Figuring Out Your Fashion Brand’s DNA, Part 2: Fashion Marketing And More

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This is part two of a two-part series on starting and running your fashion business. We begin with branding and logistics. 

Up until now in Part 1, we’ve discussed two elements- components that make up a fashion brand, and ways to find and source the right material. In the second half of this series, our focus shifts ever so slightly to the business model and deciding on a marketing strategy.

The retail landscape today is very different from what the norm was even a decade ago. In early 2010, omnichannel retail as a concept was whispered in close quarters and often left alone as something for the big players. Today, every retailer, at some point in the business journey, explores an omnichannel strategy. Online sales channels are very different from offline selling in that orders need to be shipped, delivered, and the returns processed.

These aspects also bring in choices in fashion marketing such as which channels to advertise on, what promotions to run and how to get maximum traction for the business. As with branding, a fashion business coach can help you look into everything from inventory and sourcing to sales and beyond. Having such a support system can help cut unnecessary costs from your business and set you up for success.

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Let’s discuss a few more aspects of selling through your fashion brand.

  1. The Channel Choice: This one is by far the toughest choice you’ll make. Whichever channel you choose, you’ll be losing out on the other in the beginning. Over time, you will want to try out all channels such as online and offline sales media as well as features like the Facebook shop to increase the chances of making a sale.

That said, for someone starting out today, the scales tip slightly in favor of online selling. With this method, you do not have to spend upfront on store design, day to day operations and bringing in customers. You can, instead, stock up at a warehouse, set up a web store and reach out to a much wider audience. That said, online selling also presents a few challenges such as getting pictures and descriptions absolutely right, as well as the consideration of whether people will buy online from a relatively new apparel brand.

Think about your specific product category and which audience type it appeals most to. Base your channel decision on their most preferred way of shopping. Also, this is only a choice of launch. Over time as revenues go up, you can expand to as many other channels as you’d like.

  1. Cashflow Considerations: For every retail business, good cash flow is a lifeline that helps keep the business running. When you have enough operational cash, you can make sound decisions on sourcing and inventory handling that are not dependent upon a cash crunch.How, then, do you keep cashflow under control? By managing inventory well! For many fashion brands today, marketing spend is not optional. You need to spend on advertising to get more visibility. Quality of the product, on the other hand, is not up for debate. So, the only way for you to save your working capital is to handle inventory better.Many fashion retailers today use ERP systems to manage their inventory right from the very beginning. Apparel and accessories sell in good volumes which is why it is better to leave the inventory management to systems built to achieve just that.

    Beyond that, accurate financial reporting, and accounting is a business best practice and it also helps you make better business decisions. Hire a qualified accountant to do the job for you and ensure that books and actual values are in line from time to time.

  2. The Digital Strategy: Fashion marketing is all about making repeat impressions that eventually lead to a conversion. We have surely noticed how when we browse a product online, similar suggestions keep cropping up for a while. That’s just good digital marketing, at the end of the day. This is also why advertising usually pays off in this domain. When someone browses for apparel, and they are shown similar ads from other brands, they are far more likely to want to click on the ad and browse.

You can always focus your digital strategy around the Cost Per Conversion metric, which essentially means that you will pay the platform a price for every conversion that happens through them.

However, paid marketing isn’t the only sales avenue there is. The ultimate goal of any digital strategy is to move to organic reach. Customers should be able to find you with a simple search term, should already follow you on social media and should open most of your product emails, if not all. To get to that point, marketers use a mix of paid advertising and organic content to market your products better.

As part of this process, you will also work on one aspect of content marketing known as content strategy. As with all planning processes, hiring an expert is your best shot at getting optimum results. You need to think through aspects such as the type of content to produce, the frequency of publication and distribution, which posts to promote through paid ads, etc. An expert can also help you track your site analytics and suggest if any changes need to be made to improve conversion.

  1. Beyond Digital: While digital marketing is an essential part of sales decisions today, it isn’t the only way to market your brand. If you have an offline store, you need to find ways to bring people from their online accounts to your offline store as well. Moreover, if you sell online exclusively, you still need to find ways to engage offline- through city-based events, pop-ups, and workshops that your audience is likely to enjoy.

Usually, these decisions are very specific to the business. This is why a startup fashion expert is brought into the picture to help you get maximum returns on your marketing investment.

Virtual design team for handling creative fashion design projects

  1. Launch Planning: A brand’s launch is a memorable experience for everyone who has been working on it for long. It is the first opportunity we get to put the brand out there and see what people think. By all means, the launch should be turned into a big event. We recommend using social media to generate interest well in advance with countdown timers, early bird promotions and the like. Also, get a checklist ready before launch to account for aspects such as the website’s stability, measuring and gathering data about the number of people tuned in for the launch, having a live customer service team, ensuring all operations are in place and so on. In the offline context, this would also include decking up your store, ensuring that all POS terminals are operational, provision of refreshments, etc.  
  1. Influencer Marketing: Today, wherever you look, there are fashion influencers. Some of them command a huge number of followers and their opinions are often taken very seriously. Such influencers know what they are worth and therefore, they do not come cheap. However, if you can afford them, there is value in getting them to endorse your new fashion brand.Influencers who work professionally often offer statistics on their outreach, the number of posts they will publish, and the results you can expect from the effort. Calculate the result of an influencer campaign after each new post is published, and then once the entire effort is complete.Remember, the influencer market is also reasonably crowded. Unless they have an engaged following, influencers may not quite be able to get you the results you want. Proceed with caution, ask for past campaign statistics and never be afraid to negotiate on your terms.

