It’s easy to start a fashion brand from the position of designing clothes that you like. Creative entrepreneurs often ask themselves: “If there are collections or products I feel largely inclined to make for myself, why not start a business around them?” While you may find a niche market in the direct-to-consumer (DTC) e-commerce space, as you start looking at wholesale merchandising, and how you need to diversify your collection to reach that buyer and that wider audience, there are a few different techniques and strategies to consider.
1. Present Collection Breadth & Depth.
Small brands are launching with capsule collection business models, focusing on 12 or so piece collections of super-edited styles. We’ve seen brands with this model produce new collections every three months, sometimes seasonally, and they’re really driving that direct-to-consumer (DTC) connection with consumers wanting to consume less and have more edited wardrobes, à la Marie Kondo.
However, capsule collections don’t translate the same when it comes to the wholesale business. If you have a 12-piece collection and you’re going to show a company like Nordstrom what you have to offer, 12 styles is too limited. Think of it from the perspective of that retail buyer. They’re looking at your collection saying, “From a financial standpoint, how am I going to cover all of the different categories I need to buy?”
Wholesale buyers want to see what you have to offer in terms of breadth of styles and breadth of colors. Even though you may not go into production for all the samples you’re producing, it’s really important to show retail buyers the entire breadth of what you can offer. Start merchandising, how many tops to bottoms are you producing? Are you working with dresses? Mostly tops? Separates? What is your point of view? How can you really expand on your POV to show the breadth of your collection?
After you have your salesman samples and go to market, buyers will give you a lot of feedback. You may end up introducing new silhouettes, a shorter hem length, a longer hem length, or even changing some of the materials you’re using, based on that buyer feedback. The more options you have for your wholesale buyers to choose from, the more feedback you’ll get. It’s going to really stand to improve your collection and show those wholesale buyers that you have skin in the game and that you’re willing to work with them. Remember, buyers go to market armed with the knowledge of what they’re looking for, what their budgets are, and how exactly they plan to allocate open-to-buy (OTB).
As a newer, emerging market brand, you’re competing with larger brands and therefore need to be able to represent a unique point of view. Whether that’s showing breadth or opportunities for exclusives, take a look at how many products you’re producing.
2. Keep Up with Market Trends.
Secondly, be cognizant of what’s happening with retail market trends. Companies like The Modist are really important because they’re segueing and showing us that the modest marketplace is actually quite popular. A lot of brands and retail stores opening up in the Middle East are also asking us, as Western retail companies, to start diversifying the types of products we’re producing. For example, just about a year ago, our firm opened a retail store in Bahrain in the Middle East. When we went to market to do their buy, we not only looked for trending styles in the Middle East by collection across different brands, but also what they could produce for us that would be unique and exclusive to that market.
As you seek to diversify your offerings, also consider the geographic locations of the target markets you’re pitching to and how you might want to assort your collection or provide breadth based on where those markets are. Of course we have a northern and southern hemisphere world; when it’s summertime in one market, it’s fall/winter in another. Work with your retailers to find out what’s on trend for them and what seasons they’re buying for.
Lastly, pay attention to considerations like seasonality, but also the frequency with which you’re dropping collections. Your wholesale buyers are usually going to want products to arrive nearly every three months or on the least frequent cadence, probably twice a year. Although with recent changes in the industry, it’s even more common to want four or even five times yearly delivery.
3. Offer Size-Inclusive Collections.
Body positivity has become a significant trend in the market, largely thanks to social media, key influencers and new size-inclusive brands. Some companies are offering extended sizes via collaborations. For example, Universal Standard collaborated with Rodarte, as well as with J.Crew. Both collections proved the viability of offering a diverse range of sizes with plenty of excitement and sales from shoppers. You can no longer get away with an XS to L; start expanding sizes all the way up to XL, XXL, XXXL or XXXXL, depending on the capabilities of your current production and development process.
It’s very important to get on board with this movement ASAP. It’s the predominant trend right now as wholesale buyers seek to buy brands espousing cultural zeitgeist movements- and body inclusivity is not going away.
Looking for more information on this topic? Read our article on how to get direct buyer feedback. How do you know you’re even on the right track as a new fashion startup? Also be sure to get our free download document sharing an excellent wholesale line sheet example. Finally, if you’re interested in working with us for any of our marketing, branding, and business modeling services, send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.