There are several new, bestselling brands that seemed to have come out of nowhere to turn into “overnight successes”. They’ve learned how to cleverly leverage everything from distribution to cash flow to catapult sales. Let’s take a look at the seven characteristics these fashion brands share so you can apply them to your business.
1. Flourishing Brand Loyalty
The best brands that thrive – season after season – are the ones that create connections with their customers through consistent brand touchpoints. Brand touchpoints can cover social channels, pop-up shops, event marketing and both print and digital paid marketing.
Two brands who are doing a clever job at taking press and flipping it into paid digital are The Arrivals NYC and American Giant. The Arrivals NYC is doing a kick-ass job with paid marketing on Instagram. I love how they are taking one piece of press (a write-up from Vogue) and using it to drive conversion through the platform. The Vogue write-up was based on buying your new perfect leather jacket. American Giant has also done an amazing job of leveraging a write-up on Slate and using it for advertising on Forbes. The write-up was about American Giant having the most in demand, perfect sweatshirt.
2. Slow and Steady Distribution
Drop shipment and consignment can make it easy to be in many retailers at once, but this won’t pay the bills. Deliberate distribution can be the difference between having the cash flow to continue production season after season or running out of funds.
Mansur Gavriel launched smart. They started selling at Capsule trade show and instead of letting retailers dictate payment terms they asked for a percentage down with the balance on NET 30. Retailers that couldn’t hang, didn’t, and that hasn’t slowed down this hot brand.
3. Strong Leadership
There are so many decisions that need to be made when running a business. Without a competent leader, there is no head to the ship and responsibilities can be deflected very quickly. Businesses that have multiple founders need to be very careful. It’s important not to have too many redundancies in core competencies. While you all may want to chime in on a particular decision, someone eventually needs to make it and they need to be empowered to do so.
Fashion brand Rhode is an excellent example. Founded by Purna Khatau and Phoebe Vickers, this team divides work and conquers. With one half focused on designing and merchandising, and the other half focused on business development and sales, this team has been able to triple their sales in just a year. If there was no autonomy, how on earth could anything get done?
4. Organized, Strategic Operations
Have your shipping and logistics on lockdown. Brands that sell know how to ship. To scale up orders and get repeat customers make sure your packaging is on point and you have a distribution center set up. Don’t prematurely move to a 3PL (third party logistics) provider until you have a sales/marketing/PR strategy in place (so you know’ll when to anticipate sales).
Do your research so you know who you want to work with when the time is ready. Have at least three conversations with logistics providers. If you get stuck, shoot us an email at email@example.com, we’ve got a kick-ass ops consultant to set you up properly.
5. End Game Aware
Do you want to sell the brand? Will you always be the head of creative? Understanding where you want to take your business will help you make the right decisions. Brands that want to sell to national department stores versus boutiques take different steps to get there. In order to be a brand that sells and is successful, you have to know the end game so you can make it happen.
6. Consistent Messaging
Yes, there are lots of things your brand could be, but stick to the main message. If you are focusing in the environmental sector be clear about what that means to the brand. Your brand story should be able to hold the collection and marketing for seasons to come. Create a brand bible and reference it as often as you need to get to know the difference between your preferences and how the brand develops its own identity.
Five years down the road you may have a brand that develops a strong following, but your own personal aesthetic may have changed. Your customers may not be ready to grow up with you, so a tough call will have to be made. Risk losing them or continue to create what you know will sell. Brands that stick to the key message become staples.
7. Money Smart
You don’t need to be a CPA to know that money in the retail industry is funny. It’s funny because wholesalers always ask for discounts, they don’t always pay on time, they sometimes cancel orders and you have to invest money into production of samples and production way before you see a penny of sales. E-commerce money is also very risky; you are placing your own buys against sales on your site, so you’ve got to have a plan to get those sales. Do it right and you may see a 70% full price sell-through, do it wrong and you may need to have a steep markdown season to clear out merchandise.