Up until now, we have covered all aspects of launching a new fashion business that we could think of. What other aspects would you like to hear from us on? Share your ideas with us in the comments below.

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Supriya Ghurye is the founder and owner of Fuel4Fashion. She is a Freelance Fashion Designer and Brand Consultant helping fashion brands to create great products from idea to launch. Fuel4Fashion social links:  TwitterPinterestInstagram


 

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Figuring Out Your Fashion Brand’s DNA, Part 1: The Building Blocks That Makeup Who You Are

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There’s a tiny bit of a difference between being in the creative domain and turning that into a business. The moment you begin thinking of your fashion design studio as a place where supply chains come to life, there are several aspects to look at beyond doing just the creative work.

Where should I source my suppliers and manufacturers from?

How can I build a memorable brand?

How can I ensure that an entire team stays on track with the brand’s vision?

How do I bring internal and external stakeholders such as brand consultants, design experts, and marketing managers to the same table?

There is no correct or wrong way to do this, and many creative professionals become entrepreneurs quite naturally. However, it always helps to have a few milestones along the way so you can measure progress and know what’s next on the agenda. With that in mind, this article is designed to help you come up with the components that will eventually make up your fashion brand.

Fashion branding is a whole different ballgame, and traditional branding principles often need to be reconsidered to get them just right. This is because fashion as an industry is full of thriving and new brands- there is almost no scope for securing the first-mover advantage in such a scenario. Plus, fashion trends come and go, and brands striving for consistency often struggle to match market expectations with the brand’s original story, thus losing their way. A brand consultant who has worked extensively in fashion retail is often your best bet for someone on your team who will give you sound, actionable advice. Once they are on board, here are a few things you might want to discuss. Fashion Brand Consultant helping fashion brands to create fashion brand's DNA and Brand identity1. The Brand Story: While many people make the mistake of assuming that a story is born of the product, the exact opposite is actually true. Every product makes its way into the market to solve a problem or address a need. Branding workshops and exercises are dedicated to finding this story- the values, pillars, and principles that make up every single company. Often, brand values often match those held by the founders. In a niche that changes as fast as fashion, it is worth separating the brand purpose from the founder’s vision. This way, the entity is more flexible to market forces.

It is difficult to adjust and evaluate culture as you go along, so the first step in setting up a brand identity should always be to figure out what it stands for. This way, communication to all stakeholders is clear and compelling even several years down the line.

2. Brand Collaterals: Usually, the work of a brand consultant is clearly cut out. Not only do they develop the story, but they also think through visuals and elements that will likely make the brand stand out. The logo is one aspect of this. It is important that your brand consultant be the one to work on these elements as well to avoid getting lost in communication.

For instance, some people choose to go with a new designer once the brand story is created. However, this approach often fails because the new designer does not have access to the same kind of information, or insight, as the person who first figured out the story. Hence, always retain all work with one expert and their team.

Brand collaterals themselves can include a huge list of things- signage, visual communication in a store, letterheads, stamps, visiting cards, stationery beyond the usual, digital presence, brand guidelines and a style guide, the type and fonts to be used, packaging material, garment labels, etc. Beyond this, you will also have standard requirements such as the size chart you follow, accurate garment care information, etc. Consider which of these adapts you need and which ones you can do away with for now. Focus only on those elements that you need in the next year or so, so as to keep costs to a minimum.june-27-2019-_-sat-_-4pm-onwards-e1550473660947.jpg3. The Market: At the end of the day, you are selling to the world outside. The intent behind the branding exercise so far is to help you connect with this audience. Therefore, identifying who your customers are is an essential part of the process.

For fashion brands, consumer personas are a lifesaver because they accurately tell you whom you need to target and who you can avoid. For example, Forever 21 is a brand that is clearly aimed at the young shopper. Everything from their name to the store layout and sizing makes this clear. As a new brand, you may be unwilling to take the risk of alienating some prospects. However, doing the consumer persona exercise will tell you if your approach is foolproof or has flaws in it.

Like branding, a consumer persona exercise is best done in the company of an expert brand and marketing consultant. Today, there is both the scope and the need to go beyond the demographic data and look at psychographics- the thought attributes that influence buying behavior. This is particularly relevant in the case of fashion brands that have more than one collection aimed at different target markets.

The source of such information can be anything from market research, surveys and a soft launch to studying competitors and their traffic patterns to identify an overlap.

4. The Suppliers: For any design to translate into reality, you need suppliers and manufacturers. From the base material to the embellishments and until someone to put it together, it is your vision that needs to come through clearly.

On the supplier end, the networks are often very strong. Most supplier businesses work through recommendations and word-of-mouth marketing. They may have a basic presence on the internet but that may not always be accurate.

One way to find manufacturers and suppliers is to use listing directories like Yellow Pages, Merchant Circle, Yelp, Justdial and the like. Cold call them, meet them and see if their levels of efficiency match your vision. A better way is to ask friends in the industry for vendors they trust.

When evaluating someone for fabric sourcing, always ask where they get their material from and cross-verify this information. Ensure that you ask for customer references and speak to these people, so you know what to expect in the areas of delivery, timelines and quality. Think through the option of bringing a startup fashion expert on board to help provide such recommendations and to tell you what other aspects you’d need to negotiate on.  

5. The Sales Channel: The moment you think of setting up a fashion business, you probably already have an idea of which sales channel(s) you would like to utilize. In any case, once all of the other blocks are in place, spend the time to evaluate that choice.

Particularly, are your customers more likely to buy in-store or online? Would they prefer, instead, to browse in a physical location and then buy online? Such questions help you decide if you need to open more stores/ sales channels than you had initially planned for. It is always better to do it right the very first time.

