Fashion. It's something I've been passionate about for quite some time. I've gone on forums to read for countless hours about thread counts, suit quality, manufacturers and so forth. It's just something I really enjoy looking into.
My wardrobe reflects that as I take so much time researching what the best garments are within my budget and I wish I could have turned my passion into a business, but I wouldn't know where to start.
But there's been an ongoing trend that I've been seeing in the last decade. Prices have been rising while quality and workmanship have been decreasing.Startups in the fashion world are taking advantage of this heartbreaking trend.
Alejandro Chahin is the founder of Mott & Bow, a premium denim line at an affordable price with factories in his hometown of Honduras. When Alejandro was a child, he counted buttons in the family owned factory. As a teenager, he began to acquire the skills of how to source fabric and create hand washes. Later, he attended two Universities in America and holds degrees in Industrial and Operations Engineering and Business Administration.
Back in 2013, he had a dream to one day become an entrepreneur. He asked his parents for a loan and some help, then began putting together a business that has survived the last three years and is continuing to see growth. But how did he do it?
These are the 10 things that Alejandro did to successfully launch his brand and continually see growth:
1. Back your passion with education
After Alejandro showed that he found a passion for denim at such a young age, his family molded him to join their family business by sending him off to the schools where he could get an education. He didn't know exactly what he wanted to do with his passion for denim, he just knew that this had to be a part of his future.
2. Seek out your opportunity
While in the United States, Alejandro noticed that the denim market was lacking something. There were no brands that were offering great quality premium denim at a fair price. He thought he could fill the market and decided to create the brand Mott & Bow, but he didn't just hop straight into the decision.
3. Hone in on your problem
As a male, Alejandro understood the difficulties when it came to shopping for jeans. Since he was able to feel all the difficulties of buying jeans from his personal experience, he was able to relate to his target consumer. By understanding these things, he felt he could give his target consumers exactly what they wanted.
4. Study your industry
Before Alejandro dived into his project, he thoroughly researched the industry. He studied every fabric, fit, wash and color. He looked at messaging and positioning to understand what would resonate with his target demographic. It helped that he grew up in the family business as well so he had a lot of insider knowledge within the denim industry that many others wouldn't have easy access to.
5. Create high quality product
I understand the importance of mills due to my obsession with suits, but I had limited experience when it came to denim mills. From my understanding of denim, brands like 7, True Religion and Lucky all source from the same mill in downtown Los Angeles. Alejandro confirmed that. I asked him why he sourced his material from Italy and Turkey instead of using fabric from America like the other brands. He told me he didn't want to sacrifice the quality of product for his customers and was willing to pay a premium tariff to ensure they get the best. One the most important factors in premium jean making is the denim you source and begin the process with. Turkey and Italy have amazing denim, and specifically Orta Anadolu and Candiani mills, are two of the best mills in the world. They decided to source from them because it wasn't possible to find that denim quality fabric here in America.
6. Differentiate yourself
Alejandro's intention was to start selling his clothing through an e-commerce store with a home try on system, so guys wouldn't have to end up in the mall. But that didn't differentiate himself from the market. What differentiates Mott & Bow from other companies is the fact that they were able to offer a high quality product at an affordable price. I asked him how he was able to do this, especially since designer fashion brands like Ferragamo continue to raise their prices each year, while the quality of their product continues to get worse.
Alejandro explained the flaws within the retail model. The retailer, if they can't unload all the product, tries to get the brand to buy it back. The brand doesn't, but the retailer wants to mitigate the loss, so they ask for a discount on the next order. Next thing you know, the margins within the product start to disappear, so brands need to raise prices and cut costs at every corner. This is how you end up with really expensive products that have poor quality and workmanship.
Since this was a key point for me, I wanted to know how Alejandro was going to not fall victim to the same problem. His solution is to completely avoid the retail model, no matter how much he is offered. If Nordstrom came to him with an order for 100,000 units, he would turn them down. He says that he's staying true to his word and will never move to the retail model because he believes the consumer needs the highest quality product at the end. I'm holding him to that decision with this article.
7. Start small
Before launching into the women's market this year, Alejandro started out with a menswear line. Although he knew that most men dislike shopping, there are less trends in menswear and he could start with straightforward styles, so he wouldn't have to carry a huge overhead.
8. Be creative
Mott & Bow never planned to be on Kickstarter, but the website Alejandro's team was working on was behind schedule by a month. His apartment was filling up with jeans and he was losing money. He was in a bind and needed to get his inventory moved as quickly as possible. Thinking of a viable solution to his inventory problem, he decided to look into Kickstarter.
Before Alejandro launched his Kickstarter, he had to do some research to make sure the platform was a fit. As a tech fashion company with a direct to consumer business model, it fit into the ideal type of companies that get funded. He looked at messaging and positioning to understand what would appeal to his target demographic. But he didn't have a lot of time to prepared. Regardless, he surpassed his goal and almost raised $30,000, proving concept for his brand, getting the product into the hands of his supporters and unloading the inventory that was piling up in his apartment.
10. Reflect upon ways to improve
Alejandro was excited that he surpassed his goal for his Kickstarter, but he felt like it was a missed opportunity. He went with the platform because he was in panic mode. It wasn't a strategy he had a lot of time to really prepare for. If he had prepared properly, he feels there could have been a bigger push for the brand in the very beginning. He looks at his entire business with these kinds of thoughts and looks for opportunities to improve at every corner.
Now Alejandro's business is increasing steadily and he looks forward to helping more people experience the quality of his product. Do you know of anyone else who has turned a childhood passion into a successful business? I'd love to hear more! Comment below.