Start-ups In The Fashion Industry: Why It Sometimes All Goes Awry?


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Photo Credits: Laura Callaghan


Here at Sample Room, we’re extremely fortunate to be a well-known supplier, educator and consulting business within the fashion industry. Our website and online presence is highly visible. Our phones ring constantly. And this is what we want. We’re a business, so we want customers. We are more than happy to work with new and emerging designers, because we’ve developed a proven method that assists newcomers with the education they need in order to be a success and not waste precious time and money. We see a lot of start-ups contact us to make enquiries about launching their brand. They are excited, and rightly so; they’ve produced fabulous designs, and they are chomping at the bit to get out there. They know what they’ve created is going to take off, it’s going to be the NEXT BIG THING. So, sometimes, sadly, we see their excitement prevents them from listening to expertise, the company with the industry knowledge, the know-how and the advice to help them.

Within the industry, what a lot of start-ups don’t realise is that there is a language, specific to the fashion industry. We can tell straight away if someone is attempting to bluff us with a few key words, to try to make themselves sound ‘legit’ to get through the gatekeeper. We are able to tell pretty much if they know what they are doing, and equally, if they don’t.

What we also know, is that sometimes, manufacturers and suppliers will invent reasons not to work with start-ups. We saw this very recently here at Sample Room, when a business owner told a newcomer that they didn’t have any availability to help them until 2018. We know that is most likely a furphy: the business owner picked up straight away that this new designer had no experience and put them off, knowing all the time and resources it would take to work with someone who’s green.

This may seem a little harsh, so I would like to explain why we have made this decision. It is hard to explain to someone who has not studied fashion or worked in the industry just how much information they need to know to successfully develop a range of clothes. Every person you speak to along the development and manufacturing process will ask you technical questions that only you can answer. So often we are asked for just a pattern and sample. It is not until you are in the thick of development, that you realise it is your responsibility to supply fabric and trims suitable to the style, explanations of price point and how you wish the garment to be finished. It is your responsibility to provide clear instructions on grading, markers and ratios, as well as many other questions in order to successfully reach your launch day. On the flip side the fashion industry is not a lucrative industry on the supplier side. We work to tight margins and only just manage to cover costs most weeks. It is true to say we do it because we love it. I can only dream about the charge out rates of lawyers and accountants. What this means is that we need to be super-efficient with our time and resources. We need to work with people who can supply the right information so we can get on with the job. Therefore, when a client says they want to learn as they go along, all a supplier hears is, you want to ask me a million questions and I have to make sure I ask a million questions and finding the answers is like pulling teeth. This is why if you don’t have the basic answers or language then a supplier can see the long hard road ahead. Business owners, fabric suppliers and manufacturers simply can’t afford to waste time and resources educating start-ups, and will either tell them, in no uncertain terms, to go away, or a kinder approach but still the same outcome, invent excuses or time and space constraints.

Again, quite recently, here at Sample Room we were working with a label where the two partners were at different ends of the spectrum within the industry: one with experience and one without.

Before commencing the project, we were very open with them, stipulating that we would only speak with the partner with the experience. This is not coming from a place of superiority or snobbery, but from a savvy-about- business perspective. By working with the partner who knew the industry, we knew that we would get the correct answer every time and everything would be smoother, quicker, and easier. And cost-saving – for their business and ours. However, during one fitting, the partner with no experience arrived, and simply wasn’t able to answer the questions that needed to be asked in order to get the project done. Sadly, we had to put this project on hold until the inexperienced partner got the required education. That partner didn’t want to go into our Fashion Label Launchpad program, and that means the project hasn’t gone ahead. And that means time and money has been wasted. Theirs and ours.

Would you like to test your knowledge to see where you are at? We have a one hour webinar to give you a whole heap of knowledge on what you need to know before you get started. It is a great litmus test in where you are on the scale from start-up to experienced designer. Take the test. I would love to have a chat with you after the webinar for a free fifteen minute chat to see where you are at.

If you are starting out, we have developed a program to help you on the way. It is called the Fashion Label Launchpad. It will give you all the support and information you need so that the industry loves you and cannot wait to work with you. We’d love to help.

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