In the second part of this article, we plunge right into marketing, and accounting best practices. In the meantime, what other advice do you think you’d need before starting a fashion brand? Tell us in the comments so we can address these issues.

Don’t forget to sign-up for our newsletter that brings all that’s fashion design and more, right to you!


Supriya Ghurye is the founder and owner of Fuel4Fashion. She is a Freelance Fashion Designer and Brand Consultant helping fashion brands to create great products from idea to launch. Fuel4Fashion social links:  TwitterPinterestInstagram


 

 

The New Colour On The Block: Decoding Living Coral For Everyday Application

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When in doubt, always be childlike.

That statement sums up our collective need to get away from the complicated and embrace life’s little joys. And what better color to sum that feeling up than Living Coral? Pantone’s color of the year for 2019 is remarkable as it is mellow, and it makes a statement because of its simplicity.

Indeed, there’s never been a better time than now to think about all the coral reefs that we’re collectively bleaching, because we simply cannot seem to stop polluting our seas.

The connotations and interpretations aside, Leatrice Eiseman, Pantone Color Institute’s vice president has this to say, “It is a color we see in nature, lying at the center of our naturally vivid and chromatic ecosystem.” You’ve heard it from the color experts!

The minute we saw the color on our screens, the first thought that came to us was Fjallraven. After all, who can make the world’s most desirable schoolbags except for a Swedish company with a psychedelic color streak? And luckily for us, they don’t disappoint- the Kanken bags are now available in Living Coral for anyone looking to add to their bag collection.

Bringing Home The Living Coral

 When you compare it with last year’s ultraviolet, Living Coral is a quiet, well-behaved sibling. We live in an era of being bombarded with information, and we want nothing more than a #throwback to the earlier times when gadgets were non-existent, as was the concept of a voice assistant or AR powered dressing rooms.

Pantone color of the year 2019 Living Coral 16-1546

Maybe that’s precisely why so many different industries are taking to the color like never before! Surely, one would think twice about painting their walls a vivid purple, but a mild orange? That could definitely go on a concept wall.

From a fashion design perspective, Living Coral has the distinct advantage of being adaptable across several different textiles and forms. It adapts as beautifully to upholstery as it does to light chiffon, making it our favorite color for the year.

In clothing and accessories, the color has definite advantages- it makes for excellent shoes as well as outerwear. A Living Coral jacket is just what one needs to keep the coming winter’s blues away (Winter Is Coming, again and again). We’re also looking at Living Coral jackets that are sure to appeal even to people who traditionally prefer the blacks and the blues. It is just one of those shades that everyone loves to look at!

Not just clothing, even makeup has found a place for living coral. Nail enamel is the obvious choice, but creative makeup artists have also figured out uses for it as eye makeup and even lipstick.

Here at Fuel4Fashion, we’re all about adaptations. The color lends itself exceptionally well to some of this year’s most significant trends- streetwear, urban prairie, and even the not-so-obvious plaid trend. Plaids in Living Coral? A big ‘yes’ from us.

A New Color Trend Is Born 

If we told you that every fashion trend is born about four years before it becomes mainstream, would you believe us? Yet, that’s precisely how it works! The Color Council in Paris is where every new color trend begins. What’s more, each color trend is a compilation of colors across the spectrum and never just one shade.

Yarn manufacturers then take over and create samples that fashion houses pick up and showcase on the runway. That’s when these colours and patterns come to the notice of fashion editors, who popularize them further. From the runway, the colors are picked up by other fashion labels and marketed under the specific trend label.

By the time Pantone picks the Color Of The Year, the trends around it have been spinning around for a while. However, Pantone’s declaration is almost like validation, because it brings the color into mainstream use.

Thanks to a connected world, today, everyone has enough information about the products they are interested in. (Well, how else did we pick up on the Fjallraven bag?) This, coupled with trends reports, often sets the stage for wider adaptation.  This is a bit like seeing trends on Pinterest and soon finding them in every outlet you visit. The people regulate the popularity of a trend.

And thus, a trend is born.

In what ways are you adapting Living Coral into your collections? Have you spotted some unusual and exciting adaptations on the internet? Share with us in the comments.


Supriya Ghurye is the founder and owner of Fuel4Fashion. She is a Freelance Fashion Designer and Brand Consultant helping fashion brands to create great products from idea to launch. Fuel4Fashion social links:  TwitterPinterestInstagram


 

 

A Circle Of Colors: How The Pantone Color Of The Year Trend Started

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Some trends are such path-breaking ones that it can often seem like they are traditions. When we think of Pantone’s Color Of The Year, we often assume that it has just been around forever, maybe even since before the world wars.

However, Pantone has only been declaring the Color Of The Year for about twenty odd years now. However, we can track trends from further back- fifty years to be precise since the time Pantone was started.

Yes, the defining authority of color is only about fifty years old!

Interesting, isn’t it? Here’s a brief history of Pantone, trends over time, and how cyclical patterns help expand the seven colors of the rainbow into a plethora of hues and shades.

A Brief History Of Pantone’s COTY  

It all started with Cerulean in the year 2000. The very first Color Of The Year made as much of a splash as the very first one can be expected to make. However, what held Pantone in good stead on the years since is the fact that they comb every trend, every medium and every significant event in the year gone by to predict a color that best represents the future.

If you think this is abstract, think again. Since the times of early theatre, the use of color in costumes has been a way to represent a range of emotions. Red for anger, blue for sadness- we all remember these things!

So, it is not really a surprise that the current socioeconomic mood dictates what color we go after. What’s truly remarkable is the process itself.

