The Trendsetter’s Guide to Starting a Fashion Line
I’ve always wanted to become a published author and in 2010 that happened. I collaborated with my dear friend Ralinda Harvey on a book on how to start a fashion line in our modern times. In the book, I contributed the section on social media, covering best practices for community development, blogger outreach and online resources.
You can purchase the book on Amazon for $16.95.
Do It Yourself: Fashion PR and Marketing for Fashion Designers and Brands
When we started FashionablyMarketing.Me in 2008, the blog started off as a primer for fashion brands, retailers and designers creating their own content to learn about social media. Since then, our content has evolved into something much more. Blog content and audiences change direction as their content creators evolve.
This week, we’re kicking it old school, taking this back to the original purpose. Why? Because if we don’t look at where we’ve been, we sometimes lose perspective on the future. So here we go!
What brands can simply do themselves
There are many brands that aren’t ready or simply can’t afford to pay a fashion public relations firm or fashion marketing agency. It’s simply too early in the game for them. But these days, there are five things that brands and retailers can do, and should be doing themselves–yes, themselves–IN-HOUSE, to effectively manage their online marketing and PR.
In the past five years, social media has been considered a creative way to market your fashion line online. Now social media is also a crucial element in a fashion designer or brand’s success. Social media allows a brand to build brand awareness, reach new customers, maintain relationships with current customers and generate online sales through word-of-mouth activities.
Be active in social communities. Curate your own content.
Every brand should have a presence on Facebook, Twitter and their own blog.
- Twitter is the easiest way to connect with people online. Twitter allows users to find and follow people whom interest them. You can use Twitter to build a customer as well as retail business base. When you tweet, write about what you are currently involved in, reading or find engaging. People like humanity and personality. Don’t view Twitter as an extension of email marketing where all you do is announce new inventory, promote sales or discounts. Instead, use it as a customer acquisition, retention and service tool. Think Field of Dreams: “If you build it, they will come.” A few retailers and brands that do this well are: @Moxsie, @Hayden-Harnett and @ShopJNSQ. You can also read our article, Who Should Handle Your Twitter Account?
- Every brand should have a Facebook page (not a Facebook group) that enables people to “like” the brand. When someone “likes” your brand, it connects him or her to your brand’s page on Facebook. Most brands use their Facebook page as a marketing tool by providing educational, informational or engaging content aimed at getting a response from the brand’s fans. Two brands doing this very well are LuLuLemon Athletica and ModCloth. Last year, I wrote two articles on Basic Facebook Marketing and Advanced Facebook Marketing that could help you as well.
- Create your own content. Every designer and brand should have their own blog, and that blog should feature content related to the brand, its products, its customers and the designers who founded the fashion brand.
Build relationships in fashion communities.
Sites like SenseOFashion.com, Polyvore.com, lookbook.NU, Kaboodle.com, MyItThings.com, BurdaStyle.com, Chictopia.com, Fashism.com and Modepass.com allow you to create free accounts as a brand or individual designer. Social fashion communities’ designers do a variety of things, including:
- Obtain feedback on apparel and accessories in product lines. By adding photos to MyItThings.com or SenseOFashion.com, designers can upload photos of their collections that community members can leave comments on or vote on things like their favorite colors or styles. Letting others provide feedback on your designs is called “crowdsourcing.” Crowdsourcing customer opinions is how online retailer ModCloth built a multi-million dollar company. SenseOFashion is also an international marketplace, the site allows you sell your collections directly to customers; it’s a feature worth using if you want to make money directly from online shoppers. As you know by now, it’s important to build your online community.
- Polyvore and Kaboodle allow brands to add photos of the pieces in their collections (apparel, accessories or footwear). Both sites have 1.1 to 2.2 million registered members. These members can use the photos to create their own photo sets and embed them to their blogs, Facebook pages and Twitter accounts. Can you imagine the possible exposure and sales that could come from people using photos of your product line in their social activity? There is a lot of potential. Both Polyvore and Kaboodle allow e-commerce links so that community members can buy your product online. Polyvore allows you to create a shop page and even populate your store items through your affiliate program. Polyvore also gives your lookbook like tools for your website with their mini editor. Kaboodle is curated by it’s community, but you can claim a branded page.
- As a designer, we know you have style. Don’t tell people—show them! Fashion sites like Chictopia, Modepass, Fashism, and LOOKBOOK.nu allow members to upload photos of what they’re wearing. Site members then vote on the looks they like most, earning points or other recognition rewards. When members create sets, the person who created the set lists what they’re wearing and where they got it. Having your product featured in social fashion communities builds brand awareness and gradual, organic sales of your product. In order to be featured, you can provide your product to style bloggers or encourage your Twitter and Facebook fans to post their style photos to their communities. They can tag their wardrobe pieces and link to where to purchase it (yes, it’s a link with SEO value as well as transactional value).
