I know a lot of men think that being a fashion designer is something that is more in the realm of feminine mystique. Understandably, a lot of very creative men deny themselves the opportunity to exploit this side of their masculinity. Establishing a successful fashion design start-up is not just for the feminine, it is for the masculine side of society as well. Are you still skeptical? Well then hear me out.

I know this because I have been in the fabric branding business for more than 11 years and I’ve had the opportunity to interact with many hundreds of fashion designers from all walks of life. And no, you don’t have to be a diva to succeed in this industry you need to have very strong business acumen. Let me explain why.

Understand that becoming a successful fashion designer is not what it used to be. This is a much more competitive world, and the fashion industry, and in general has become much more cutthroat in recent years. Baby, it is all about marketing. Sure, talent is awesome, but so is the conundrum of many artists. If you can’t get out there and hustle to the public, your brilliant creations are going nowhere, period.

So, how to become a fashion designer?

It might help to enroll in some sort of program, but in my opinion, this may lead to a boatload of student debt and years of wasted time. This is especially true in academia. Unless you are guaranteed top-flight contacts in the industry, don’t bother. Instead, take a few online technical courses instead of the technical basics, or better yet, a mentor with your local tailor.

However,  I am assuming at this point that you already have your designs in mind and that you’ve already developed some sort of minimal technical acumen in the field of designing clothes and accessories. Often times, you’re born with this passion.

Understand that you’re going to have to make some hefty investments, as this is not exactly a super-cheap enterprise to get into. However, there are methods of being prudent that you can employ.

If you plan on making just very limited scale production with a high price at the end, then it’s best to either sew the pieces yourself or to outsource it to local tailors. It is imperative that you shop around, as prices can vary wildly. However, if your idea requires scaling, first try to find sewing houses domestically. The closer you can keep it the home, the better. However, it might be worthwhile to outsource it from a low-cost country if you plan on doing manufacturing in volume. You have got to be careful doing this, as the potential to get screwed and lose a ton of money is great.

I cannot stress the importance of controlling costs at the production end. There are a lot of extremely talented people with promising enterprises that go under because of cost overruns. Be very careful of overhead, but be sure as hell not to skimp on quality, especially if you plan on selling the final product at a premium price.

So let’s get back to my original point. Marketing and sales. You have got to have a solid strategy from the get-go. Let me explain a few things that can be done. Needless to say, You must develop a solid online presence. The more that you learn about digital marketing and search engine optimization, the better. If you are needing help in this arena, you best be giving me a call as soon as possible. Your best bet is to first establish a solid Facebook and Instagram presence, as these venues are very visual. For instance, with Facebook you can establish a compelling business page, which can be put together in a few hours. You can then share this will all of your friends, and if you can afford it, pay for extra exposure. I want you to be extra careful here; this and Google Adwords can get VERY expensive and will drain your marketing budget really fast. You have got to establish other ways to hustle traffic that are cheaper, at least in the beginning.

Roxwell Waterhouse Tips

Mary Wingo is the founder and owner of Roxwell Waterhouse, a premier fabric branding, clothing outsourcing, and marketing consultant for since 2009. One of her top tips is you can set up some very attractive websites using WordPress, making sure to add here to all the proper rules of copy-writing and user experience layout, including value propositions and calls to action. You’ve got to get good models or props for your clothing or accessories. You have to pay special attention to lighting and presentation of your photography. Again, this is more technique than an expense.

Additionally, you must then do search engine optimization in order to get free search engine traffic, mainly from Google. I might go into further depth in another article with this, but needless to say, this will probably be one of the biggest avenues of creating low-cost traffic to your website.


How To Make Money?

This brings us to another issue, do you plan to sell business-to-business or straight to the consumer? If you can work with thinner margins, then you can really get exposure and a lot of business getting in good with purchase managers of large department stores. Of course, there are many pitfalls here. Number one, the current bankruptcy atmosphere is very high in retail right now. You have to understand that a lot of these places do not do the payment on demand, and you may have to wait anywhere from 60 to 120 days to get paid for your invoice. So that means that you have to float your expenses for a number of months. Of course, you can get extremely expensive loans, called factorization financing on your outstanding invoices, but a lot of times these come at a very hefty cost. It might be best to wait for this step until you are better established.

If you are a small outfit and you don’t want to lose your tail, it might be best to just go door-to-door with various Mom-and-Pop boutique outlets. A lot of times, these places just buy a few original pieces at a time at a very high premium. These outlets are often very high in customer service, with high-cost retail,  and low volume. Chances are, you can get paid right then for product delivery. You have to be a strong salesman when you are doing this. You can employ this method as well as selling B2C online.

Now, I’m going to bring up something that’s probably going to get me into hot water with a lot of people. I want you to be very careful about doing trade shows. Another top tip by Mary from Roxwell Waterhouse is.

I understand that in the past, trade shows were mainstays of getting your product discovered with suppliers. However, from personal experience, many talented designers lose many thousands of dollars going this route. I’m not saying that this is an absolute, I’m just saying that in many cases, doing direct outreach will be much more effective, and a lot cheaper.

Anyway, if you are needing any type of fabric branding labels, consultation for digital marketing, and just overall business strategy, I want you to reach out to me before you start spending a huge amount of money and time on your vision. I care about my clients deeply, and in this highly ultra-competitive environment, I want them (and you) to succeed.