Making mistakes, especially when you start something new, is normal. But some can probably easily be avoided. So, here are the top 20 mistakes new fashion startups and fashion designers tend to do.
I certainly did some of them or withness other fashion startups or designer make them.
There is power in knowing. And with this list, maybe you’ll be able to avoid the most common mistakes fashion startups do and have a smoother launch.
Mistake #1: Underestimating manufacturing times
Manufacturing often takes much longer than expected. It’s best to assume that there is always delay and give yourself extra time to find solutions in case something happened. It can also help you avoid embarrassing situations with clients.
When you’re a young designer or fashion startup, your production is definitely the top priority of a manufacturer. If a well-know brand places a high volume order with your supplier, you can be pretty sure that this order will take priority over yours.
On top of that, raw materials, fabrics, zippers, buttons, accessories can take between 3 days to 6 months to arrive. Often times, manufacturing does not begin until all of the needed pieces have arrived.
If something is missing, whether it’s raw materials or administrative documents, don’t rely on your supplier to call you. In 90% of cases, they won’t. Most of the time, they will tell you that something is missing only when you call.
Mistake #2 : Not incorporating or choosing a legal form that doesn’t suit your needs
To place orders and be taken seriously by suppliers, you often need a professional entity.
If your end goal is building a brand, consider incorporating. This will professionalize your business and give you credibility.
Do not hesitate to seek advice from a chartered accountant, a CPA, notary or a lawyer to choose the legal form that best suits your personal situation and your ambitions.
Mistake #3 : Not investing in branding
A good logo, a nice graphic charter, good communication tools are important in the fashion industry.
In fashion, shoes, leather goods or accessories, you sell dreams. If your logo, your brand name, your brochures or your photos leave something to be desired, you will have more difficulty in retaining and getting a client to join your project.
Image plays a major role in this sector. Also, it is worth investing a little to have a professional logo, a graphic charter and above all beautiful, clear, attractive and non-pixelated photos.
Mistake #4 : Not learning the textile and fashion jargon
Finding the right suppliers is not easy. It’s even one of the hardest things when starting out.
There are also many designers who have to constantly find new suppliers because some failed them in the middle of the project or are just not skilled enough to produce the desired designs.
To convince suppliers, it is important to speak the same language as them. And when you don’t know the industry jargon, they can tell right away that you haven’t been in the business for long. Not only don’t you ask the right questions, omit important points, but you also don’t give a professional vibe.
Mistake #5 : Not negotiating with the suppliers
Just because you’re new and only have a small brand doesn’t mean you can’t negotiate.
Sometimes, you might be so happy to have found a supplier who accepts you that you do not negotiate anything at all. So, you end up with high production costs, which raise your prices and lower your margin.
Note that the price is not the only thing you can negotiate. You can negotiate deadlines, the materials or the services included.
Mistake #6 : Choosing the wrong suppliers
Trusting the wrong partners and suppliers can lead fashion startups to failures.
A poorly skilled stylist, an inadequate workshop, a supplier who never answers you can quickly lead to delays and trouble. Fashion startups have no time nor money to waste.
Before committing, remember to ask the right questions and even get a second opinion on it.
Mistake #7 : Producing large quantities right from the beginning
The first collection is often the one we have the most trouble selling. This is normal. When you don’t have any order history, you don’t have any data on what your client likes best and least. In other words, you have no idea which sizes are best selling or which styles our customers appreciate (even if you did your market research before).
And sometimes we even pick the wrong target market.
Inventory costs money, and can become a source of stress. Unsold inventory depreciates and requires storage space. Depending on how many items you have, it can get very expensive.
Therefore, when you are starting out, have as little quantity as possible made.
Mistake #8 : Listenning to everyone’s pieces of advice
Everyone loves to give advice. Your friends, family and those close to you are no exception.
However, these people are not necessarily the best mentors. Are they entrepreneurs? Have they created something in the past? If the answer is no, take what they say to you cautiously.
If they are among your target customers, listen to their opinions on your product and act accordingly. Otherwise, don’t do anything.
Mistake #9 : Projecting your limiting beliefs on your clients
You are not necessarily your customer.
Be careful not to project your own beliefs on your target customers.
The value of money, for example, can be very different from person to person. For some people, $100 is a lot while to some other, it’s like pocket money.
Likewise, what is beautiful for you may not be for your audience.
Mistake #10 : Wrongly calculating your sale price
Quite often, creators, fashion designers or fashion startups price their products depending on the market price, even before knowing what their costs are.
While you could do so, it might not be a good idea all the time.