Unlike the restaurant industry where you can get cash in hand the same day, the retail landscape requires balancing a tight rope of cash. In fact, even companies that sell $200M a year (a la The Honest Company) aren’t even profitable. To be a brand that sells you’ve got to have a grip on what cash you need to survive. If you don’t have cash to produce, you can’t sell. If you don’t have cash to produce content and to market, no one will know you exist. Understand money and prepare- this is the key to longevity.
So there you have it, these are the seven characteristics of brands that are selling like crazy these days. Get to work on transforming your brand – step by step – and you’ll really start to feel the results!
Writing a blog can seem like a daunting task, especially when you consider the amount of time it takes to plan the content, write, edit, and syndicate it. But if you find yourself reading this blog post then you realize that it can also be very powerful. Lets unpack why a blog for your fashion business is important.
- Blogs can share ideas, value, and lifestyle and create context for your existing and future customer base.
- Brands that have engaging blogs create a sense of community that transcends a short-term customer lifetime cycle. Your tribe will keep coming back.
- Blogs give you an opportunity to sell through context and link yourself with other brands in your industry. You can position your brand as an authority and link yourself to adjacent brands.
- Blogs can be very helpful in indexing your online brand through Search Engine Optimization.
- A blog post that creates value to the reader is a better marketing tool on paid advertising then just showing product based ads. Subtle selling creates relationships.
It’s important to indicate what a blog is not.
- A blog is not an advertising section on your site to just show product.
- A blog is not a place to be negative- it reflects poorly on you brand.
- A blog is not a place to practice your writing skills. If you don’t have a distinct brand voice and style in place then figure this out before you start writing.
How you decide to write your blog can take on many forms. I prefer a strategic approach to one that is haphazard, so this list of how to optimize your fashion business blog is extensive. Here we go- 10 tips to start a blog for your fashion business.
- Create a content calendar. Start by writing down major dates and events related to your brand, then dates and themes industry wide.
- Start researching interesting topics that will be relevant to your new audience. Take a peek at your competitors.
- Develop two buckets of content: brand focus and lifestyle focus. Brand focus will be behind the scenes content, first glimpse into lookbooks etc. Lifestyle will be focused on other people, brands, and content. Aim to have a quarter of your posts about your brand. You will still want to weave in your brand to the lifestyle posts, it’s just not the focus.
- Decide how often you want to write. One time a month? Every week? Pick something and stay consistent.
- Create a style guide for writing if you plan to have someone else write the blog going forward. If you write your blog conversational, as I do, it may be challenging to find someone to fill your voice so having guidelines will be even more important.
- Do research on competitor keywords so you know which words you want to rank for. Remember that writing a blog post is a powerful piece of marketing and you want to make sure your efforts are well placed.
- Blogs need to be visually stimulating so you will need to create a bank of images you can pull from. The bank should include both stock images and those of your brand. So make sure you tell your photographer next time you are shooting that you need more than just editorial shots.
- Be choosey about your blog platform. There are many templates out there, and you want to make sure that your template highlights your content and the brand. Your blog should be hosted on your site though, and then you can share it on other platforms (Medium, Tumblr etc.).
- Aim to write between 500+ words. Since this is a fashion/lifestyle blog it doesn’t need to be super long, but word count matters for Google indexing.
- After you write ask yourself “why would anyone care, how is this useful”?
Make sure you have a fun time writing your blog. Its an amazing opportunity to bring customers inside the world of your brand. And don’t forget- blog content is so powerful when it’s well thought out and syndicated on all your platforms.
This post was originally written for Simply Stylist by me (Syama Meagher, CEO of Scaling Retail). Simply Stylist is an Online Platform & Conference Series for Female fashion enthusiasts. They are the bridge that connects you with other like-minded stylistas, beauty babes and tech whizzes, and allows you to tap into the minds of major style influencers.
