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Fashion Unraveled: How to Start, Run and Manage an Independent Fashion Label

Fashion Unraveled: How to Start, Run and Manage an Independent Fashion Label

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Fashion Unraveled: How to Start, Run and Manage an Independent Fashion Label

5/5 (1 valutazione)
234 pagine
3 ore
Sep 6, 2010


Take an inside look into what it takes to start and run an independent fashion design firm. From developing your customer, market and collection, to writing a press release, selling your product, pricing and budgeting, this book has a little bit of everything. It's a must have for design hopefuls, start-ups and existing design businesses.

Sep 6, 2010

Informazioni sull'autore

Jennifer Lynne graduated from NYC's Fashion Institute of Technology in 1999 with an specialization in intimate apparel. After working in the industry as a stylist and freelance designer, she launched Porcelynne Lingerie in 2002. Jennifer has been consulting with small business startups for 4 years and is presently teaching pattern drafting, draping and sewing at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in San Francisco. Jennifer serves on the Advisory Board for the Innovative Fashion Council of San Francisco, as well as is an active member in the local design community. Jennifer owned and operated an independent designer co-op in San Francisco's Mission District for 2 years and closed the doors to Porcelynne Designer Collective in 2008 to concentrate on her role as an educator and designer.

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Anteprima del libro

Fashion Unraveled - Jennifer Lynne Matthews - Fairbanks


Fashion design is a relatively new profession in the eyes of the government. Up until the 1980s the professions that were recognized were tailors and dressmakers. Even in the 1980s and 1990s, the government grouped all forms of designers in to one tax category. This included interior, graphic, and fashion designers.

The first fashion design program was started in 1904 at Parsons School of Design in New York. It was founded as a creative and artistic extension to the industrial revolution. The number of schools that now offer fashion design programs in the United States are well over 100, with new fashion programs added every year.

The more recent attention to this industry was brought forth by the Bravo TV series Project Runway which began airing in 2004. (Here's a fun tidbit - yours truly made it through round one of auditions and received a call-back for Season 6 on their new network, Lifetime). Art and design schools today are seeing an increase in enrollment in the major of fashion design, as well as an increase in graduates. Many of these graduates aspire to start their own businesses after graduation. Unfortunately, many of the schools churning out designers have yet to adopt an entrepreneurship program to help ensure their graduates' success in running their own businesses.

The most common misconception about the fashion industry is that is it glamorous and it will make you famous. If you are expecting either of these, you will be in for a surprise. Fashion designers seldom become famous and commonly work long hours, often just to make ends meet.

Many designers who get into the fashion industry, with the intent to start their own business, have not thought this through. Many don't know how to plan for the future, and very few know anything about running a business. This lack of planning and education is the reason 95% of design businesses fail. This is an alarming statistic, but there's a good reason behind it. Fashion design is not a business you just start overnight.

Here's a reality check. You are about to become a business owner. You will be spending more than 90% of your time running your business and less than 10% of your time designing (and in many cases that percentage is closer to 1% or 2%). After reading this book, hopefully, that 90% will look just a little bit easier.

Chapter 2 Summary of the Design Process

In this age of instant gratification and everything at your fingertips, it is common to forget that the process of creating a product-in the fashion industry or any other-takes much longer than just a click of a button. On average, an independent designer takes one to two years to go from the initial design concept to a completed product ready for sales.

The first step in creating a design collection is to research the current trends and make an educated prediction of what the trends will evolve into. Trend reporting services are available, but are often costly for independent designers to acquire. These reports predict what the popular styles, colors, and fabrics will be for a particular season, many times reporting up to 10 years in advance. (I explain trends and trending services more thoroughly in Chapter 7, Develop a Collection.)

The second step is sourcing, or finding resources for the fabrics and trims in your collection. The development of the collection has begun. Whether you develop patterns and samples on your own, or work with an independent technical designer; you must create prototypes for the entire collection and test them for fit and design. The samples usually go through several changes before the final products are chosen. Many designs are changed and sometimes even canceled before they hit the production room floor. (This is covered in detail in the section on production, starting at Chapter 12.)

These samples are then marketed to retail buyers. They can be marketed at trade shows, through showrooms, through independent reps, or directly to a store. Retailers place their orders up to six months prior to the actual season when they plan to sell the collection. These orders specify the quantity of the product you will produce and when the retailer expects delivery.

Throughout these steps, fashion designers may have varying levels of involvement from design to production. The involvement depends on the size of the design company and the designer's experience. Designers working in small firms, or those new to the job, usually perform most of the technical, patternmaking, and sewing tasks themselves, in addition to designing the clothing. The larger the company, the more the work is distributed.

