Looking to launch a brand but not sure where to begin? Or already have a brand but curious if you’re on the right track? Fashion experts from BCBG, DKNY Jeans, and Karlie Clothes stopped by the MAGIC Seminar Series to share their hard-earned lessons from their time in the fashion trenches. Discover their tips for succeeding in today’s market.
- Get personal. Consumers nowadays don’t want a hard sell, they want to connect personally with the product—and the designer. As Martine Melloul, former Executive VP of BCBG says, “What’s really important is your storytelling. What are you bringing to the market? They want to know you. They want a face behind the product. They want to know why you’re doing it. They want to know what your passion is.”
- Learn everything you can about your audience. As you figure out what your brand represents, you have to also figure out exactly who your audience is. How old are they? Where do they live? What actor or actress would represent them? Mary Wilberding, Co-Founder of Oneworld Apparel and former President of DKNY Jeans says, “You have to have the power of your message. Second of all, you have to position it. You cannot be everything to everybody.”
- Have your core values in production. Great branding and marketing are non-negotiable, but if you don’t invest in your product, your company won’t survive. Have integrity in every part of your business. As Charlie Brown, President of KarlieClothes.com says, “Hype is good, but when hype surpasses the product you’re in trouble.”
- Manage your inventory. Our experts agreed that one of the most common causes of a failed fashion business is overproduction. Mary cautions, “Inventory will kill you. It’s not fine wine, it doesn’t get better.”
- Have clearly defined roles. Every fashion brand needs a strong creative person and a strong business person at the helm. Or as Charlie puts it, “a bean counter.” As he explains, “You need somebody that’s a creative person and you need to have a bean counter. If the creative person is way stronger than the bean counter you go out of business. And if your bean counter is too strong he won’t let you grow so it’s got to be a combination of both.”
- Create your business plan. Write down your unique selling proposition, product, audience, marketing and sales strategies and more, and use it as your roadmap. The truth is, successful companies don’t hope for success. They plan for it.
- Put your ego aside. You may be starting a company from scratch, but you’re not going to be able to do everything yourself. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Hire the best people possible under you. Learn from everyone you can.
- Change before you know you need to. The companies that evolve properly survive. “In the fashion business, today’s peacock is tomorrows feather duster,” Charlie warns.
- Know what dream you’re selling. Think of Apple. The most successful companies understand that they’re not just selling a product—they’re selling a dream. Know what dream you want your brand to represent and own that.