The first step, of course, is observing what is already being picked up. People are the early indicators of trends shaping up. Then, color experts look at trends across industries and consumer products, evaluating everything from lipsticks and bags to cars and wall paints. Lastly, there’s the process of defining the shades and applications.

Indeed, it also helps that Pantone is an authority on the subject, so the fashion industry follows suit, and we begin to see these colors both on and off the runway.

A Cyclical Affair  

Perhaps because trends are wont to reappear, or maybe because we only have so many colors at the end of the day, we often notice patterns over time in how the colors make a comeback albeit in different shades. In 2000, the world was upbeat and the new millennium had just dawned- and Cerulean Blue represented hope and ‘looking up into the sky.’

However, come 2002, and the world had not recovered from the shock of the 9/11 attacks, thus giving way to True Red, the color of compassion and love.

But in 2003, blue was back again as Aqua Sky- a reflection of contemplation and serenity. This also inched closer to the very first COTY by several degrees. We see this trend continuing in 2005 with Blue Turquoise and again in 2008 with Blue Iris. That the preceding years were often marked by significant transformations is no coincidence- 2002 marked the beginning of the US war on Afghanistan, while 2007 was the year when having the first African American President became a possibility. In other words, blue is the color of calm and balance in a changing world.

We see this with other Pantone colors over the year as well.

Shades of orange and brown have often been chosen as statement-makers, and this year’s living coral is a great example of understated exuberance if such a thing can even be said to exist. Before Living Coral came Marsala in 2015, and Tangerine Tango in 2012. We’re really curious about the last one though- was Tangerine Tango supposed to be the last hurrah before the world was supposed to end. (Yes, that does seem like a long time ago, doesn’t it? Instead of the world’s end, what we got was a doomsday prophecy and a lousy movie, but we digress.) Colors on the orange spectrum often represent earthiness with a hint of OTT. Warm, welcoming, assertive- everything that today’s millennial is striving, sometimes struggling to be.

Pantone COTY from the year 2000 with Cerulean to Living Coral 2019

In the next article in this series, we’ll be talking about Living Coral and what it means in fashion. But before that, what is your favorite Pantone COTY? Tell us in the comments!

Supriya Ghurye is the founder and owner of Fuel4Fashion. She is a Freelance Fashion Designer and Brand Consultant helping fashion brands to create great products from idea to launch. Fuel4Fashion social links:  TwitterPinterestInstagram


 

Wearing Your Technology On Your Sleeve: The Wearable Tech Trends That Are Driving Fashion

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The Internet of Things runs on one core principle- everything that can be connected must be connected. While the ethical concerns of such tech innovation are hotly debatable, let us shift our focus to the practical considerations and use of technology in wearable fashion.

Back in 2015, when wearable clothing made an appearance on the scene, it didn’t quite take off. This can be partly attributed to peoples’ reservation about letting their sweater function as an alarm, or a jacket be their visiting card. However, brands and corporations alike have understood the need for sophistication. The options available today are literally no joke.

Here are five wearable tech trends that we see growing by the minute.

  1. Smartwatches: They’re here, and they’re on everyone’s wrist. Several consumers report that owning a fitness band makes them more likely to work out. Our brains are driven by a rewards system and we cannot help but rejoice when our activity band buzzes with excitement every time we get in those 10,000 steps. Also, they’re excellent for telling time.

    Evolved forms of smartwatches can be designed to work as SOS signals, to conduct group workouts even remotely and so much more! FitBit’s recent update now makes the band work as a period tracker, and it is only a matter of time before the Apple Watch becomes a quick interface for payments across the globe. What do smartwatches offer? Comfort, cool-nerdiness and a whole lot of style.

  1. Shirts and outerwear: Nostalgia gets a new upgrade, with Levi’s iconic trucker jacket, revamped. The Commuter X jacket designed in partnership with Google connects to the phone via Bluetooth and can be used for everything from controlling music to getting directions while you drive.

The Commuter X jacket designed in partnership with Google

Practicality cannot be left far behind. The jacket is machine washable once the snap device that is the actual wearable tech component is removed from it with an easy, you guessed it, snap.

The Athos Core series of workout shirts are a nifty, more data-intense replacement for smartwatches. For example, most good smartwatches today cannot be taken into swimming pools, but that’s not the case with apparel. They do cost upward of $350, which may be a sensitive consideration since people usually need more than one pair of workout apparel.

  1. Pants: When the shirts can be smart, why should the pants be left far behind? That’s probably the theory behind the Nadi X Yoga pants. These pants are a personal yoga trainer, offering happy inputs for when you need to stretch out each muscle, and they can even prompt you to hold a pose for a given period.

Nadi X Yoga pants as a personal yoga trainer

We love these pants because as opposed to the usual monitor devices that collect more than they give out, these pants can be used in real time to train better. Thus, the benefits are obvious and instantaneous.

  1. Shoes: Under Armour’s connected sneakers are not just monitoring devices. They can help you correct your gait and prevent running injuries caused by the wrong posture. Much like the yoga pants, we love that they offer support in the moment. Studies show that our likelihood of indulging in physical activity is far higher when we have company- one reason why music works. Wearables like these can help take that idea to the next level.

    Closer home in India, a product by the name of LeChal is able to offer GPS navigation in a shoe. While we’re certainly not looking to a future where we turn left while our shoe stubbornly goes right, the mild haptic feedback offered by LeChal is able to help us navigate while we actually look away from our phones, and at the roads.