Even if a designer does not do the technical work, he or she still needs the knowledge of the entire process to exercise quality control and to ensure the desired outcome for the finished product.

Chapter 3 Define Yourself

Before you even start thinking about how you will get your product out into the world, you need to figure out what your strengths are as a designer, a salesperson, a manager, and as a business owner. When defining your strengths, you should also be aware of your weaknesses.

Take time to really pinpoint what you know a lot about, what you know little about, and what you don't know at all. Even though you may not be strong in all areas, it doesn't mean you don't have what it takes to start your business. Learning how to delegate and contract out work is crucial. As smart and determined as you are, you cannot do everything yourself. Know up front what you need help with so you can focus on the things you know and enjoy best.

So how do you know when to delegate and share responsibilities? The decision will vary depending on your specific circumstances. Everyone's experience with delegating work is different. I didn't learn how to do so until almost my third year in business, but I can assure you I wished I had done it sooner.

In the following example, M explains that trust was his biggest challenge in learning to share the load.

Real World Example

Designer: Michael Herrera, M

Company: M the Movement,

The biggest challenge in running my own business was learning how to trust others enough to delegate. I am, like most artists, very critical of my work. It is very difficult for me to forgive myself, let alone other artists on my team, when my art /design is compromised. I have to dot every i and cross every t, and in my eyes everything can always be improved. Even when you seem to be satisfied with an outcome, you see it in a completely different light the next day. Art is ever changing and this makes it that much harder to delegate because your team has to have the same eye, tenacity, and dedication as you, and this is often hard to find.

I was able to get over this hump simply by life taking over. There will always come a point in your company’s growth when you can’t physically be everywhere at once, and so I had no choice but to let others take over certain projects. Little by little, I became better at letting go. My company became a more efficient one. My life became more relaxed too. You need a start with a good team that understands your vision and supports it. With a team behind you, you can do anything.

M has worked in the fashion industry for 15 years and has designed for many design houses including Karl Kano, Michael Schumacher for Ferrari and Puma. In 2006, M turned his own design concepts into his own business. In two short years, M’s business has established a celebrity clientele and a continuous stream of press coverage.

Chapter 4 Define Your Market

What does defining your market mean? Determining the price point at which your product will sell and where it will sell is considered your market.

You probably have an idea of where you want to sell your product, but there are several factors which determine whether you can actually place your product into that market. Your fabric choices, construction details, and quality of production are the major factors in determining your design market.

Design Market

The design market can be broken down into several sub-markets. Below are brief definitions of some of the design markets; which price point they fit, and which retail outlets they can be found in.

Couture describes fine tailoring and custom made-to-order garments. Fabrics are of exquisite nature and may include hand-made laces. These garments are not found in department stores, but in ateliers. Most details are finished by hand, and not by machine. Today this term is being so loosely used, that it has lost its meaning and people have forgotten its true definition.

Did you know?

The term haute couture is protected by French law and is defined by the Chambre de Commerce et d’Industrie de Paris. The criterion for being labeled haute couture was established in 1945.

To earn the right to call oneself a couture house and to use the term haute couture, one must be invited to be a member of the Chambre and is required to follow each of these guidelines:

• Design made-to-order items for private clients, with one or more fittings.

• Have an atelier (studio) in Paris that employs at least fifteen people full-time.

Present a collection to the Paris press twice a year; comprising at least thirty-five designs for both daytime and evening wear. Presently, there are less than a dozen members by this definition.

Ready to Wear describes any garments that are manufactured in quantity. Ready to wear (RTW) can be split into several sub-categories:

Designer describes well known brands such as Gucci, Chanel and Louis Vuitton. Their price point is high and can range into the thousands for one garment. Customers are often wealthy and have disposable income. Fabrics are of a high quality and are costly. These designer brands can be found in high end boutiques or brand-name department stores such as Barneys, Saks, and Nordstrom's.

Bridge or Contemporary describes a market catering to a larger customer base. Price points are lower than designer and can range in the hundreds for one piece. The fabrics are of high quality. Many brands launched by celebrities such as Paris Hilton and Ed Hardy are considered to be contemporary. These design brands can be found in department stores such as Neiman Marcus, Bergdorf Goodman, and specialty boutiques.

Moderate describes a wide customer base and comprises much of the clothing market. Many independent designers fall in the moderate design market, along with Tommy Hilfiger and Jones of New York. The price points are moderate and fabrics are of medium quality. Designs of this sort can be found in shopping malls and smaller independent boutiques.

Budget describes an inexpensive market which can be found at large chain stores such as Forever 21

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  • (5/5)
    Fabulous book. A little outdated on marketing and websites, but overall I couldn't recommend it enough.