, a duchess is expected to look proper at all times, therefore making it difficult for her to establish herself as a fashion icon. Only time will tell how Middleton will develop her sense of style and how far she will push the fashion boundaries.

On the other hand, Jackie Kennedy Onassis had a distinct look and unique sense of style. From her tailored suits to her classic signature oval sunglasses, she redefined fashion and inspired a whole generation. “Jackie Kennedy had an iconic look. The look and feel of her had something iconic to it,” affirmed Doonan. Most people can easily recognize Onassis’ look and point out an item that she was known for wearing.

Bloggers were next on the agenda. As the boom of fashion bloggers continues to take over the industry, most people are familiar with such names as Leandra Medine of Man Repeller, Kelly Framel of The Glamourai, and Jane Aldridge of Sea Of Shoes. But the question is, are they becoming fashion icons? According to Doonan, “They’re not rule breakers, they like to shop.” And there’s nothing wrong with that. “I love those girls because they shop and encourage people to shop.” He does point out that he thinks that Medine’s blog, Man Repeller, has an interesting concept. “High fashion is repellant to men,” said Doonan then added, “Fashion is its own bizarre perverse world.”

What about Victoria and Vanessa Traina, are they fashion icons? That’s another proposition made by an audience member that Doonan quickly responded to by saying, “Victoria and Vanessa are ‘fashion inside’ icon because they look great in clothes and they buy them. They’re more in the muse category.” Muses are people who inspire a designer and/or artist and they’re usually within a design studio.

Fashion functionaries, people who work and are part of the fashion industry, can also be considered fashion icons.  For instance, Doonan mentioned that Anna Wintour has an iconic look. Designers such as Yves Saint Laurent, Valentino and Giorgio Armani were given as examples as designers who are iconic.

While Doonan’s opinion is a respected one, fashion is a very personal thing. An icon to some may not be to others.  And that’s OK. Admire, embrace, and define your own icons.

Fashion Business Advice

Open Source Fashion Discussion Series in New York

Check out the next Open Source Fashion Discussion series on Designer & Brand Focused Education.

StartUp FASHION Open Source Fashion Discussion Event

Guest Expert: Ms. Mercedes Gonzalez of Global Purchasing Companies

How OS Fashion Discussions Work:
Our discussion series is completely guided by attendee participation.  When you RSVP for this event, you will be required to submit a specific question or topic that you would like discussed.  As a group of knowledgeable business owners, we will address these inquiries together, and share our insight!

We are excited to have Mercedes Gonzalez of Global Purchasing Companies contribute her expert advice and direction!  Global Purchasing Companies is a full service fashion consulting firm for the retail industry.

This is a discussion focused on designer and brand building.

OS Fashion Members: $5.00
Member RSVP: www.meetup.com/opensourcefashion

Non-Members: $10.00
Non Member RSVP: www.OSFashionNov22.eventbrite.com

Fashion Business Advice

My experience at the Fifth Annual Independent Handbag Designer Awards

On June 15th I attended The Fifth Annual Independent Handbag Designer Awards at the Time & Life building in New York City. It was a great event; hustle, bustle, fashion, and style. As designers and guests poured in everyone was mingling and snapping photos by the display of beautiful handbags and enjoying tasty cocktails and sweet cupcakes.The scene was chaotic but before long everyone shuffled to the auditorium and took their seats to enjoy the show.

Handbag Awards

The opening speech was by Ariel Foxman, Managing Editor of InStyle, followed by a video about InStyle featuring Calvin Klein’s Francisco Costa and Eva Mendes. The creator of The Independent Handbag Designer Awards and Handbag Designer 101, Emily Blumenthal, spoke about her involvement with the event for the past five years and gushed about the the global nominees. “If you took an international flight to be here please stand up,” said Blumenthal during her opening speech.

Following  Blumenthal’s welcome speech, anticipation rose as each category was presented and winners were announced. And the winners were….

InStyle Red-Carpet Ready Evening Bag

Winner: Clara Kasavina, USA

Prize: The winning bag will be featured at InStyle’s Summer Soiree event in Los Angeles and gifted to a celebrity guest.