  2. Fashion that changes colors: With the Gen Zers on the scene and a growing crowd of people born into technology, brands like TwentyFour15 are counting on them to make their wearable dreams a reality. At the 2017 London Fashion Week, they debuted a collection that changes colors at the click of a button and even animates to music! No more buying clothes for all those themed weddings and parties over and over again.

    The multi-faceted use of such technology can turn people into walking billboards if that’s what the Gods of advertising so desire. In any case, we are looking forward to seeing clothes that perform tricks, even though we’re still quite fond of our reversible-sequined outfits to create the same magic.

Which wearable tech trend do you think is useful, futuristic, or even plain outrageous? Tell us in the comments below.


Supriya Ghurye is the founder and owner of Fuel4Fashion. She is a Freelance Fashion Designer and Brand Consultant helping fashion brands to create great products from idea to launch. Fuel4Fashion social links:  TwitterPinterestInstagram


 

Technologies Transforming Fashion Retail: The Good, The Bad and The Bizarre

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When an entire industry is focused on the singular idea of selling, every new innovation is often developed first to support it. Take the Industrial Revolution, for example. The discovery that quite a few manmade tasks could be done by machines instead improved production efficiencies, and gave us a chance to collectively make more and sell more in the same amount of time.

Today, we stand on the brink of yet another technological revolution that is set to change the way we sell. We are talking about Artificial Intelligence (AI), of course. For many of us, even a few years ago, AI as an idea meant a sentient robot is suddenly taking over our jobs and making slaves of us all. But, what we don’t realize is that AI is already here- in Gmail’s auto compose feature and an assistant that calls and makes appointments, to begin with.

Augmented reality used in fashion retail

Image courtesy: internetofbusiness.com

How can AI benefit the fashion industry, specifically on the retail front? Here are a few options you can explore today.

  1. Retail inventory management: Today, we have access to SaaS-based inventory management systems for that can update inventory in real time. The logical next step is systems that can study massive amounts of data from past sales, both within the company and the market in general, plug in the spending patterns and come up with accurate numbers for inventory maintenance. Such a system can reduce the massive wastage we see today in the fashion industry.
  1. VR and selling: Once the backend is sorted, you can shift your entire focus to the front, as Neiman Marcus has done in several of their experiential stores. VR enabled mirrors show customers products as they would look on them, along with suggesting combinations and filling the shopping bag with a single swipe. As more and more people look to retail stores as experience centers, technology allows us to catch up and stay one step ahead of customer expectations.
  1. Virtual models: Now, this is one aspect that we are quite conflicted about. On the one hand, the use of digital renderings helps businesses display clothes on a variety of body types at a far lesser price than hiring a model for each body type. That said, do digital models set new standards for beauty that are downright unattainable. Businesses using digital models need to consider the implications of doing so, not just on their target demographic but also on the world and its perceptions at large.
  1. Messaging bots: Conversations lead to conversions. Until now, it has been impossible to replicate the warmth of an in-store experience online. But with the arrival of intuitive bots that think and speak like human service personnel, this is no longer the case. Businesses using chatbots report a 70% rise in conversion, and that’s just in beauty alone. The message is clear- customers want to talk, and not necessarily with a real person, before making a purchase.
  1. New materials on the block: Sustainable fashion is no longer an option, as we discussed in the first article in this series. Customers want it, and they’ll find a way to have it. Textiles today are all about focusing on the source and ensuring fair practices along the way. It isn’t so much about finding new materials to work with as it is about going back to those products that we never considered before, like hemp and bamboo.
  1. Connected advertising: Another controversial aspect of retailing today is the trade-off between too much information and convenience. Customers often let sites install cookies and track their browsing for the sake of convenience. But businesses are either unable to leverage all of the information provided to them, or simply unable to protect this data sufficiently. The proof of this is in the very need for new GDPR guidelines that regulate the collection and use of data. That said, there’s no denying the fact that all of this information allows us to advertise to people who are much further along the buying funnel, thus helping us to convert them faster.

If there’s one thing to be said about technology in retail, it is never to overdo anything. When used correctly, technology can help improve efficiency immensely at every step of the way. Just a more efficient way of managing inventory and recycling can help save tons of clothing from going to landfills.

However, there is such a thing as taking it too far, and brands using technology must consider how their customers may perceive each of the new changes being brought in, and whether those changes will be accepted with delight or rejected entirely.


Supriya Ghurye is the founder and owner of Fuel4Fashion. She is a Freelance Fashion Designer and Brand Consultant helping fashion brands to create great products from idea to launch. Fuel4Fashion social links:  TwitterPinterestInstagram


 

 

The Changing Face Of Fashion: Building A Sustainable Supply Chain

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If there’s one retail industry that remains reasonably unaffected by rising prices and inflation, it is apparel. Everyone buys clothes, and the choice is often about which clothes to buy than regarding whether to buy them at all.

“There’s no such thing as too many dresses.”

“One cannot have too many shoes.”

These statements, often made in passing, are reflective of a global economy that rarely sees slumps, if ever. As an answer to ever-changing demands, fast fashion too has come into the picture, change collections six times a year.

However, there is the elephant in the room. And that elephant is squatting squarely in landfills across the globe, weighing trillions of tons, if not more.

As one of the economy’s driving forces, fashion has a responsibility towards adopting sustainable practices, and one way to do that is to build a supply chain that reduces wastage and improves efficiency. What’s more, customers today are starkly aware of the consequences of their buying habits- while they may or may not make fewer purchases, they are certainly looking out for labels that reduce their impact on the planet. Are you one of them?

What is a fashion supply chain? It encompasses everything that happens in the business to bring a product to the shelf for purchase. A supply chain includes design and manufacture, as well as logistics and transportation. In the landmark book titled ‘To Die For’ by Lucy Siegle, she says that this seemingly straightforward step has 101 sub-steps!

