Expert Advice For The Emerging Fashion Designer
Filed under: Fashion
October 27, 2016
Emerging designers are meeting the industry in the midst of a monumental shift. Developments in technology have democratized New York Fashion Week, where designers traditionally debut collections six months before they become available to consumers. But now, as a global audience tunes in to the live-stream, exclusivity and anticipation has dissipated. We want to order the hottest styles straight off the runway. Why? Because they’re trending now.
Consider showing in-season collections
It’s a pressure that many top designers can’t resist. Young consumers adopt new styles rapidly and are fatigued by trends sooner. Fast-fashion houses are taking notes.
“What’s happening now is that retailers like H&M are pivoting on a dime, watching those designs on the runway, and scooping them up before the designer even has a chance to sell it,” says R. Scott French, creative director of The Bromley Group, a leading fashion and PR agency. “The ability to control that design message is lost.”
In response, many top designers, like Tom Ford and Rebecca Minkoff, have introduced straight-to-buy, in-season collections, which are available to consumers immediately after the show.
The emerging designer must then consider showing in-season, too, says Mai Vu, Department Chair of Fashion Design at The Art Institute of New York City. “If you’re gong to spend all this money to produce the show, you might as well get an immediate return on the investment.”
Get a business partner
As the environment becomes increasingly competitive, it’s important that young designers lean into their strengths and establish partnerships to fortify weaknesses. It’s not all spark and passion—a large part of success is crunching the numbers.
“90% of it is logistic—sourcing fabric, the bank account, the website, emails, factories. All the amazing design houses that we know have a dichotomy of the business side and the design side,” says R. Scott French. “If you’re lucky enough to find that partnership, it’s a much better chance of survival for you. I can’t think of a single designer who did it completely on their own.”
Invest in e-commerce & PR
In the digital age, a functional website equipped with e-commerce is integral to executing straight-to-buy and marketing campaigns. This is a significant but critical expense for young entrepreneurs.
“In the new world order, taking orders, processing credit cards, and 24/7-customer service—it’s not as easy,” says R. Scott French. “I think the money to digitally exist is an expense most students don’t understand.”
Behind every successful design house, too, is a strategic public relations team pulling the right strings. Without that investment, a fashion show will flop, says Mai Vu. “It’s one thing to do an event and another thing to get people to come and talk about it. It’s two-fold.”
Have a purpose
Running a fashion label is not all glamorous. It takes a lot of capital and resources to penetrate the market. Where do you start?
With a unique perspective and an original idea, says R. Scott French.
“There’s no need for another pretty dress. Who cares about one more pretty dress? You have to have a reason to exist beyond being pretty. You’re not going to compete with Michael Kors. Hone in on your point of view and you will stand out. You get in the door for being different, and then you can make the pretty stuff. Because, then, you have name.”
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R. Scott French (@rscottfrench) is no stranger to the fashion industry, having shown his namesake men’s & women’s designer sportswear collection for 7 seasons under the iconic tents in Bryant Park during NY Fashion Week. Prior, he co-founded & built “French Jenny”, a designer lingerie brand that was sold in over 1,000 stores on 3 continents, as well as American Chang, a young men’s tailored collection that was seen as a regular presence on the red carpet on names like Akon, Sean Paul, Alan Cumming, Matthew Morrison & countless others. His diverse skills range from design and retail to manufacturing and marketing. His work has appeared in numerous books and media websites. Currently, French serves as the Creative Director of The Bromley Group, a leading fashion & lifestyle public relations, event production, and social media agency. He is the Co-Founder and editor of TheFashionList.com helping to unite fashion professionals with event organizers enabling them to interact directly with each other globally. French holds a Masters Degree in Journalism & Public Relations, serves as a regular lecturer at Parsons School of Design, and is a standing member of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA).
Mai Vu is a fashion industry professional having worked in the archives of Fairchild Publications and Ralph Lauren before launching her own company, Bishop Collective, a retail collaborative providing American manufactured apparel and accessories. She has also been a marketing consultant to several fashion and non-profit brands and has experience in styling and digital media. Mai has a BFA in Fabric Styling and is completing an MA in Fashion and Textile Studies: History, Theory, Museum Practice from FIT. She is also the Department Chair of Fashion Design at The Art Institute of New York City and lectures at Kent State University's NYC Fashion Studio. In addition to working with students, Mai has presented independent research at Drexel and Harvard University and was a contributor to the Oxford Art Online for entries on Issey Miyake, Zandra Rhodes, Charles James and Viktor & Rolf.
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