As a creative who spends a lot of time with business types, I hear all too often that creatives, fashion designers in particular, are right-brained individuals who are not naturally good at business. This naive and superficial observation needs to be debunked. Ultimately, hustle, drive, and creativity - the highest form of intelligence - are the major determinants of success. Fashion designers and creatives aren't scared of business, they just, until recently, didn't have tech products and service providers building the necessary tools to help them efficiently launch and grow successful brands.
Along with creating, fashion designers must have a plan to promote, sell, produce, and scale. TV programs like Project Runway have done a terrific job showing the determination, relentless passion, and sleepless nights behind the glamorous facade of being a fashion designer. The side that Project Runway does not show is the less sexy business, manufacturing, and marketing piece. In reality, this is where independent designers should spend most of their time. The problem is that until recently managing each of these pieces was a full-time job. However, with new tools and strategies for the digital age, designers can bootstrap in the same way that tech startups have been doing for the past decade. I call this 'Stiletto Strapping'. Here are some tips for doing so:
1. Use the Right Tech
For example Nineteenth Amendment gives designers a production management system, a network of vetted partnered US manufacturers, a marketing curriculum, a visual consumer data dashboard, and an online platform to sell their designs without having to hold inventory. Model Mayhem connects designers and independent models with minimum or no fees. Joor connects designers directly with retail buyers with low amounts of friction. And Modalyst automates drop shipping between brands and retailers. Through these technologies designers are able to access a greater pool of talent and resources quickly and at low or no cost. These new approaches to a traditional business ultimately give creatives a way to run lean in a digital age.
2. Get Great Press Without The Pricetag
By using tech to automate and authenticate outreach
One of the most desired ways of getting a fashion brand known is through a great write up in a widely read publication. However, a multi-thousand dollar monthly PR retainer isn't in everyone's budget and I'm a strong believer in stiletto-strapping (we do our own press outreach at Nineteenth Amendment!). Securing great press is all about creating strong relationships that evolve around great and constant content. Luckily, technology makes relationship building faster, efficient, and more authentic...if done correctly! Set up Google Alerts for topics that are relative to your brand (i.e. sustainable fashion, independent designers etc.) and identify the editors who may find interest in your brand based off of their current work. Once content creators are identified, brands should connect with them in a visually engaging way. Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and in some cases Facebook are all fair game for authentic outreach and by going the social platform route of outreach brands can give creators a quick glimpse of their branding (so make sure it's strong!). Create custom schedules of outreach by using alerts in Google Calendar and setting auto reminders with plugins like MixMax to keep creators abreast of happenings with your brand!
3. Reduce Risk by Reducing Inventory
Creativity isn't just an asset in the design field, it's also an asset when it comes to business model innovation! There are more ways to sell than the traditional retail model of showing a collection on the runway six months before garments are available for purchase and then manufacturing and paying for inventory before shoppers purchase. There's a new landscape for retail gaining momentum with the exponential growth of ecommerce. Thanks to early platforms like Kickstarter, and Etsy, shoppers are accustomed to waiting for their product to be produced after they place an order. This pre-tail model is one we encourage brands on Nineteenth Amendment to use as either a testing mechanism for making data driven decisions around wholesale orders, or as the main mechanism (and almost risk-free way) of selling! Dynamic pricing, customization, and collection relaunches are all retailing options brands can utilize which were once not permitted in the traditional retail world.
Technology democratizes and when placed in the hands of creatives it becomes another tool with which to create new approaches to traditional practices, in business and beyond.
About the Author
Amanda Curtis is the founder and CEO of Nineteenth Amendment. As a fashion designer she went from New York Fashion week designing for Richie Rich, DVF, and A-list celebrities to bringing a solo designed collection all the way at London Fashion Week in her first season. Nineteenth Amendment is the result of the collision of the fashion and tech worlds; a platform & business model that gives brands a smart way break into the fashion industry with the least amount of time, effort, and money (what she calls Stiletto-Strapping), while growing domestic manufacturing and bringing amazing, undiscovered fashion from the runway to closets of fashion lovers. This 'fashion-as-experience' has led to partnerships with over 900 fashion brands across 29 countries, and global companies like Disney, Macy's, Microsoft, and Dell. Amanda is Forbes' 30 Under 30 2016 for Retail & E-commerce, and Apparel Magazine's 30 Under 30 2016.