We asked emerging designer expert Melissa Hall what top tips she has for emerging designers. Melissa has extensive experience consulting/interviewing brands and her blog, The Emerging Designer, is a resource for up-and coming fashion talent. She showcases new designers, provides marketing tips, news and resources for building a brand while also developing a worldwide fashion community. This will be part 1 of a series of experienced professionals giving tips on how to start and expand your own product-based company.
1. How do I find my target and understand the market?
To do this, shop the market! Go to department stores and understand what the major players are doing in terms of inventory, pricing, merchandising and in-store dynamics. Also go to boutiques where you see your brand in and do the same thing. While you are shopping, be sure to spend some time observing your target customer. Watch how they interact with products and don’t be afraid to ask a sales associate a question to glean more insight about their business. Just don’t do it while it’s busy! All of this qualitative market research will help you understand the industry and give you a good overview of retail dynamics. Be sure to do this at least once a season as it’s important to be on top of trends!
2. How do I stand out as a designer?
To stand out, you must build your brand. To start, develop your about section. Specifically, create a strong bio about your background, experience and personality. Now, if you were an attorney that started a handbag company, that’s okay too, consumers want to know more about you! Next, map out the specifics of your line and include information about your aesthetic, target market, category and why you created your line. Carving out your brand story is the first step in standing out while you are developing your actual product. Once you have that down, be sure to share it with your community via social media. Even if you don’t have a line yet, that’s okay too as gaining some traction or pre-launch buzz can go a long way. Remember, you want take your customers on a brand journey.
3. How can I communicate myself to buyers and press?
Have your elevator pitch down. Remember, these days, people’s time and attention span is limited. You should have your brand and sales story down so when an opportunity arises, you can clearly and quickly articulate what you need to. To do this, map out key talking points on what you would say to a buyer, press and a customer. As you will see, the messaging will be different, but having targeted communication and the purpose of your pitch will help you be more effective to that audience. In addition to your pitch, be sure to have collateral materials ready (lookbooks, linesheets and photos). If you do have a smart phone or tablet, load these items on your devices so they are easy to send. At the end of the day, you never know where you will meet someone, so it’s good to be armed and ready!
4. How do I build a network?
Your network should be built both on and offline as that’s where people spend their time! Take the time to go to Meetups, events and engage in conversations to get to know others. The fashion world is small and you’d be surprised how many people want to help each other out. Online, connecting on social and professional networks is key. Also, whether you are in person or communicating online, especially via email, make sure you have a purpose so you keep the conversation. Whether that’s asking someone about their services, pitching an item to an editor or asking someone to attend your event, being specific with a call to action or the next step helps to elicit a response.
5. What are some ways that I can market my brand?
Social media is the most cost effective way of getting your brand out there. Since there is no, or very little costs, you should take advantage of this and make an effort to put great written and visual content out there so you can connect with potential brand ambassadors, members of the media and retailers. To do this, dedicate a certain amount of time to planning your social media strategy and then executing it. You’ll have to play around with different platforms (Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, etc..) to see which one is right for your message and purpose, but in the end, creating your own exposure is only going to strengthen your brand. Oh, and if you are struggling with content, remember that it’s about telling your story (e.g sourcing, product shots, trunk shows, food excursions) to help engage with your audience while also involving them.
Want to see more? Read Part 2: Top Tips for Designers (Part 2)
Enroll in Maker’s Row Academy
If you are excited to start building your product but don’t how to begin, don’t be intimidated! Maker’s Row offers a suite of introductory courses for first-time designers. If you want detailed instructions through the pre-production and production processes, register for our Prototyping 101, Production 101 and Sourcing 101 courses. Our Academy distributes these educational guides for free! Over the duration of each course, expect a new lesson in your inbox each day.