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Starting a Fashion Business: A Mini Guide

By Thomasina R. Legend

Starting a fashion business is great, and it is wonderful to see the rise of many African fashion brands excelling and having a significant impact globally. Here are a few things to put into perspective when you decide to start your fashion brand.

Identifying a need: Before setting up your business/brand, do your research and identify a need in the market. What do you think the industry needs and is missing? Yes, brands are popping up every other day but what differentiates the successful brands from the rest is not only brand designs. They have found and understood what their client base needs and offer that. This is a method that you can implement to help you know your client base and what they need. Research is critical at this stage and will serve you very well in the long run.

Develop a business plan: Developing a business plan is very important at this stage because a business plan will help guide and direct your journey. Think of a business plan as the essential guide you need for your brand. It will help inform your goals as you map out exactly what you want to achieve with your brand. Ask yourself the important questions like what kind of brand do you want to create? Is it a brand name sold in Net-a-Porter, Nordstrom, Matches Fashion? Do you want to create a private label brand for companies like H&M, ASOS, Alara Lagos? Do you want to create a premium brand that's sold in boutique stores, own a brand with online stores that are easily accessible worldwide, or collaborate with the many amazing concept stores online like Industrie Africa? Writing your business plan helps you identify your goals and keep them at the forefront of your mind.

Identifying who you are marketing to – Your target audience: Whom you market to is just as important as the first point we have mentioned on identifying a need. Research is key. Know who your target audience is. Learn all there is to know about them, what they like, their age, educational background, where they work, where they like to go to relax, their interests, pleasures etc. Get to know whom you are marketing to, so you can understand their buying behaviour and needs. Your research should also enable you to consider the pros and cons of marketing to a certain type of demographic, for instance, are you marketing to Gen-Z, Millennial or older? The channels and mediums you will need to use to market to Gen-Z will be completely different from marketing to older demographics who are more comfortable shopping online direct to a website than social media platforms whilst the younger demographics are happy to buy through social media marketing have a limited budget.

Designing: As a designer, this is your space to shine and show the world what you have to offer. Understand how important your first collection is and put in the time, research, and creativity to set you apart from the rest. Do not rush your process; take your time and be patient with yourself. The first collection says a great deal about you as a designer, so it should be a collection that you are happy with using as a calling card as you move forward. As you create your collection, thinking cost-effectively and sustainably should be at the forefront of your mind.

Clothing Manufacturing: This is an area to really think and research because unless you are planning to source, cut and sew all your materials by yourself, which can be a tough task, it is vital to look into how you can source a cost-effective manufacturing partner. If you have the budget to source a manufacturing partner, then look into it. Research is key and after research, take the time to reach out to these partners to get to know them and how they work. If possible, make the trip to see them in person and see how they do things to make sure it aligns with your business goals and ethos. When thinking of manufacturing partners, consider looking outside of China, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, or Bangladesh. Look around in your home country and see if you can source locally as well.

Branding: It is important to choose a brand name, logo and market profile, which simply means selecting a business name, creating the logo for the business name and adding a slogan if you have one. Create and design a website with an e-commerce platform, examples of which are Shopify or Etsy. It is also important to remember that customers like a brand with a great story, so storytelling should be an asset when creating your brand.

Price Point: Choose a price point that will cover your production cost and not make your target customers run for the hills. Suppose you can do comprehensive research into identifying your target audience and understanding their needs. In that case, you will be able to know what price point will be suitable for that target market and at the same time cover your costs without putting you in any financial difficulty.

Marketing: Marketing your brand is essential, especially if you have done all the above and are ready to get your business the awareness it needs. Using social media platforms is a great entry point for marketing, and knowing your target audience will know which social platform to use. For example, Instagram and now TikTok are great platforms to market to both Gen –Z and Millennials. Look into ways you can market to your target audience cost-effectively.

Launch: Once you have done all you need to do and are ready, create a soft launch. Make noise about your brand. Don't let fear get in the way. Your brand needs all the awareness it can get. Do not go crazy, spending a lot on a soft launch. A soft launch can be creative and authentic, like telling your brand story through film and sharing that with press and fashion enthusiasts via email. If you have the budget to do a physical launch, do it, but be creative and let your brand story speak through from start to finish. The brands that are remembered are the ones that make an impact with their story. Look into how other fashion brands have excelled in this space and think about how you can also be impactful and thrive.

Image credit:

Designer: Fruche Official @fruche.official

Photography: Bolaji Odukoya

Creative Direction & Styling: Frank Aghuno

Set Installation/Art: Dricky Stickman

Makeup: Wuva Salvador Beauty

Model: @kharisAdama_ represented by @LitModelsNg


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