Your blog relies on working with brands you love. Not only does working with brands you’d personally use appear more organic, but it also increases the chances of that brand wanting to work with you. However, pitching and working with brands you love requires a strategy! I will discuss the fundamentals to building relationships and positioning yourself to get the visibility and, ultimately, the income you want. I warn you — its not easy, but can be very worthwhile!
1. How to Identify the Right Brands
There are so many amazing brands out there, but who is the right fit for you? Ultimately, this depends on your brand positioning. What kind of content do you produce? Do you know your tribe? When was the last time you actually engaged with them? Truly understanding your own brand will give you a foundation to identify the right brands that you should work with.
So, how do you start to find out about your audience? Do research or ask them! People love to know that they are important. Surveys and questionnaires produce amazing results. Once you know your audience, it’s time to analyze the brands. What are the brands that your audience already engages with? What are they wearing? Where are they going? Become a detective and start to write down a list of the brands they engage with.
Tip: Don’t just write down fashion brands; write down all the brands- Airbnb, Uber, Blueprint, etc. This is your starting point.
2. Identify What You Have to Offer
What is your USP (Ultimate Selling Proposition)? This applies to your content and your audience. Do you have amazing images and high engagement? Do you have a lot of followers who click on the links in your bio? How about a small targeted audience that really listen to you?
Once you establish what you have to offer, it iss time to package it nicely. Create a PDF with your stats, a bio about yourself, images, and some information about your following. Also, identifying and including the types of brands your followers are interested in will help brands feel like you are a good fit.
Tip: I work with brands every day, established and new brands. What they are looking for is real engagement and a targeted following. Yes — they will look at your followers and analyze!
3. Know What You Want
Whether you’re a flatlay queen or can get your readers to buy anything, being knowledgeable about what you bring to the table will ensure you’re working with brands that align with your aesthetic. Know what kinds of products you want to work with and start to slim down your list to those brands within your context. Ask yourself, “If I work with this brand, would I want to work with my brand?” That is the important question.
Also, please note that if you have big brands that you really want to work with, consider featuring their products on your page prior to reaching out. Brands take note of whether or not an influencer has previously posted about them!
As your following grows, pitching should become a part of your daily routine. Pitching can include anything from emailing brands to sending DM’s (Direct Messages) on Instagram directly to a brand social media page. However, you should only pitch to brands that make sense, meaning they, too, would benefit from collaborating with you to share their product with your readers. The pitches should be personal to each brand and portray a casual confidence without overselling yourself or your brand.
- Highlight your best social media platforms first. Don’t immediately propose posting on platforms that you are not building or that have low engagement. Instead, showcase your strengths!
- Don’t limit yourself. Instead of having one set rate for all collaborations, offer tiered pricing and al la carte options to appeal to brands seeking small activations.
- You need to be willing to start small and work your way up! Small collaborations will show brands the type of work they’d expect from a partnership with you, so make them count.
5. Building Your Perceived Value
The value of your brand is based on what others perceive of you. If you decide to collaborate with other influencers, be sure you’re featuring brands that are consistent with your aesthetic — this will help you develop a strong brand. It takes time to build your portfolio of collaborations, but don’t worry! No one is going to ask you about the nature of previous collaborations. Just remember: Have discretion and be smart as to what the return on investment (ROI) is for each brand or collaboration you do.
Building your brand is a long-term decision that is essential to success. So don’t be afraid to be aggressive and diligent in ensuring you’re working with brands you love!
Before you launch your brand you need to have a few (read a lot) things in place. Here is my ultimate check list of marketing tools you need, to get your brand off the ground, and people talking about it! Which tips have you heard of and do they work for you? Comment below and lets talk fashion marketing.
If you are ready to launch your brand then set up a consultation. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Scaling Retail is the consulting firm for retail globally. Specializing in startup and growth stage ecommerce, brick & mortar, and wholesale.
