Fashion Business Owner Musings: Stop Doing What You Think You’re Supposed To Do

Dear Designers,

It wasn’t until about a year ago that I stopped doing what I thought I was supposed to do to make my business successful.

That is, what everyone else says you’re supposed to do.

Do you know what I mean? I’m not necessarily talking about advice. I’m talking more about all the rules. The things that everyone says you’re allowed to do as a business owner and everything they say you’re not allowed to do.

And by everyone I mean, customers and business advisers and “experts” and coaches and social media followers and …

During a past fashion business owner musing, I talked about the fact that what other people think isn’t really important. This time around I’m talking more about our ability as business owners to identify when we’re being true to ourselves and our brand and when we’re simply reacting to a predetermined process and set of rules.

I think we all do this. We want to be successful so we feel like we have to follow the rules- how to act, what to say, and what to do are all influenced by what others have already done and claim to be the “right way”.

How fashion businesses have traditionally run over the last several decades means absolutely nothing anymore.

Actually, I’m wrong, that’s not true. If your chosen path is a traditional one— seasonal production calendar, runway shows, wholesale into department stores, celebrity approval, showroom placement, and well-known press are all things you will be going after. And that’s totally cool.

But if you decide that you want something else, you want to have more control over how your business runs, then I’m sticking to my previous statement- traditional fashion business processes mean nothing.

And if that’s the case, if you’re building something that isn’t in line with the traditional rules in any way, why are you still adhering to them?

Why are you censoring yourself? Why are you stopping yourself from putting it all out there?

Here’s what I mean.

When we start our businesses, we’re so worried about being too open, about making sure that we are coming across as a BUSINESS, about not offending anyone. Then, as we are in the early stages of business, we’re excited that we have the beginning of a following and we don’t want to scare them off. So we continue on this path of doing and saying what we think they want to hear. Then, without realizing it, our brands are these manicured versions of what we wish they could be.

I made this mistake– I’ve built a community of independent fashion business owners. Our goal is to help designers all over the world to build a business that makes them happy, whatever that may look like. When I first set out to do this, I felt like I had to come across as very professional. As a result, the word professional caused me to lose a lot of my personality.

I found myself deleting sections of blog posts before publishing them because I thought I shared too much. I would start to post words like “shit” on social media and then erase it for fear of offending.

I wasn’t fully being myself and my business was suffering for it.

I started to take note of every time I said or did something in a way that wasn’t reflective of my true personality (someone who honestly shares experiences with anyone who’s interested in listening, someone who in no way has followed a traditional path in life, and someone who curses!).  I didn’t like the results. I was not being fully myself often enough and, for me at least, building a business that way was not sustainable.

Is this making sense? Or are you staring at the screen with your eyebrow up, wondering what the hell I’m talking about? I know that for some of you, a censored and impeccably tailored business personality is what you want.  That’s cool. But that’s not me. And maybe it’s not some of you too.

Honestly, the independent brands that I’ve seen reach true success (as defined by them) are the ones who let it all out, who aren’t afraid to be themselves, whose mistakes and points of view and profanity are out there for people to experience.

I guess we all just have to decide how we want to do this. For me it involved starting this Fashion Business Owner Musings series on the blog.  Every week I share something I’ve learned or experienced and I’ve decided not to be afraid to share the ugly, scary, inexperienced happenings. The things that as someone who is giving other people business advice, I used to be too frightened to share for fear of looking incompetent. And it’s been awesome! The comments on these posts have far exceeded the other types of posts we share. I get email about how much these honest posts are appreciated. It’s makes me so happy.

With that said, allowing yourself to stop worrying so much about the rules does not always have such a positive reaction.

For me, this process also involved allowing myself to curse when I find it necessary to get my point across. This little shift did not come without some backlash (though admittedly, not much) in the form of a few emails – “I hope I will not have to experience this profanity again in the future.” My response- “Unsubscribe is a beautiful thing”.  Just kidding, I didn’t really say that. I mean, there’s a difference between being more honest and being flat out rude.

But overall, I’ve seen a really positive shift in my business since making this change. I stopped doing what I thought I was supposed to do and started being myself a lot more.

So, designers, I encourage you to embrace your crazy, quirky, incredible selves and find ways, even if just a few at first, to incorporate it into your business and your brand. Let you do you, and don’t worry about all the shit you’re “not supposed to do.”

Lots of love and encouragement,

Nicole Giordano
Nicole Giordano

Nicole is the founder of StartUp FASHION, an online resource and community supporting for independent designers around the world with building their businesses.A deep love for the craft of fashion paired with an adamant belief that success is defined by the individual, led her to found StartUp FASHION, where she helps independent designers and makers screw the traditional fashion business rules, create their own paths, and build businesses they truly love.More than anything else, she’s in the business of encouragement and works every day to remind makers and designers that they have something special to offer the world and that they can, in fact, do this thing!

  1. Avatar
    Anna von Aabling

    Amazing post! It’s so fun, I’ve been away from Startup
    Fashion for some months, and when I read to the musings I just started thinking: there is so much good stuff here, why did I stop visiting this site? now I know! 😀 thank you for sharing it, and for making the shift – wonderful content and great inspiration to follow my own gut even more! 🙂

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    Sara P. Boyd

    Thank you for talking about the things that truly enter my head on a day-to day basis. I love to hear that someone else struggles with how much to reveal about themselves and TRULY themselves. I sat on a title “Best Bitch” for my blog, but in the end published it. It feels better and truer to speak my mind and hope some other smart, ladylike, foul-mouthed women will find themselves attracted to my brand.

    • Nicole Giordano
      Nicole Giordano

      You’re very welcome, Sara. I’m thrilled to hear that you went with your chosen blog name and you’re speaking your mind!

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    Thank you for this post, Nicole! Great read – felt like you were talking directly to me & is something I needed to be reminded of. I have caught myself removing some shit here & there & toning things down when I need to just keep my edge. Thank you again for the reminder!


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    Fantastic insight. Totally agree with you, especially the craziness of ‘running your own business’ using someone else’s rules except your own! The irony is quite funny as I know I was guilty of that at one stage in my own business. On getting back to basics as to why I started my fashion company in the first place, came with it a freedom that has helped my creativity to flow.

    Thanks for sharing Nicole.

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    susan b.

    Hi Nicole,

    As always, great read. Great topic…..kudos to you. This is the very reason I love to read your posts. Always informative and greatly helpful. Your writing style is fabulous – edgy, totally honest. Your passion for what you do is clearly evident.

    I truly appreciate your articles, thank you!


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    Thank you for another inspirational post Nicole. It brought to mind when I thought I had written something that could have sounded controversial and made me uneasy the minute i shared it publicly.. but then it was instead retweeted and appreciated by some. Seems like we repress a lot of our personality in all fields of business, just to please a vaster audience, but in reality we should be more and more ourselves to make sure we reach the right public, that think like us, that would be more likely to be our clients, our supporters. It’s important to come to terms with the fact we can’t simply be liked by everyone. But the more we show our personality, the more we’ll stand out and be found by people who are able to connect with our message.

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    This is exactly what everyone need to hear Nicole.
    Just be ourself and following our instinct.
    Thanks for sharing this.

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