The trouble with apparel and sustainability usually begins with the numbers. One pair of jeans never harmed anyone, but one billion? This is why customers are rapidly turning to locally sourced, organic and sustainable clothing. Because today, we could really use a few drops in the ocean.

How to Build A Sustainable Supply Chain while working in the fashion industry

How can you, as a business, contribute to these efforts? By making your back-end more sustainable. Here are a few pointers to follow:

  1. Have absolute control over your inventory. This is important not just for more sales but to be able to produce and market only as much as you can really sell. Overproduction is fast fashion’s biggest problem, but you can help solve that.
  1. Offer customization options so that you can go into production on some products only after they have been purchased by the customer. This helps reduce the need for disposal and deep discounts which in turn cause wastage.
  1. When you design, design a collection. So many private labels today struggle with trying to do too many things at once. The problem is that all of these things rarely ever fit together. Instead, a capsule for each season is easier to shop, moves more products off your shelves and can be mixed and matched to make several different outfits.
  1. Denim are some of the most resource-intensive products to make. Some brands like H&M have started a denim exchange initiative that allows the cloth to come back into production once it has been sufficiently used. Likewise, Levi’s phased out PFCs and found more environment-friendly options to make their denim water repellant. What’s more, some brands are also making denim from shredded plastic recovered from our oceans.
  1. Spearhead initiatives to get people to buy less, or to recycle more! As a business, this sounds counterintuitive, but H&M’s Conscious effort proves that it can work. By offering discount coupons for old clothes and a host of initiatives to use more recycled cotton, it is building both price and material efficiencies into its supply chains. By 2020, H&M aims to use only organic or recycled cotton in its production.

As you might have observed from some of these pointers, a sustainable supply chain cannot work in a silo. You need an action plan that works across all stages of the production and buying process. Take the initiative to get people to wear your clothes at least twenty times before throwing them out, a product of good quality.

Likewise, you can also become an advocate for your own clothes by encouraging reselling of unused products- become the marketplace for customers who bought your clothing but never used them.

Each of these actions demands that you make changes every step of the way.

Confused as to where to begin? Get in touch with us using our contact form, for a perspective on how you can make your fashion business more sustainable and friendly for years to come.


Supriya Ghurye is the founder and owner of Fuel4Fashion. She is a Freelance Fashion Designer and Brand Consultant helping fashion brands to create great products from idea to launch. Fuel4Fashion social links:  TwitterPinterestInstagram


 

Choosing Sustainability: The Changing Face Of Fashion

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Our December blog series is dedicated to exploring the trends and shifts on the fashion landscape that may be mere blips today, but have the potential to be a full-blown revolution very soon. Our first blog in the series discusses sustainable textile options.

In a TED talk that has since been watch close to a million times, UPS’s Aparna Mehta makes a strong case for buying less and returning even less of clothing. As it turns out, one man’s fashion is another man’s trash. This doesn’t, however, apply on the retail end of things alone. Some studies show that thousands of gallons of water go into making one denim outfit, quantities that we as a planet just cannot afford anymore.

Stella McCartney has come out and taken a stand against fast fashion. Other influencers are following suit. In this scenario, it is worth thinking about sustainable garments from two perspectives. One, sustainable clothing is better for the planet. Two, sustainable clothing really is the future for every fashion business, and the sooner you get started, the better it is for you.

Luckily for us, there are several alternatives to the textiles we now use, and most of them perform at par, if not better than, their traditional counterparts.

  • Alternatives to Silk: Perhaps fashion’s guiltiest pleasure, and one that doesn’t get as much of a bad rep as using animal hide is the making of silk. Apart from the process itself, Human rights Watch reports that over 3,50,000 children are employed in the industry.  Luckily, some alternatives have been found, and they are soon gaining prominence. Jute silk and silk derived from other plant fibers are finding acceptance. Ahimsa silk is an Indian innovation of waiting for the silkworm to evacuate its silken residence before using the cocoons for their yarn. IndiaBride and The Ethical Silk Company are just a few brands that are pioneering the use of sustainable silk.
  • Alternatives to Cotton: Cotton is one of the most resource-heavycrops to grow. The pesticides and insect repellants used for cotton production often stay in the environment and the soil for many decades to come. One way to reduce the impact of cotton growing is to use organic cotton. Fornow, it is fairly expensive. However, as with all organic product, a rise indemand can quickly increase the supply capabilities and reduce prices.California based Synergy clothing uses organic cotton, as well as cottonblended with help and bamboo to design their clothing. What’s more, they usenatural dyes and follow a fair-trade policy that keeps everyone in the supplychain happy.      
  • Alternatives to Synthetic Textiles: Nylon, polyester,and acrylic are some of the biggest pollutants ever produced. Some reportssuggest that even washing these clothes can leech microplastics into our oceansand permanently change the quality of water. It is rather inconvenient, then,that synthetic textiles are also cheap and easy to mass-produce.  Making a switch away from synthetic clothing needs to be a conscious choiceacross the supply chain. Isolated efforts have begun to use bamboo, jute, andhemp as alternatives. Fabric made from these materials is often much morebreathable as well. The key, of course, is in generating enough demand.
  • Alternatives To Commercial Wool: As a textile,wool has many benefits. It generates warmth, wicks away moisture and ishypoallergenic as well. However, commercial practice has driven wool-farmingtowards crowded shelters and animals with very little immunity. Ethical wool is obtained from animals that have been raised on a natural farmin humane conditions, which naturally increases the animals’ immunity andlongevity, as well as the quality of wool itself. Organic wool is often alsodyed with natural dyes, making it that much more suitable for people who areallergic to chemical dyes.

