During the process of building your fashion brand, you will probably be very focused on the products and how they will look. Most brands start because the designer, or owner, has an idea or a passion for clothes. You would have spent countless hours dreaming of the products getting millions of customers flocking to your website or buying from your store. The designs are your precious babies. They are your style and a little bit of your soul, all wrapped up into a piece of fabric. People will adore your brand, they will fight to get an invitation to your catwalk shows and your designs will make you famous…..
Sorry to burst your bubble but actually they won’t. The products that you have been designing, redesigning and perfecting over and over until they were perfect, actually won’t sell a single unit by themselves because consumers are fickle and will swap and change depending on their mood. According to Kitewheel, 47% of consumers said even if they have a company preference, they’ll go elsewhere if they can’t find what they want quickly.
I’m not trying to persuade you that the design and the clothing doesn’t matter. No, not at all. Design is important. It will attract people to look closer. It will interest customers, buyers and the press. It is the thing that is uniquely you and makes your products interesting. What I am trying to get across is that the time you spend on your perfect products, might be better spent on your brand first. The two, although linked, are not the same thing, and your brand should definitely not be built around your products or a secondary thought.
Think about it like this…… have you ever seen something on a catwalk and thought to yourself…..
“That is hideous! I could do better than that. Why are people loving it?”
Yes we all have. Take this image from the SS15 Resort Collection, by someone I actually quite like as a designer. It’s a bulky 2 layered sweater and tank top. It’s quite unflattering to the shape of the model and the colours are a little dowdy. Nothing sexy about it at all. Do you think that if you designed an outfit like this and tried to sell it through your normal channels, it would have the same response of sales? Trust me it wouldn’t. Jonathan Saunders, is someone I like a lot, but I know that if he tried to sell this outfit as a start up and without the backing of a manager and a pretty strong branding team, he would have been laughed at. Instead, through the strong brand he has built, he can happily design what he wants to, push the boundaries and his raving, loyal fans will not only love, but buy what he is selling.
Your brand is the thing that people will know, love, respect and admire. Customers, who become loyal to a brand, don’t do it because they love one dress. They are attracted to you because of that dress, but stay and become loyal by loving what the brand stands for, who that brand is, what it represents and the experience they have when shopping with it.
Your brand will live far longer than one collection and has to be the focus of everything you do. If your fashion brand identity is clear, then the choices you will have to make for every area of your fashion business will be much easier. If you want to try something different, or create a second line for a different market, then with your strong brand identity behind you, it will be far easier to do.
Your brand needs to be well thought out and know what it believes, just like a person. It should be clear in what it stands for and know what its strengths are. Everything in your business and your products need to reflect these values. Your consumers are invested in your brand beliefs, mainly because they will be loyal to a fashion brands that reflects their own and if you go against your values, your fans will react and leave. According to Cone, their consumer report shows that 90% of consumers consider the corporate social responsibility of a brand when deciding where to shop and 55% have actively boycotted a company when finding out that they have done something immoral or damaging to people or the environment.
Over the years that I have been in the fashion industry, I’ve seen far too many new brands, even ones with stunning designs, focus more time on their products first, without considering their brand identity and what it stands for. By the time they come to do the marketing, styling or even designing an e-commerce website, nothing works together, because they haven’t taken the time to think about their brand properly. People come to the site and feel confused, going away without buying. Ultimately the brand and the collection die without getting the recognition it deserves.
Your products are important and should represent your brand of course, but each garment has to keep the promise, that your brand made to each customer, whether that’s design, a lifestyle, price, quality, service, ethical production or some mixture of them all.