Best Student Made Handbag, Inspired By The Colors of Vitaminwater

Winner: Kaitlyn Doherty, USA

Prize: The winner will collaborate with Vitaminwater to create a limited edition product as well as a feature on the brand’s Facebook page.

Best Handmade Handbag

Winner: Diego Rocha, Brazil

Prize: The winner will receive a designer feature on Singer Sewing Company’s website and Facebook page, as well as a full Singer Sewing Studio and a feature on BurdaStyle.com.

Best Green Handbag

Winner: Belinda Pasqua for The Sway, Australia

Prize: The winner will receive the chance to collaborate with Timberland to develop a product for sale in its stores.

Most Socially Responsible Handbag

Winner: Neide Ambrosio Martins De Souza of Pretinha Artes Lacres, Brazil

Prize: The winner will receive a feature with Professional Sebastian hair care’s fashionable and ethical brand.

Best Use of Swarovski Elements

Winner: Lorna Nixon, UK

Prize: The winner will receive a design sponsorship, including free access to crystals and Swarovski know-how. The winning bag will be produced as a limited edition and receive industry and consumer exposure in the US and abroad.

Artisan House Award By Isabella Fiore

Winner: Shivani Suhag for Avocadoe

Prize: The winner will create a limited edition collection for Isabella Fiore.

Best Handbag In Overall Style & Design

Winner: Fabiola Pedrazzini, Italy

Prize: The winner will receive a booth at WWDMAGIC, the opportunity to develop a capsule collection for Saks Fifth Avenue and a collaboration with Carlos Falchi.

Iconoclast Award Recipient Peter Dooney of Dooney & Bourke

Bob Goodwyn, the Senior Vice President of Sales of Dooney & Bourke, received the award on behalf of the winner.

Audience Fan Favorite (chosen from 30 finalists by voters on Instyle.com)

Winner: Neide Ambrosio Martins De Souza of Pretinha Artes Lacres, Brazil

Upon completion of the ceremony the winners, nominees, presenters, and guests were invited to chat, take photos, and conduct interviews. From what I could see, the designer that received the most attention was the two-time winner Neide Ambrosio Martins De Souza of Pretinha Artes Lacres. Designer Carlos Falchi, who presented the Best Handbag in Overall Style & Design and was a recipient of IHDA Lifetime Achievement Award in 2007, spoke to guests and took photos with the winners.

Overall, it was a night dedicated to talented handbag designers from all over the world, offering these creatives their moment to shine. I think  designer Neide Ambrosio Martins De Souza statement sums it up well: “I feel like I’m winning an Oscar.”

Fashion Business Advice

Don’t Cut Corners When it Comes to the Creative

When it comes to starting and running a successful and sustainable business, creativity is key.

We’re not just talking about the design aspect of your fashion business, we are also talking about the business aspect of your business.  From figuring out ways to scrape together startup costs to implementing inexpensive but highly effective marketing campaigns, creativity is the only way to grow.  It’s imperative that we  nuture the creative side of running a sustainable business.

Flickr Photostream: Kevin


We recently came across an article on Fast Company preaching the importance of taking a week to yourself; no email, no phone calls, no meetings.  Just you and your thoughts.

Yeah right.

The article goes on to say that some of the world’s leading innovators have worked this creative hiatus into their business practices, i.e. Bill Gates.  OK, we get it, fostering our creativity is the best way to excel and innovate.

The problem seems to lie in finding the time to hone in on the creative process, right?  How can we take a week to disappear from the world and just brainstorm?  We can’t.  We don’t have a team of assistants and employees who can keep things afloat while we’re off reading and thinking.

In light of this, the article suggests scratching the idea of taking a weeks hiatus (duh) and instead taking 1hour twice a week.  That, in case you’re tired, is 2 hours a week.  That we could probably do.

Here’s what the author is challenging us to do:

Get away from your desk to a place of inspiration such as an art museum, park, or historic landmark. Turn your phone off and your ideas on. Schedule the time, and treat it with the same importance as any other business meeting. Show up fully, and let your imagination soar.

We like this idea.  We know it’s not always easy, but honestly, it’s smart.  How can we be expected to sustain a business, much less grow a business if we don’t spend time on our strongest characteristic: Creativity.  So, give it a try.  You may be surprised by just how much you get out of 2 hours all to yourself.