If you’re a small brand, you can take photos of yourself and submit them. Most of you create amazing lookbooks and catalogs, don’t you? If you need some inspiration, look at XCVI Clothing. After all, no one represents your product better than you! Get creative with what you do with showcase communities–you never know what you’ll yield.
Use digital extensions of traditional mediums.
As a designer, a lot of people tell you that in order to launch a successful fashion line, you will have to spend a lot of money on photography, print material and trade shows. With social media and communities, that’s no longer true. There is now a plethora of online resources that let you do those things digitally! Sites like MadisonBuyer.com, FindFashionRep.com, FadMashion.com and TheFashionSpot.com allow designers to network with other industry professionals and find creative resources to build their businesses and expand their product distribution online.
- Madison Buyer is an online extension of a traditional tradeshow. The site allows retailers and buyers that can’t attend every tradeshow to discover designers and brands online. The site is a platform for designers internationally to gain online exposure, as well.
- FindFashionRep allows designers to find a sales showroom or sales representative to carry their line in the markets they want to target.
- To better educate yourself on the business of online retail, you can read PRCouture.com, Mashable.com, TheBusinessOfFashion.net, Signature9.com or Fashionista.com.
Take your online digital presence offline.
While the Internet provides a ton of resources for you to market your brand online, you still have to get out and physically meet people.
Attend emerging and independent designer trades such as Nevada and Atlanta, Unique Shows in Los Angeles & San Francisco, Renagade Craft Fair or Brooklyn Flea. There are even more curated shows like Thread Show in California and Designers & Agents in Los Angeles and New York. Markets and shows are great independent designer shows to participate in. All of the shows have events throughout the United States with low participation fees ($250-$750).
Curated shows can cost a bit more, but attract shoppers more likely to buy at higher price points. They also bring regional boutique owners and buyers that may carry your line in their shops. The Thread Show costs $250-650 and Designers & Agents costs between $1000-$3,000 per exhibit. Independent designer trades are valuable if you want to test out a new market before you commit to larger, more expensive shows like MAGIC in Las Vegas.
Success story with Thread Shows: For the past year, I’ve been working with an amazing jewelry designer named Liz Larios. Based in San Diego, Liz decided to participate in the Thread Shows in Orange County, Los Angeles and San Francisco. During each show, Liz paid $500 to exhibit over 100 pieces of her line. Over the course of each show, she made $2,500 to $,000 per weekend! The fees for display were made back within the first three hours. Not bad for a two-day show that she could drive to! No shipping product, no trying to drop product before she came home. Simple, local, profitable.
Do your own online PR via style bloggers.
These days, fashion designers have the luxury of going directly to the source for online reporting, editorial and trends–style bloggers. Bloggers are valuable allies for building awareness of your product line and building gradual online sales from their features.
When working with bloggers, look for blogs in your target market that fit your target audience. If you’re looking for fashion bloggers, then conduct a simple Google or Twitter search to see who comes up. Ask your fellow designers which blogs they read, join IndependentFashionBloggers.Org to learn about the world of fashion bloggers, or you can also check Signature9.com’s top fashion bloggers to find bloggers that interest you. Some of my favorites are The-Coveted.com, GalaDarling.com, PRCouture.com, LoveMaegan.com, BleachBlack.com, Ecouterre.com and DesignSponge.com…the list goes on and on. Do your homework; there are bloggers in every market and niche. You can find plus-size bloggers, bloggers in Minneapolis, bloggers in Texas or street fashion photo bloggers with a simple BING search.
When you find a blogger you’d like to work with, respectfully contact him or her with why you like their work and what you’d propose to do with them (usually you’d provide product for him or her to review or use in photo shoots, or you could offer him or her some financial compensation for guest writing for your site).
If you choose to use certain bloggers to feature your product, you will need to anticipate a ton of contacts from other bloggers requesting to review your product or partner with you in another way, such as a giveaway. Weigh these requests carefully: not all bloggers that contact you will fit your brand’s goals. It’s okay to respectfully say no to certain requests. For information on blogger and brand relationships, IndependentFashionBloggers.org and FashionablyMarketing.Me have tons of information on building mutually beneficial relationships.
So go Fashionably Market your brand!
And, that brings us full circle. It’s amazing to see what has remained the same, what has changed and what has gotten even better over the course of two years. While the internet is ever-changing, one thing is certain–there are copious amounts of help and inspiration for small fashion designers and brands online! Remember, this article sets the groundwork for fashion marketing and PR. As a brand or retailer, you will evolve as your customers evolve. Be prepared to change your strategies every three to four months. Your online relationship with your customers is like a marriage–you’ve gotta continually find the spark!
Photo Courtesy Of Kanani on Sense Of Fashion.