For more tips and exercises for building a fashion website check out
Creating Fashion Websites That Sell by Syama Meagher and Nicole Giordano: http://www.scalingretail.com/product/creating-fashion-website-that-sell/
Check out Scaling Retail website for more business ecommerce and retail tips, reviews and more: http://www.scalingretail.com/
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Its that time of the summer! Did you just show at the POOL Tradeshow or MAGIC? Maybe you are getting prepped for Capsule in NY or you just showed at NYNOW. Or maybe this season you have said enough! And will be doing you own buyer preview in house. With trade shows abound and buyers ready with their OTB (Open-to-buy), its an exciting time to be a brand. To ensure a selling season that sees results follow my ultimate guide to selling wholesale.
Syama’s Ultimate Wholesale Selling Guide!
- Create a smart outreach schedule. Implement project management apps like ASANA that will help you organize your calendar and to do list. You can delegate to team members and approve and share doc’s. If you want approval on your invites – stop sending them out on emails and share them with your team in a way where everyone can see eachother’s feedback. Every week for the 6-8 weeks around the buying season you should be emailing, calling and sending out postcards. No response is not a no.
- Check your email open rates. Tired of sending out well thought out emails to individual buyers and not getting feedback? They may not even be reading your emails. Implement Streak (my favorite tool) to see if your subject headers are having any results. If no one opens, its time to resend the same email with a different subject header.
- Build up your perceived value and tell everyone about it. Use your social media channels, your newsletters and your individual buyer emails to pump up your brand. Include your best press outlets, the influencers that love your brand and any important retailers that your audience would want to know about. You want to create the impression of “Wow, this brand is getting traction, I need to know about this”. Anytime something great happens think of the 3-5 places you can syndicate it out to.
- Yes, numbers count. Your buyers, editors and influencers will check your social media numbers. If you are a new brand and just launching, it doesn’t matter. Most brands are building up their social media channels 6-12 months before they launch so they can get traction. If you are doing this supper last minute- which is not the preferred method- I suggest 1. Streamlining your social media channels to Instagram and Facebook 2. Front loading your channel with lifestyle, brandcentric and product images 3. Hiring a bot like (FastFollowerz) to help you with engagement and follower numbers. This is not the long term strategy simply because fake followers don’t care about your brand, they won’t buy and they screw with all your numbers (engagement, follower rate etc.) However, if you have not done the preparation to get your brand in great shape with social media you may not have a chance at market without a strong online presence. The alternative is that you can start building organic now and do your big push in Feb market. No need to rush something so important like you brand presence online.
- Get innovative with selling tools. Who says you need a full scale printed lookbook and linelist with all your products. There are so many ways to get your brand noticed. Some of my favorite ideas are custom USB sticks (email email@example.com, for a free sample!). I also love the idea of using a smaller directional printed book- something that really just highlights the direction, mood and feel of the collection. You can always email the full stack loobook and linelist to the buyer. Another favorite idea is to do a 4-week postcard campaign with a different image from the collection on each one. What a great way to tell a story!
- Be cohesive. If your website is not in good shape, then why waste the time pitching? I always would check out someone’s website when I was a buyer and see how they present themselves. Are you echoing the same message on your social media channel? When you write your emails and create branded assets do they all have the same verbiage? Every email you send is a branding opportunity. If you do not brand yourself, you will be branded! You don’t need to spend a fortune on an amazing site, with careful planning and the right help you can get a full stack build out for $3k- its true. Look like you are funded, even when you are not.
- Long-term game. No matter how seasoned you are you need to remember that buyers are people and want to build relationships, not just buy products. If your entire business rests on sales from one season then you shouldn’t be in this business. Better off to invest your time in another business, one that doesn’t require so much relationship building and time. There is no magic to hard work.
- Present with perfection. Yes, you need branded hangers. Yes, you need garment bags. Yes, you need stickers to add to boxes when you ship out samples. It’s in the details. When you are one of a thousand brands pitching and you get the opportunity to put your product in front of the buyer or to send them samples you have increased your chances to one of a few hundred. Why blow the opportunity by not making it the best darn presentation you can.