Indeed, if you do not have enough margin to cover your fixed costs and invest, you will quickly run into cash flow problems.
Likewise, if you haven’t considered and factored in some distribution costs or fixed costs, you may find yourself working like crazy for nothing.
Mistake #11 : Not thinking about the packaging experience
People like what is beautiful. In an era where we talk about eco-responsible, it may seem paradoxical to budget a lot on packaging. But, a good packaging is essential to sell.
It gives character and makes the product even more irresistible.
In addition, it is necessary to be able to give the customer a way to transport his or her newly purchased product easily,
And the more expensive the product, the more the customer will expect the packaging to look luxurious.
Mistake 12 : Believing that being a sustainable clothing brand is enough
Being ethical, sustainable, eco-responsible is a must these days.
This is an additional selling point, which sometimes helps close the sale. But that’s rarely what will attract and convince the customer.
If your product is eco-responsible but ugly and impractical, you will have a hard time selling it.
Mistake #13 : Not communicating enough
Just because you have a great product doesn’t mean it’s going to sell on its own. Communicating is important and most fashion designers or fashion startups don’t do it enough, if at all.
Communicate from day 1. On day 1, you are stress free. When you have your products, the anxiety of not selling is much more pressing and will potentially make you take bad decision.
Moreover, developing a good reputation takes time. It usually takes 7 interactions between your brand and your potential customers before they decide to buy. Also, the sooner you communicate, the better.
Mistake #14 : Spending all your time on Instagram
Having lots of Instagram followers doesn’t necessarily mean you’re selling. There are many brands that have thousands of followers and yet are not selling a lot and are not profitable.
First of all, Instagram is not the best source of traffic. Like any social network, Instagram allows you to connect with your audience. However, it is not a discovery network (unless you spend a lot of money in instagram ads). There are other channels that are much more effective than Instagram for client acquisition. It should not be neglected but do not spend all of your time on it.
Indeed, we can quickly find ourselves spending our days on Instagram. But is this really what works the most for you? Don’t get stuck on Vanity metrics.
Mistake #15 : Overpaying to be featured in a magazine
When you are a fashion creator and you do great things, the press quickly approaches you to offer you “advantageous placements” in their media.
Some will tell you how they can give you a nice quarter page in their magazine for a few thousand bucks and how this can build your notoriety. But of course, they can’t give you any stats or proofs that it works. It’s confidential and to make it work, you will need to invest some more.
Do not get fooled. If the media thinks your product is fantastic, they’ll talk about you without you having to pay.
(Warning: that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t invest in media relations. It’s something different and it’s worth it if you do it right)
Mistake #16 : Showing up poorly prepared at a tradeshow
There are several trade shows that allow you to showcase your brand to potential buyers.
Who’s next, wsn impact, First class, Lingerie fair, Home and object …
But it’s pointless to go if you don’t arrive prepared. Market stands are generally quite expensive. On top of that, you will need documentation, an impactful staging, well-promoted products and a good location. Otherwise, it’s a waste of money.
Mistake #17: Mismanaging your cash flow
Having cashflow is key especially in this industry.
You must design and prototype a collection, thus invest before you can even sell the one you have right now. R&D costs a lot and takes time.
If you don’t have enough cash, you won’t be able to scale your brand. Besides, the lack of cash flow is the number 1 reason most businesses close and go bankrupt.
Mistake #18 : Not investing enough
Conversely, if you do not invest in your brand, it will not be able to develop.
Money calls for money. To earn $1000, you have to be able to spend $10. To reach $100,000 , you have to be able to spend at least $10,000.
If you don’t invest in communication, innovation or new collections, your brand will stall and quickly fade into oblivion.
Mistake #19 : Staying alone
Entrepreneurship is not a straight line. It’s a multitude of ups and downs. It’s living on a constant roller coaster and it’s emotionnaly difficult.
In the same day, you can have one great news and two very demoralizing ones. If you are not well surrounded and have a strong mindset & drive, you can easily fall into depression and make fatal mistakes for your business.
So, try to connect with other entrepreneurs and fashion startups who understand what you are going through. You can learn from them, support each other and maybe, you will even find opportunities to work together.
Mistake #20 : Not taking care of yourself
Your primary work tool isn’t your computer or your sewing machine, it’s you.
No business, no brand is worth sacrificing your health! It’s bad for you and bad for your brand too.
Every once in a while, it’s important to take a break, have some fun and get off the hook. The world won’t stop turning because you have a night out or a weekend.
You are your most important capital. So, take care of yourself.