Fashion Business Owner Musings: Start with the Life You Want, Then Build Your Business

While speaking at an event in NYC called Fashion Founders, I was asked to share a piece of advice with the audience of both aspiring and growing fashion entrepreneurs sitting in front of me. This is pretty popular question to ask a speaker and the long list of advice I have is evident in this blog. So choosing just one can prove to be a challenge.  For this occasion I chose this:

Start by defining the kind of life you want and then build your entrepreneurial goals around that.  Rather than launching a business and then trying to mold your life around it.

When I share this piece of advice, I’m not always sure it hits home. I guess maybe because it’s not a sexy piece of advice around things like being  featured in Vogue or getting into Barneys. But I like to share it because I think it’s one of the most important and impactful things you can do when creating or growing a business.

Fashion is a weird industry. It prides itself on the idea of individuality and uniqueness but, traditionally, it comes along with all kinds of rules you must follow (both for the consumers of the fashion and the creators of the fashion). I don’t believe in a lot of these rules. Namely, the rules about what you need in order to build a successful fashion business as well as what a successful fashion business looks like.

I’ve talked about this before– success is relative, and each and every business owner gets to define what success looks like to them. I believe this wholeheartedly and  for that reason, I give the advice around reflecting on your life goals before creating your business goals.

Building any kind of business is not easy, and building a fashion business is really not easy. So if you’re going to give your all; if you’re going to spend your days and nights working to create your business, don’t you think that you should start with understanding what kind of life you want?

Because the thing about fashion is that it can be far less sexy then we’re led to believe. And if what it takes to create your path and reach your goals clashes with how you want to spend your life, then you’ll never be happy doing what you’re doing.

So what kind of things am I talking about?

Things like,

  • Do you want to travel a lot? If so, do you want to do it for business or for pleasure because different business models and goals lead to different kinds of travel.
  • Do you want to live in a fast-paced, expensive city or does that simply not appeal to you?
  • Do you want to work out of your home to spend more time with your family or do you want an office and studio and staff?
  • Do want to attend industry and networking events several times a week or do you like the idea of occasionally checking them out?
  • Do you like the glamour of the hectic-ness in the month leading up to fashion weeks or does that not appeal to you in the least?
  • Do you get excited by the idea of pitching to investors, influential editors, and major buyers or do you prefer more casual interactions with bloggers and podcasters?

There’s no right or wrong answers to these questions, they’re simply meant to help you realize that there are different paths that you can take in fashion industry and before jumping in to your business, take some time to think about them. Think about your ideal day, week, month, year. What do they look like? Be honest with yourself about how you see your life unfolding and what you’d be happiest doing with your time.

I think too often we make assumptions about what has to happen in order to “make it” in fashion. The traditional path has been set for so long that it’s hard for us to take a step back and realize that we’re the next generation. We’re the ones who get to set the tone for how the industry progresses simply by making decisions in our own best interest.

You don’t have to do things according to anybody else. The only way to be happy in the work you’re doing is to be happy in the life you’re leading.

Don’t be afraid to build your business around the life you want, designers. I promise you that you’ll be so much happier for it.

Lots of love and encouragement,

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P.S. If you like the idea of connecting with, learning from, and sharing with other independent designers who are building their lives and businesses their own way, then I hope you’ll become a member of the StartUp FASHION Community. We open enrollment and welcome new members two times a year for one week only. And we’re opening again soon. Get on the list on this page to get notified!

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. Vritti


    Not only are you an honest and empathetic writer, but also an informed and thorough propagator.
    Thank You for the refined reads <3

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