As a creative person working on the business side of fashion, I understand that it’s easy to get caught up in creativity, but it doesn’t always serve the end result of running a successful design business. Allow ideas to flow freely and be sure to jot or sketch them down. However, before you formally design your line, there are four key questions to ask that will save you a lot of money and hassle, in the long run.
1. Who is my customer?
Thoroughly define who your customer is and GO DEEP. In the current market place, understanding basic demographics and psychographics isn’t enough. Know where your customer hangs out and with whom, what blogs they follow, what television shows they watch, and who they aspire to be. Allow them to be your muse. Create a persona for them and understand as much as possible about how they live. Hopefully, you are creating a product or collection that helps them experience life in a better way. You can only know that if you are crystal clear about who they are.
2. Does my customer have a real need or desire for this product?
What is the “pain point” that you are solving? For example, maybe your ideal customer lives in a walking city, and they are often challenged by not having enough footwear choices that transition from day to evening. They would likely be very excited by a footwear collection with a focus on stylish mid-heel height shoes that transition easily. You’ve designed stylish shoes that they can wear to work and out in the evenings. Pain point solved.
Alternatively, if you aren’t focusing on a pain point, then how are you elevating a customer’s current experience? For example, your ideal customer may be someone who travels often and appreciates luxury with unique details. You design a collection of fur lined, cashmere travel slippers with hand-embroidered initials. Your product allows them to feel both comfortable and exclusive while making their travel experience exponentially better. They, in turn, become loyal brand followers.
3. Who is my competition?
We live in a world where everything is accessible to everyone, including your customers, so it is valuable to be educated about your competition. By understanding what is currently happening in the retail landscape, you avoid the very expensive mistake of designing a product that either already exists or isn’t quite as innovative as what is currently on the market. Buyers will expect that you are an expert in your field and therefore you can speak intelligently about why your product is different and, subsequently, necessary for them.
4. Is my customer willing and able to pay a premium for this product?
Many designers find it limiting to design into a price point, which is understandable. However for the integrity of your business, it’s worthwhile for you to do the homework to ensure that you are giving yourself a successful design advantage. It’s important to get clear about your pricing strategy before you design your line. If costing isn’t your strength then recruit the help of an expert. Skipping this step in the design process can be a very expensive mistake, so be sure to do the research. Remember, if your ideal customer is unable to afford your product, then you won’t have a profitable business.
These questions take thorough exploration, and your answers may shift throughout the process. By investing the time to ask yourself these 4 questions before designing your line, you will create a thoughtful collection that resonates with your customer, an advantage over competition and, ultimately, a profitable design business.