Which of these materials would you want to experiment with in your next collection? What would be your biggest hindrance to doing so?


Supriya Ghurye is the founder and owner of Fuel4Fashion. She is a Freelance Fashion Designer and Brand Consultant helping fashion brands to create great products from idea to launch. Fuel4Fashion social links:  TwitterPinterestInstagram 


Guest Blog: How to Use your Passion and Education to Start a Fashion Business

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Thanks to the support and encouragement of our readers, the Fuel4Fashion blog now has a growing tribe of followers on various social media platforms, from across the world. We have tried to keep giving all of you insights into what is trending in the industry and build up Fuel4Fashion as the go-to place for getting an idea of emerging global fashion trends as well as insightful information about the fashion industry.  In order to bring more quality content from the fashion industry to the community, we are now re-starting our guest blog section. This will feature articles on topics similar to the ones we have been bringing you, but from a variety of authors from the field of fashion. Today we bring you this interesting article from NewThread. – Supriya

Starting a fashion business seems all glamorous from the outside but generally, it’s just time-consuming sessions of never-ending work.

Take for example launching your own private label clothing brand.

Your first inclination would be to find a custom clothing manufacturer overseas. You need to find a reliable factory, and send thousands of dollars halfway across the world. You need to find a shipping agent if the factory is too small to help you in that regard. You need to find relevant quality inspection people as well.

The challenge of sourcing clothes is even more exacerbated when your budget doesn’t cover traveling a few thousand miles away. Just take a look at all the processes involved when you’re planning on manufacturing your apparel:

Many entrepreneurs think that the right amount of passion is enough to fuel their business into being successful but that’s hardly the case. So, to guide you through this journey, here are some tips that will help you create a successful fashion business.

  • Discover your passion

The key to any successful business is definitely patience and dedication. But in order to find that will, you’ll have to first be sure of what you really want to do. It is essential to keep in mind that the world of fashion and apparel is extremely competitive, and at times merciless. Know the ins and outs of the industry and only get going if you’re sure about what you want to do.

  • Education and Research

The apparel industry is huge and as days pass by, its branches seemed to have grown out even more. There are several different ways of sourcing, manufacturing, selling and what not.

I’d suggest you to first find out about the types of business within this industry. For example; you could be a wholesale clothing supplier, an online private clothing brand, a t-shirt printer, the possibilities are endless.

Read articles about your favorite fashion brands and apparel companies online and get to know about what’s in trend nowadays by reaching out to Fashion Design Studios like Fuel4Fashion. If you already have proper knowledge though through online courses or maybe even your college degree, then you’re already a step ahead!

It is essential to decide what you want to pursue choose the one that fits perfectly with your plans and skills.

  • Understand the demand in the market

Innovation is greatly appreciated when it comes to fashion. The more unique your products are, the more customers you lure in. Otherwise, why would they bother buying your products when there might be hundreds of other potential sellers out there?

Since fashion is diverse, it’s better if you target a certain niche. Think about what age group you are more comfortable with. It could also be just catered towards one gender or the other. There are a lot of aspects to keep in mind when choosing your target customers. Consider the socio-economic and psychological aspects as well when deciding on a target market.

Along with your customers, you’ll also have to pay attention to your products. Be thorough when it comes to the product. Ensure that your product is both comfortable and trendy while being reasonable in price. If your product doesn’t stand out or is of poor quality, your business is less likely to not gain any profit. It is very crucial to understand the competition of the industry and also the importance of marketing throughout your business.

  • Determine your skills and contacts in the fashion industry

It is almost impossible to run a business alone. If you want to a successful entrepreneur, you’re expected to have strong relationships with influential people in the fashion industry. Aside from that, some traits and skills are also needed to turn you into the perfect businessman. 

Note down your strengths and weaknesses when it comes to business. This will help you figure out where you need additional help and where you don’t. A degree in fashion might provide you the knowledge but it isn’t enough to run a company. Time management, financial management, leadership qualities etc. these all are very important skills that complete a business owner. Thus, before starting a business, it’s essential to assess your skills.

As mentioned above, you can’t run a company alone. There are many sectors in a company and if you feel overwhelmed, take advice from someone who is already in the clothing business. If possible, make someone more experienced, your partner who can guide you through the common mistakes.

Slowly but steadily branch out your departments: PR, stylists, photographers, accountants, etc. Don’t worry if you don’t have these contacts, you can visit fashion events to collect more information.

  • Make a business plan

A business plan is mainly a statement that records your business goals. This is the most important part of your business. Estimate your total expenses and sales per year through costing and create a minimum budget that would be required in order to get the business running.

A good business plan not only helps the entrepreneur to set a target and take the necessary steps in order to make it possible, but it also aids in achieving both the long term and short term objectives of a business that makes it successful.

There are many ways you can fund your company. Few of them are mentioned below-

  1. Money from investors (also known as venture capitalists). They will also become owners of your business and get some percentage of your profit.
  2. Long term loan from a bank which is considered as non-current liabilities. These types of loans can be paid after a year or more (with interest). Taking long term loans will not decrease your current ratio (current assets/current liabilities)
  3. Short term loans. You’ll have to repay these loans with interest within a year or less.
  4. Money from family and friends.

However, keep in mind that it is important to keep a balance between your debts and incomes. Taking too much loans can drive your business to bankruptcy.