- Pitch 365 days a year. Well, technically no, but you cann
ot just communicate with someone when you need them. It’s like a friend who only asks you to coffee when they want you to lend them money. This is why brands hire showrooms and sales reps. since they keep the relationships warm all year round. You should be planning your off month communication so that when the official selling season is over you are still in touch. This way if you have any immediates (products with inventory on hand) or want to chat about exclusives or even next season you will have their ear.
- Know your Operations! This is a no-brainer. You have got to know what kinds of payment terms, minimums, shipping deadlines, EDI requirements, chargebacks, and logistical elements will be asked of you. Can you work on drop-shipment, cross-shipment, consignment? If you are not prepared with the backend, all the front-end work you have done and product development will have been for naught. If you are not familiar with the logistics and operations then educate yourself right away.
Best of luck this selling season! I know it’s difficult to sell your products to retail buyers. As a former buyer and consultant for brands, I have spent the last 15 years in this industry and have seen the rapid changes. Veterans in fashion don’t know how to play in the new landscape of wholesale, retail, popup shops, mobile commerce and social media. You need to arm yourself with a strategic plan to leverage the best of your brand and build from there. Your business model may be different from your peers, but finding the right model for you will help you with longevity and success. Here is to your successful selling season!
Syama Meagher is a retail strategist for brands and retailers. She helps entrepreneurs launch and grow fashion business built to last through ecommerce, wholesale and brick & mortar. Syama is a former at Barneys New York, Gucci, AHAlife and Macy’s. To build your brand and create a profitable business check out www.ScalingRetail.com and email firstname.lastname@example.org
I love Hussein Chalayan. To me he is the originator of wearable technology. While his pieces are more runway and less subway, I believe that he crosses the barriers between the tech imaginary and fashion- simply amazing. The new wave of fashion tech designers are looking to go beyond the runway and start to make products that can be added to the closet and worn regularly.
Technology and fashion can mean many things, not just adding lights to a jacket. Designers these days are looking to create new materials, fibers and design products that are symbiotic with your lifestyle- aesthetics first. While designers have been playing with new wearable tech products for a few years it has yet to be taken seriously by the mass market. Maybe because wearable tech sounds funny?
Aside from renaming the industry (a personal thought), there needs to be a platform to sell these products. Do they fit in the advanced contemporary market? Is it aspirational luxury? How does one classify? Tech News reported back in April that TopShop was sponsoring a contest with Imarks to support brands in gaining visibility from buyers. TopShop was also providing free business education and mentoring. Its important to see relevant players in the retail space get behind fostering new talent especially in wearable tech since the field is very young.
Just a couple weeks ago, Mashable reported on the new press on nails by Oyster that allow you to hop on your subway ride with your nails! Talk about simplicity.
For designers who are interested in innovating into wearable tech I suggest signing up for the Third Wave Fashion blog. They are one of the first accelerator programs specifying in fashion technology. If you happen to live in Paris, I suggest checking out the accelerator program sponsored by Galeries Lafayette: Lafayette Plug & Play. It is a dual program between Paris and Silicon Valley. You will get the opportunity to be mentored by VP’s at Birchbox, Galeries Lafayette and Farfetch, and have the opportunity to work with VC’s in shaping your business. You can apply here.
As the former Director of startup, AHAlife, I know how amazing and energizing it can be to work in the tech space. It can also be demanding. There are unchartered waters you are entering and unlike traditional business models you are mastering the synergy between U/X, utility and product. There is more on the line when you work with investors, so I suggest taking your product ideas to platforms like Indiegogo (check out this cool campaign by Zenta) where you can crowdfund the resources to play with new ideas. I remember backing a project that ultimately never came to market (FIN), and I wonder how many other projects on this list will never ship (Digital Trends). But that is part of the fun of it. We are in an age of exploring. What you make today might be irrelevant next year. We all know that we need to wear pants, so I guess if we wanted to play it safe we would go into that market. But that’s just not the beauty of life. We were all meant to make something happen, and if fashion tech speaks to you “Bon Chance”.