Fashion Business Advice

The Power of a Cluster

clus·ter (klstr)
1. A group of the same or similar elements gathered or occurring closely together; a bunch.

A Cluster as it applies to Fashion?

A community of artisans all with common or complimentary skills, working together to create a collection of clothing with some meaning behind it.  The antithesis of fast fashion production.

Flickr Photostream; The Lawleys

As you probably know by now, we here at StartUp FASHION have a love and appreciation for the craft behind fashion. Yes, we talk about it a lot.   It’s not that we want to overwhelm you with an over saturated topic, it’s just that we truly believe that this is the direction in which fashion is headed; an inward focus on the hands behind the craft.

And those hands, make up the clusters that through skill and artisanship, remind us of the heritage that goes into textile and garment creation.

Why do we love fashion?

Let’s think about this. The answer is different for everyone of course, but we’re willing to bet that the majority of fashion lovers are who they are because they have a connection to, admiration of, or affection for the the way a garment looks, how a fabric feels, the color story, the drape, the silhouette…it’s an art form and should always be regarded as one.

The problem is, all too often, as success starts to approach, designers tend to get lost.  They often forget why they are doing what they do and who is helping them along the way, i.e. the pattern makers, the cutters, the seamstresses, the hands. The cluster.  Craft gets lost and mass market, fast fashion rules start to wiggle their way in to a brand that once focused on creating clothing the old fashioned way.

Now, we’re not delusional.  We understand that creating a sustainable and profitable business is the only way to truly achieve success.  Otherwise you’re just making pretty clothes and hoping someone will buy them. That’s not going to work. We get that.  But we also get that the fashion industry of yesterday is not the fashion industry of tomorrow.  From unstable raw materials to quickly increasing labor costs, labels both large and small, are learning that they can no longer whole heartedly depend on the full package or overseas approach.

While this may seem scary, we don’t think it is.  What we do think is that this a way for brands to return to history of their craft and start utilizing and highlighting the community of skilled workers who help bring a sketch to reality.

All of you, entering into this highly competitive field of fashion design, have the opportunity to create your labels in a way that showcases the skills that go into making high quality and aesthetically beautiful clothing. Rather than making your goal be to get to the “Target Capsule Collection” stage, why not focus on designing and creating well made, high quality collections that embrace the craft behind what you do?

Please keep in mind that we’re not necessarily talking about weavers in India or seamstresses in South America or tailors in Italy.   A cluster can simply be working with a pattern maker, cutter, and factory in New York or Seattle or North Carolina!  It’s about the community.  It’s about appreciating and compensating and highlighting the skilled workers. It’s about the heritage.

Some brands have tried to introduce the concept in their work.  In September of 2010, Prada took notice of the consumer interest in artisanship with its “Made In” campaign.  While we applaud the marketing savvy behind this initiative, we wonder why Prada could not continue to adopt these practices in their label creation. What a fantastic example a well known and respected brand could have set.

Prada Made In Collection

So, in conclusion, we just want to express {again} how important we think it is to create a business model around producing clothing that highlights the art of fashion and the community behind the craft.  At these early stages of creating your business you are in the perfect position to take a long hard look at what you are doing and why you are doing it.  There is so much opportunity, try not to ignore it.

Fashion Business Advice

Retail Camp Keynote: How to Leverage the Social Ego to Generate More Sales

Last weekend I jumped on a jet plane and headed Westbound to palm tree-lined Los Angeles for a conference called Retail Camp. An event dedicated to highlighting the world of Digital Media Marketing for the retail community as well as what you need to know as a blogger in the changing face of digital marketing, the two day camp was laden with useful and exciting information for the digital professional.

One particular keynote that I would like to share with you was from Dylan Whitman, one of the faces of TabJuice, a company that allows brands and retailers to set up e-commerce and/or facebook commerce shops. Whitman covered how to leverage the social ego to generate more sales.

TabJuice at Retail CampThe Psychology of the Social Consumer: Get philosophical and think about why consumers engage with your brand on facebook.  By understanding the reason why a customer wants to be a customer, a brand can foster and develop the relationship and generate more sales.

How can you, as a brand, make this happen?  First, utilize the soft brag by boasting (although not too much) about who you are and what you do, aggregate this information out, and engage with your network.

