Startup Shortcuts: How to Test Your Fashion Business Before Launching

We know you’re eager to rush to market to get everything out there and launch your fashion brand startup. However, you may want to do a little product market fit testing with your original samples before you take the leap.

  1. Test through focus groups.
  2. Test through peers, mentors and experts in the field.
  3. Be your own brand ambassador.

Your samples can actually help you launch your business without having to invest in a full collection.

Use Focus Groups.

Focusing on focus groups can be a great way to see exactly how different cohorts of people will respond to your branding, your product, and your messaging. I always suggest that when you think about getting samples made and you’re not necessarily really gung-ho or firm on the exact brand positioning or the pricing or the strategy, but you have two or three different sets of samples, do a little bit of branding for each of them so they are distinctly different. You can actually test your focus groups to see who lands with what product. You’ll get a better idea of what kind of logo development works well and the pricing people are expecting from the product. This will help you craft a solid foundation for your fashion brand startup.

Ultimately, you’ll get first-hand feedback on the fit, the function, the styling, the fabric… all of it. Focus groups are a great way to make that initial investment into your fashion business before going full throttle into a complete launch.

Speak to Experts in the Field.

Talk to experts, professors at Parsons, FIT, FIDM…. Look for mentors in the community. These are great people to speak to when you have your first set of samples. And the reason why is people like myself have had so much market response. We understand exactly what consumers are looking for. We know the responsiveness to the market and we have our hands in so many different businesses that when we do line reviews and collection reviews, we can say, “Okay, these are the different ways in which you should tweak your samples in order to be able to launch effectively. Think about cutting costs in this way. Think about creating these kinds of headlines. Think about assorting differently.”

All of that is only possible once we actually see the samples. Sometimes people will send sketches to colleagues of mine who are professors at Parsons and FIT and FIDM. They’ll come up to them and their students for that matter and just show sketches and say they plan to launch a fashion brand startup. While sketches are a great way of being able to show a general overall direction, it’s very difficult to get feedback and very difficult to give better information as an expert or a mentor, unless you can actually see, touch, and feel the entire collection. Investing in those samples- even just to get feedback is extremely important.

Be the Brand Ambassador for Your Fashion Brand Startup.

Being your own brand ambassador can be one of the best investments for using your samples. Simply get them made in your size and wear them all the time. I can’t tell you how many clients of mine have actually been approached by specific buyers and retailers because they’ve seen that person wearing those garments. In fact, I was wearing this dress the other day when I walked into the shop Bird. The people who were working at the store asked me, “What is that product? Who makes it?” I said, “Oh, it’s our client’s, Rhode.”

Do wear your products and make sure your friends and family have your products. Even if it’s just your samples, make sure you have a set of samples in your size and that you’re wearing it out and about because, ultimately, you’re going to be an amazing mouthpiece to be able to talk and represent your brand. Who knows? You walk into a store or have brunch and someone asks where you got your product from, then you can start to open up and engage and create business for yourself.

I hope you understand the importance of samples. Even if you end up investing in two to three sample sets, it’s a great way to test the market to get customer feedback before you go full monty into hiring for marketing, into hiring for operations, into executing big sales strategy plans…. You can always start small, test, and pivot your fashion business whenever necessary.

If you’re wondering where you can find mentorship or where you can find key experts on the ground, check out our blog post on keeping up with market trends- why you need reverse mentorship. It’s a really interesting framework to put ourselves in. We often look to people who are above us in a hierarchy to give us feedback and information, but we should be looking at people who are also on the ground.

Lastly, make sure to download our creating customer profiles document. It’s an amazing worksheet. It’s going to help you understand exactly who your customers are and provide a really great framework if you decide to go into focus grouping. After all, when you decide to do a test market and do focus groups, you have to figure out who the multiple audiences you’re looking for are. Your free download will help you take that first step. Best of luck with your future fashion brand startup!

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