It’s not just about being creative

THE popularity of the American television programme Project Runway may lead people to believe that it is easy to transition into the fashion industry.

More individuals are jumping into the business without the benefit of a fashion education. While it is certainly possible to do so, the learning curve is bound to be significant.

Young designers should know it takes more than a great-looking garment to be a successful designer.

Time and time again, I see start-ups so focused on designing beautiful garments that they miss the bigger picture.

Before venturing out and launching a new collection, designers should be able to address the following issues:

1. Clearly and concisely identify your target audience

When speaking to young designers, the first question I ask is: “Who is your target audience, who is the customer you are selling to?”

Many respond with “I sell to everyone”, or they tell me a range of customers that span 20 years in age.

My response to that is: “If you try to be everything to everyone, you’re nothing to no one.”

If designers do not have a clear and specific target audience, it is going to be difficult for them to formulate a marketing message to reach their prospective customer.

2. Create the brand’s Unique Selling Proposition(USP)

There are thousands upon thousands of brands for consumers to choose from, so how are you going to stand out? What is your USP? Why do I want to buy from you?

Designers need to have a clear idea of what they have to offer to consumers with their apparel.

Maybe you offer exercise or yoga wear for the plus-size woman, office wear for very tall men, or shoes for people with wide feet.

The USP must also be conveyed in your marketing message.

3. Create a meaningful brand name that speaks to your customer

Al Reis and Jack Trout, the authors of Positioning, The Battle For Your Mind, identify a key issue: “In this positioning era, the single most important marketing decision you can make is what to name the product.”

I couldn’t agree more. Too often, new designers pick obscure or personal names because they think it is cute or cool.

They need to be thinking about the product and the target audience.

They should select a brand name that is memorable and appropriate to the product and target audience.

It also should easily translate to an available web domain name.

4. Develop the brand personality

Just as individuals have a name and a personality, so do brands.

The brand personality is something that should be created by the designer in the early stages of the brand development.

Brand personality can be conveyed to the consumer visually by the product design, in the store layout and something as simple as the brand font or corporate colours that represent the brand.

The closer you can get your brand personality to that of your target audience, the easier it is going to be to sell to them.

5. Establish the brand positioning

What is your product known for in the marketplace?

Volvo holds the position for being a safe family car, Tiffany’s is known for fine jewellery and McDonald’s is synonymous with fast food and happy kids.

Each designer should establish his brand position by writing a brand positioning statement.

The positioning statement takes into account the customer, the competition and what makes you unique in the marketplace.

6. Design a sales and marketing plan

In the movie Field of Dreams, Kevin Costner continually hears a voice from above telling him: “If you build it, they will come”. This only happens in the movie.

You must have a sales and marketing plan to create awareness for your brand and a means to continually promote the products to drive traffic to your store or website.

It is simple. No traffic, no sales.

Develop a sales and marketing strategy before you open your doors to the public.

7. Make sure your business hat is bigger than your designer hat

As the creative force behind the label, designers sometimes forget that they have a business to run.

There is a misconception that being a designer is all about creating beautiful garments and that very little time needs to be spent on the other less glamorous stuff.

Designers need to be savvy enough to know that there are times when they need to be working “in” the business and working “on” the business.

Running the business is a bigger hat to wear. If you are not prepared to wear this hat, look for assistance such as consultants or partners. - Source: ST/ANN

Articleby Pamela Wigglesworth, a Singapore-based American corporate trainer, speaker and founder of Experiential Hands-on Learning.