Once engaging, you then need to think about the Tools of Actualization :

  • A brand needs to continue to present itself exactly how its customers want to be seen. Basically, are you cool? If you are, then great. If you’re not, well then you need to figure out how to be because customers are buying your image as much as your product.  I have one word: Apple.
  • A brand needs to nurture the hype.  How?

Add titles and descriptions to your products that reflects how your customers want to present themselves. You need to state more than color, size, fabric type.  Get creative because when they “like” your brand, the description shows up on their page, and the more branded it is, the better.   You need to give your customer the ability to look cool by association.

Analyze the demographics and psychographics of you customer.  Get to know who they are and what makes them tick, this will inevitably help you understand why the shop.

Innovate by constantly reinventing yourself to stay relevant because this allows your customer to reinvent themselves via your brand.

Customize your messages to different people by engaging with these people through comments, their photos (not just yours!), re-posting, etc.

Remain {mostly} genuine. Obviously,  never lie or waste their time. But keep your goal in mind and work to make them continue to want to associate themselves with your brand, not just buy your products.

Remember that everybody is important. The friends of your customers are also engaging with you by viewing your network’s “likes”, comments, photos, etc.  You are also speaking to the not-so-fashionable friends of your followers. There is opportunity there that shouldn’t be ignored.

Feel Good and Adopt early.  There is nothing wrong with smart marketing.  Stay ahead and use the momentum you’ve obtained by starting early to be a leader.

And remember, there is no single approach.  Success comes by constantly trying new angles and ideas.

About TabJuice:   TabJuice provides a free and comprehensive social e-commerce solution allowing sellers to offer a branded shopping experience directly on their Facebook page. It’s custom branding features, flat affordable monthly subscription price, open source API and superior admin panel functionality and design, make it the best social commerce product on the market today.

You can follow @TabJuice on Twitter or connect via Facebook.

Fashion Business Advice

Fashion Stake and Haute PR Help Designers Succeed

Last week I shared with you an event hosted by a new networking group called Open Source Fashion here in New York. Created as a way for fashion pros to connect and exchange ideas and information through open networking and relevent keynote panelists, I was excited to attend.

The event did not disappoint.  The two guest speakers, Vivian Weng of FashionStake.com and Robin Kassner of Haute PR, shared their thoughts and recommendations for everything from product packaging to store and press pitching.

In this first video each speaker shares a bit about themselves and their respective companies; which is important for you as designers to know.  Remember, understanding your audience whether consumers, retail buyers, or possible reps, is absolutely key.

One question asked to both Vivian and Robin, was about the importance of product packaging.  Here are a few key points shared by both:

  • Great packaging is integral to brand success
  • Make your package feel like a treat to the person who is purchasing it
  • Having a great logo and overall branding is important when deciding on how to package your product
  • Excellent packaging adds to the perceived value of your product; you can step up the packaging and work that into production costs
  • Your packaging can be unique and still be affordable
  • Consider the environmental impact of your packaging; consumers appreciate light weight and low impact
  • Think about some of the packages you have received in the mail.  What about the packages have you liked and disliked
  • A handwritten note speaks to wonders to your customer; there’s no better way to make them feel special

Here each speaker talks about what she looks for when deciding to take on a new designer.

Last, Vivian and Robin made a few points on how to approach a prospective buyer or PR rep:

  • Know who you are emailing. This goes back to understanding your audience.  Take some time and do the research.  Pitching to someone who is not the right match for your work is a waste of everyone’s time not to mention it starts you off on the wrong foot with someone you may have reason to work with the future.
  • Convey passion; not only for your work but for the work of the person you’re pitching too.  Vivian made a point to say that it is always so flattering and exciting to hear from someone who has been following Fashion Stake for a while and is thrilled by the concept and the work they do.  It shows that the designer will be just as integral in marketing Fashion Stake as Fashion Stake will be in marketing the designer
  • Differentiate your work.  How are you different? What is your unique story/perspective? Why should this company pay attention to you?
  • Keep it short and sweet.  These people are busy and are pitched to constantly.  If you can express your uniqueness and capture attention quickly, you have a leg up on the competition.

The first Open Source Fashion event was a success and I look forward to attending more in the future.