I am a retail strategist and consultant for startup and growth stage fashion brands and retailers. Working through a business model? Email email@example.com
Anya Hindmarch just announced her men’s collection launch with leather goods and accessories, and last month Stella McCartney announced she would be debuting a men’s collection in November. It’s no wonder that brands are moving into the men’s market; with $440B in annual sales it’s certainly a market share worth capturing. Menswear designers have been making the transition to women’s as well. Brands like Rag & Bone, Public School and designers like Hedi Slimane have only in the recent past branched out to design for women. The women’s market clocks in a hefty $670B yearly.
As a growing brand you are probably wondering how this all affects you. Should you rush to develop a collection for the opposite sex simply to make more money? How should you test the waters? Lets break it down.
First- It’s important to address that collections can be designed androgynously, but when it comes to walking down the runway or showing the pieces in a lookbook you will most likely ascribe gender. The Squad, a knitwear brand out of LA does a great job of creating for both, but you will notice that the collections do have clear cross over between genders.
Second- Aside from aesthetics, the two products are very different. Women’s sizing versus Men’s sizing and fit. If your brand is very tailored for women, you will need to bring in the tailoring for men. This might mean hiring a new product developer to help create your designs.
Third- Branding, sales and marketing. It’s not easy to just create a women’s line after having a men’s line. You will need to pitch to different stores, develop a new marketing strategy and evolve what your brand identity is. This can be especially tricky if your collection will be produced under the same name and your brand identity was very gendered to begin with. Sometimes brands will create a diffusion name to help with creating a “new” brand.
Accessories are the easiest transition to cross genders. Anya Hindmarch did this as she introduced a collection of briefcases and iPhones marketed for men. If you notice that your collection already appeals to both markets try testing out different color ways and fabrics to see how each gender reacts. What’s also interesting about Anya’s story is that she waited until enough men were purchasing her products to warrant the creation of a new line.
Clothing can be difficult for the above-mentioned reasons, but it doesn’t mean the market demand wouldn’t make it worth your while. Smaller brands like The Squad do so with a small team and a highly focused vision. My opinion is to always think big and make a timeline for your growth. If you want to expand then start thinking about it now even if it won’t be for another few years. Retail is a long tail game, so play it to last.
If you are ready to develop a launch or growth strategy for your business send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Branding from the scratch and making the brand popular and well famed for its attributes is not even close to being a cakewalk and takes years to build up reputation among people. On the other hand, those brands that already been established for decades, introducing new assortments is not much of a difficult task for them. These brands have already made their place in the market and since people know their quality and reliability, they are readily up for trying out anything they introduce in the market.
Such is an example of Lulelemon Athletica Inc., a brand known for the assortment of women yoga and athletic wear, as they have decided to stretch out their brand in men’s yoga wear as well. The expected hit in the men’s wear business is about $216 million in the upcoming few years. The brand envisions that they can achieve this goal by diversifying their men’s wear assortment and adding more categories to it beyond yoga outfits.
The brand took this step in order to recuperate from the troubles it faced in 2013 with their too-sheer women pants, and struggled to deal with the problem that came up amid the stiffer women’s yoga wear in comparison to the competitors. Along with that, last year, the brand cut off the nose to spite the face by offending their customers by suggesting them that they may be too old for wearing the brand’s clothing. After that incident, the CEO of the company had to leave the company because of the damage that was caused on the image of the brand.
For now, Lululemon has planned on keep on developing flexible men’s outfits that provide maximum comfort for activities like eating out, working out and travelling. They are keeping high hopes with their new assortment of men’s wear and soon will expand it to bring to the same level as their women’s wear.