The Retailer’s Guide to Working with Emerging Designers


The Retailer’s Guide to Working with Emerging Designers. Hi guys, I’m Syama Meagher, CEO of Scaling Retail, and you’ve probably heard these days, and it’s true, emerging designers are making a huge comeback. They are gracing the platforms of Moda Operandi, Matches, and you’re starting to see a lot more smaller retailers and boutiques picking up these emerging designers. Now why are they working with these guys? Well, consumers are looking for newness. They’re looking for fresh products. They’re not looking to buy the same stuff that they’re seeing everywhere else, and to be honest, guys, it’s part of why retail is evolving. The apocalypse only happened for a lot of the bigger guys who failed to adapt and offer new individualized products and brands and really speak to their consumer.

So, guys, consumers are hip to it. We’ve got to start offering them newness. Now how do we work with the newness? Where do we find these emerging designers? Well, I’m going to unpack a little bit more today about where to find these guys, how to work with them, and really how to add a little bit more offering to your current assortment. Now, in a recent paper that we published called “The Age of the Emerging Designer”, we had the privilege of being able to interview not only the buying director at Matches, but also some of the big guys over at Coveteur, Topshop, as well as trade show directors to really find out how and why this is becoming a huge trend.

And the reason is quite simple, guys. We want something new. These new guys are able to drive home in-store experiences, they’re able to provide you products on a more frequent basis, and, guess what, they are more open to capsule collections and collaborations, other than these big guys that have high minimums and more fixed open to buy processes. So where on earth do we find these guys? Well, we’ve got to start looking at places like Instagram. We’ve got to start looking at places like smaller, more niche websites that are curating product, and we also want to start to take a look at places like Modalyst, for example, that are actually bringing together lots of smaller businesses and aggregating them for drop shipment. We should also be looking at platforms like NOT JUST A LABEL, right?

These kinds of platforms are out there curating different kinds of brands and curating a distinct point of view. Now certainly, guys, trade shows are often a great place to find brands that are trying to define exposure to much larger buyer markets, and a lot of buyers out there are starting to steer away from trade shows because they’re not actually able to get in front of all the right designers. But guys, I’m telling you, places like Capsule, Brand Assembly, POOLTRADESHOW, Project and even Agenda are becoming amazing places to come back to and see lots of smaller brands. See what they’re doing, see the curation.

Now just as much as you might be trying to find these emerging brands, they are trying to find you as well. One of the biggest barriers to these brands trying to get in front of you guys is really being able to get sifted through all the massive noise of emails. So another tip, designers out there, if you’re watching this is make sure that you’re aggressive with the retailers. Right? Retailers, make sure that you are reading your emails from these buyers. Retailers, make sure that you are reading these emails from these designers. Now, certainly, the other way in which you can find some great, curated, emerging brands are through showrooms. Right?

I personally think that showrooms, at least a few really good ones in the New York and L.A. markets, and even in the Paris market, are really great at cultivating and crafting the messaging and working with smaller emerging brands. So while you’re not necessarily going to get an invitation and maybe you get thousands of invitations to lots of smaller brands, you want to start to vet them a little bit more. My suggestion, if you’re a smaller boutique is to have a small questionnaire list, or even have a page or something you can direct these brands to, in order to sift through them a little bit more. You might want to think about opening up what that intake or assessment form can look like, because it is tricky in order to find the right terms and conditions to work with these particular brands.

And I’ll tell you what to look for. So, when you’re starting to take a look at some smaller brands, you want to ask yourself what are the terms and conditions that I can work with them on that are more favorable? Certainly with smaller businesses you want to make sure they can actually finance the orders. So you might want to ask them, “Do you guys have a financing partnership? How can I make sure that you guys are going to be able to actually…” Certainly with smaller businesses, you want to make sure they can actually finance the orders. So you might want to ask them, “Do you guys have a financing partnership? How can I make sure that you guys are actually able to ship against what the order is that we are placing?” Now asking these strategic questions, I think, are really valuable because as these smaller businesses want to work with you, they also need to know what it takes in order to have them be able to do business with you in the best capacity as possible.

Now remember, guys, they’re going to be more open to doing trunk shows and more product exclusives with you. So to really work with these emerging brands, you’re going to want to ask them how open are they to doing some exclusive promotions with you? How open are they to doing things like capsule collections? And again, guys, be mindful of the payment terms. As much as you want to be able to bring in this newness, you want to make sure that you’re working with them and not against them in order to better service your customer. Other questions that are super important for you to work with them on. Things like understanding analytics. Right? Who is their customer demographic? Who are the people that they’re currently servicing? Does it happen to go in tandem with what it is that you are also catering to?

You also want to ask them about things like fulfillment and distribution. A lot of these smaller guys know that they don’t necessarily have a big fulfillment center and that might work to their disadvantage, but you want to know to ask them, “Hey, what do your operations and fulfillments look like? How often are you shipping out product? What was your short shipment on last season?” So remember, you are almost helping them and nurturing them as much as they’re open and eager to work with you.

Working with the emerging designer market is good for business. It’s good for being able to inject capital back into the hands of tomorrow’s leading edge designers, and it’s also important because it helps to show your consumers that you have a key trend eye. Now there are some cool examples of this that are happening right now. Companies like Topshop are doing things on concession and really bringing in new and emerging market brands, and being able to really showcase them and giving them space in their flagship stores. Something like this is totally unheard of in years past, so even as you have, let’s say, a brick-and-mortar space you might say to yourself, well, I’m going to open up and do some shop-in-shops in my store and bring in these other brands and bring in newness and bring in these trunk shows. If you have an ecommerce-only platform, you might ask yourself, well, what are some of the bigger trending brands on Instagram right now? How can I create a cohesive presentation on our ecommerce platform that really highlights and targets these emerging designers?

Now the other thing to keep in mind, guys, is as you look to work with these designers and as you try to grow each others’ businesses is you want to have an idea of their long tail strategy end game. You want to ask questions like, “Well what does next season hold for you? How is your brand going to develop?” You also want to make sure that they are going to be in business this season, next season, and for years to come, and the ways in which you can support that is by paying them on time. You can support that by working with them on the payment terms. And you can also support that by giving them feedback and being in constant communication. They want to know just as much as you want to share with them how the market is responding to the products that you’ve got on the selling floor.

Alright, guys, if you want to know more about how to work with emerging market brands, if you’re interested on the statistics and where these emerging brands are coming out of, please head on over to the Scaling Retail website and download our white paper on “The Age of the Emerging Designer”. We’ve got amazing interviews, we’ve got great brands that we’ve profiled that are ripe for the pickings, and we also talk about some great places and tools and resources in order to find these brands. Alright, guys, I will talk to you soon. Head on over, shoot us an email at if you’re looking to add emerging market brands to your rolodex of brands that you’re carrying. We are more than happy to help you build and launch and extend that part of your business. Once as always, find us on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and, of course, YouTube. We are where you are, guys. Have a fantastic day. Talk to you soon. Bye.