Having a solid brand identity and knowing your customer are the cornerstones of fashion business success. We sat down with Lee Stevenson, founder of SLATE Designs, a branding agency working with emerging designers, to find out more about how emerging designers can succeed in the business of fashion.
Can you tell us a bit about SLATE Designs and why you launched it?
After working in PR for the past 8 years, first with my own brand followed by media relations for fellow designers, I always felt like something was keeping us (as designers) from meaningful connections with consumers; that for some reason those we hoped would buy our lines weren’t seeing the novelty and talent within the emerging designer market anymore.
It seemed the more press exposure you garnered the more you slipped into this whole of “like minded” competitors, never really standing out from the crowd or making headway.
It was then that I realized connecting with consumers wasn’t about a “product”, like a dress or a bangle, it was about the experience curated by the designer that supported the product. That was when I said you know what, we’ve got it all wrong. You don’t go for PR first, because without a brand or image, what are we really pushing to the market?
What services specifically do you offer fashion designers?
While we offer a la carte services for brand maintenance, the majority of our clients come for our full program which entails (3) phases.
Phase One is the “branding phase”, where we get into the who, what , and why of the collection. We help them decide things like what experience they hope to have with consumers, who their consumer even is within their retail price point, are they in the right retail price point even, does their pricing accurately reflect the perceived value that is expected with purchase, and what they can offer to rival their competitors.
After that we move into Phase Two which is about taking those words and turning them into visuals. “Optics” as I call them, are a big part of fashion because fashion is about perception. Many emerging designers will forgo investing in a sound website or photography to funnel more money into production which often sits unsold.
[box type=”shadow” ]Designers have to understand that they create their own value, and their equity lies in their image not their product.[/box]
So in this phase we create logos, lookbooks and line sheets, conceptualize and shoot seasonal campaigns, edit collections, basically review all the outputs that help tell the story and push the expectation.
Which then brings us to Phase Three, the final phase where we take all of our work in the aforementioned and assist clients in presenting to the right retailers, and the right editors. I say the “right” ones because we firmly believe every opportunity isn’t the right opportunity for our clients to grow organically and maintain loyalty and longevity.
What are your top 3 branding must haves for fashion business success?
- Know your market
- Don’t underestimate your competitor or consumer
- Don’t price yourself to survive, price yourself to thrive.
What elements of branding do you think are the most important for emerging designers to focus on in the beginning?
There are three major factors explored in the beginning of Phase One that every designer should consider and they are…
The Designers Impression: What do you offer or promise to offer consumers?
The Designers Interaction: How do you as a brand back up those promises?
The Designers Responsiveness: Are you approachable to your market and do your somehow personalize their experience?
Can you share a few tips about creating an impactful website?
There are three tips to create an impactful website and the first is a strong message. When I come to your home page what is my experience? Where are you taking me? Am I lost in a sea of product? Are there too many calls to action, pop ups, and requests confusing me? Do I even know what you are selling? You have a matter of seconds to engage me so I click through, so make your intentions known.
The second important tip is easy navigation. Don’t make people struggle to find where you are sold, or how to contact you, where product details are or how to check out. If you can’t make shopping or learning about you an organized and streamlined experience people might be less likely to build a relationship with your company.
And the final tip, make the content relevant. I can’t tell you how many sites I go to with blogs that aren’t up to date, links to things that don’t relate to the brand, or my favorite, no content at all. It all ties back to the “experience” and your content should support the consumer you hope to entice, as well as your position as a designer.
What’s the best way for designers who are interested in your services to get in touch with you?
We encourage designers to contact us via email which is firstname.lastname@example.org.
SLATE just launched their twitter feed to share awesome tips and updates with industry professionals and emerging designers alike, you can follow them @brandmeslate.