  • Making your product

If you’re going for private label business or want to manufacture your own products, you’ll have to look for a manufacturer first. If you’re just starting out, find a manufacturer who has a low MOQ (Minimum Order Quantity) since it’s not a very good idea to start off with a huge manufacturing order when starting your business. Here’s an infographic to make it easy for you to understand how the process will work.

Once you’re ready to start sourcing, here are five ways you can source your clothing.

  • Selling your products

This is another aspect that depends truly upon what sort of business you have. If you want to e-commerce seller, you’ll have to make sure your products stand out among all the others. You can also look for distributors that are interested in selling your products and are perfect for your clothes and fashion. Look into what is popular in the country you will be selling. Blank t-shirts for example, are universally popular for the most part.

You have a whole lot of opportunities when it comes to a fashion business, make sure to use these wisely and make the most of it. Attending events or trade shows might help you to promote and sell your products. Other than that, take orders from distributors or clothing stores and print catalogs for them.

It is also essential to establish a good rapport with bloggers and influencers that can bring attention to your brand.

The fashion and apparel industry has more to it than it lets on so beware of the challenges that it throws your way. This is where marketing comes in. A good marketing technique can allow your sales to go sky high.

Research your target market and conduct surveys to understand how you would attract a fair amount of customers. Listen to what your customers say. Reviews are very important and do not hesitate to ask for your customers’ feedbacks before making any major changes to your products.

A successful fashion business consists of the perfect balance between passion, skills and knowledge. It is very crucial to plan out your every step and know that there’ll be a lot of challenges to overcome. Let your passion and determination lead your way into a successful fashion business!


Writer Bio: Yusuf Ahmed is the chief supply strategist at NewThread. NewThread helps businesses establish an apparel supply chain here in Bangladesh, by sourcing the right factory for the product from our network of certified factories, following up with inspection and shipment.


Range Planning: From Ideas To Inspiration For A Men’s Casual Line

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In the previous blog, we discussed range planning and how inspiration boards, color palettes, and sketches can be used in sequence to design a women’s clothing line. This week, we see how the same process can be used to come up with the men’s line.

Fashion designers have superpowers. One of those powers is creativity, while the other is the ability to break creativity down into a process. The most crucial superpower is the ability to find this inspiration and make something of it even before the trend actually hits the shelves.

Without further ado, it is time to exercise some of those powers!

Part 1: The mood board

This is perhaps the single most abstract element in the entire design process. While color and print boards represent those attributes respectively, mood boards reflect what the collection feels like. While designing the mood board, it is worth asking yourself some of these questions:

Street Wear trends seen during Fashion Week SS19 which can be adopted to Men's casual wear creative Fashion Design Process

  • What is the objective my mood board wants to achieve?
  • What are some key inspiration points for my range?
  • What unique ideas am I implementing with this mood board?

The last question is fundamental because we often generalize collections based on the season. For example, summer and men may always mean nautical stripes and pastels. However, adding in a unique element, such as the fact that many people also travel in summers can bring in a new feature to the range. For our casual athletics range, the mood is athleisure. This range is for those people who love being sporty and being outdoors but also don’t take themselves too seriously. A bomber jacket over tracks takes them from the gym to the streets in next to no time. The mood is casual, carefree, outdoorsy and charming.

Part 2: The color board

The color board, as the name suggests, is a collection of at least five colors you’d like to see represented in your range. Picking out colors is heavily dependent on the theme. For our casual athletics theme, we chose urban, outdoor colors like shades of brown, grey and green.

Street Wear trends seen during Fashion Week SS19 which can be adopted to Men's casual wear creative Fashion Design Process

How do we come up with these colors? You can save images of clothes you like and use a digital color picker to identify the different shades. You can also use the Pantone color guide to spot the exact tone you’re looking for. Moreover, you can also use color mapping tools to help you pick colors that complement all others.

In any case, be sure to pick at least five base colors and two shades for each color that you’d like to work with.

Part 3: The print board

If there is one street trend that is taking over the world, it is the idea of prominent prints in menswear. Small, inconspicuous origami doves are giving way to large, placement prints and even outfits that are printed all over. Neon highlights are an excellent option for the colors we have chosen, as are geometric prints and stripes in a variety of sizes.

Street Wear trends seen during Fashion Week SS19 which can be adopted to Men's casual wear creative Fashion Design Process

Part 4: The concept board

This is the stage at which all of your work comes together. A concept board is centered primarily around the main sketch it represents. The sketches themselves are inspired from all of the other boards and incorporate aspects from each of them.

Creative Fashion Design Process for Casual wear SS19 inspired from Street Wear trends seen during Fashion Week SS19 Around the sketch are images of what the style would look like in real life as well as the primary colors that make up that particular outfit. Long jackets are the staple in our range, keeping with the global trend and K-pop sensation. Our pants are loose, drawstring and aimed at people who want to move freely. It is both casual and athletic, perfect for today’s city dweller.

Street Wear trends seen during Fashion Week SS19 which can be adopted to Men's casual wear creative Fashion Design ProcessFrom here, the sketches are followed by choosing the fabric and picking the colors that closely match your original palette. This is followed by designing a few prototypes which then go into manufacture.

Street Wear trends seen during Fashion Week SS19 which can be adopted to Men's casual wear creative Fashion Design ProcessWhat is your menswear design inspiration this time around? How are you using the range planning process to come up with the collection?

Tell us in the comments. Need a hand? Book a 30 mins free session for an in-depth consultation and help with range planning.


Supriya Ghurye is the founder and owner of Fuel4Fashion. She is a Freelance Fashion Designer and Brand Consultant helping fashion brands to create great products from idea to launch. Fuel4Fashion social links: TwitterPinterestInstagram