Last week emerging Los Angeles based designers gathered to gleam wisdom from established Fashion Business Consultant, Ralinda Harvey, during her presentation “Secrets to Launching a Successful Fashion Line” hosted by Macala Wright and FashionablyMarketing.Me.
Ralinda gave the attendees a step by step guide to launching their own successful fashion business that had three phases -- planning your business, creating a profitable collection and marketing and selling your line.
For those of you who could not be there, Ralinda outlined 16 steps to success as follows:
- Start with a simple plan. Write down the following: a strategy for what you want to do, how to get it done, who will help you, how you will sell it and how much it will cost.
- Work and learn at a small company. If possible, work at a small company. Ralinda started at Gap, Inc. but learned the most during her tenure at Michael Stars.
- Start one business at a time. Wholesale, retail and e-commerce are all separate businesses. Ralinda recommends focusing on one at a time and expanding into others once the first is operational.
- Cover your budget. This includes your startup budget, your operating budget to cover vendors, marketing and overhead, and your production finance budget to finance the period between when you receive orders and get paid.
- Position yourself for investors. To strengthen your position when negotiating with investors get your line going and get sales.
- Create a signature style. For example, when you think Calvin Klein, you think simplicity; when you think Missoni, you think of a harmony of colors
- Focus your line. Think the Juicy Couture sweat suit, the Dianne von Furstenburg wrap dress. To build brand integrity, do one thing perfectly and build your collection using trimmings, colors, and details in fabric
- Use keystone pricing. The wholesale price should equal cost multiplied by a factor of anywhere from 2.0 to 2.8. The retail price should equal the wholesale price multiplied by a factor of anywhere from 2.0 to 2.8.
- Price at perceived value. If your product looks like $100 retail, divide that by 2.2, for example, to get the wholesale price of $45. When you divide the wholesale cost by actual cost, your result should be between 2.0 and 2.8. If it’s not, you need to tweak costs or adjust the product to stay at perceived value, i.e. the price of similar items.
- Time your launch. Your launch should coincide with the trade shows, i.e. when buyers are buying. Check infomat.com for trade show dates. Don’t forget to make your launch an event.
- Create a cost effective, goal oriented marketing plan. Think social media, a marketing kit, and/or a multi-purpose website. Social media is useful to get in contact with customers if you are doing retail. Your marketing kit includes flexible line sheets, press releases, order forms and your look book. Even if you’re not doing e-commerce, you should still have a website to showcase your current collection.
- Know your sales options. While you could try to obtain a rep, Ralinda recommends selling yourself.
- Selling yourself. Give your line momentum. Get your product in stores, especially brand building stores like Fred Segal, Kitson and Intermix. Work on getting press to position yourself for good representation.
- Create a trade show marketing plan. Trade shows are great for exposure but are costly and unpredictable. If you are investing in going to a trade show, get the list of buyers who will be there and send them postcards and press kits via FedEx before the show. After the show, resend your materials to the buyers you connected with and provide them with order by and delivery cut off dates.
- Deliver on time. Buyers can be unforgiving. Don’t take more orders than you can deliver
- Make sure you get paid. Stick to cash on delivery or credit cards.
This sounds like a fantastic presentation and I would have been there, but was speaking in Philadelphia. Thank you Christa, for this fantastic summary. And in cased you missed these last two presentations, I am speaking at MAGIC on February 16, 2010 (blog post to come) so I can meet you there!