Fashion is a tough industry to break into. If you want to be a model, you first better be born with the right DNA to meet hyper-specific requirements. If you are, you have to desperately hope that the features you were born with don’t go out of style before you get your big brake. Then if you are one of the microscopic number of people with “the look” you have to be discovered, liked by photographers and constantly on an intense calorie counting diet. If you want to be a designer you have to first be amazing at sewing. Then you have to be amazing at designing. Your amazing designs have to have a brand identity that is original enough to stand out but tame enough to be universal. If you want to be a photographer and don’t have buckets of talent, connections, and original ideas, forget about it. Fashion retail is much the same. It is incredibly tough to brake into for a unique set of reasons. So if you have a great idea for a clothing brand, there’s some things you need to know.
Fashionista held a “How to Make It in Fashion” conference in L.A with people who have first hand experience with the hurdles of braking into fashion retail. The speakers were Katrina Lake (Stitch Fix) Yael Aflalo (sustainable fashion brand Reformation) Patrick Coyne (tuxedo rental startup the Black Tux) and Alexandra Spunt ( Everlane ).
One particular struggle that they encountered was getting men interested in fashion. To start a company you need venture capital, and to get venture capital you need venture capitalists. The fact of the matter is that most of them are men. This means that before you even get to numbers you have to first remind your potential investor that there is a valuable target market that they themselves are not a part of. A male venture capitalist usually can’t see themselves buying bespoke women’s bags, so why would he invest?
Although difficult, it is not impossible to make it in fashion retail. The speakers came up list of 8 tips to help you on your journey to market domination.
1) Talk the Talk
Yael Aflalo noted that venture capitalists tend to speak in buzzwords and industry jargon. To get them to take you seriously you need to speak their language and prove you have passion.
2) If They Don’t Know Fashion, Don’t Waste Your Time
Aflao commented that it is not beneficial to try to get contributions from investors who have never worked with fashion or eCommerce businesses before. They don’t understand the fundamentals of your business, so are highly unlikely to make a deal.
3) Only Talk To The Big Guys
Patrick Coyne commented that you should only be corresponding with partners. If associates contact you, he says that you should not respond.
4) Don’t Be Desperate
When it comes to business Conye has found that you have to play all the annoying games you’ve picked up from the dating scene. Essentially you have to play hard to get. If the investors know you’re desperate they will lose interest. It’s your job to create the illusion that you are in high demand.
5) Not All Money Is Good Money
Katrina Lake cautioned listeners against taking money from investors that don’t have the same vision as you. Investments come with control and once they are involved it’s hard to get them out. Don’t take money from someone if they will try and take the company in the wrong direction.
6) Get Yourself A Business Nerd
You need a great presentation to show investors. Aflalo says that someone with a business background will know how to make the types of charts and figures that you’ll need.
7) Don’t Put The Investors to Sleep
Conye and Aflalo agree that when it comes to presentations there is such a thing as too much detail. They recommend limiting your pitch to no more than 10-14 slides.
8) Talk up Your Strengths
Lake says that she knew her company was doing well when they hired the COO of Walmart.com. So whatever your company has going for you, the people, the social media buzz, the low cost of making your product, make sure everyone knows about it.
You can read the full Fashionista article following their event here.