Paul Williams Business Counsellor for East London Small Business Centre
They are a London-based, not-for-profit support agency for small businesses, committed to helping anyone who wants to get started in business unlock their entrepreneurial talent. They support existing businesses to grow and prosper and every year they help 300 new businesses to start up. ELSBC invesst in training for over 1,000 people, and lend 2 million in funds to entrepreneurs to start-up or expand.
David Longshaw Designer
Longshow not only has a natural talent for fashion, but also for iIlustration, winning the Colin Barnes Drawing Prize in 2005. He has contributed to a number of publications and uses his illustrations and story writing as a starting point for his collections. Winner of the BFC/ELLE TLP. Last year David was selected for the ‘Ones To Watch’ catwalk show by Vauxhall Fashion Scout in Feb 2010 and was sponsored by SWAROVSKI ELEMENTS for his aw11/12 collection.
Developing your brand
- First and foremost, research your target market, competition and develop your USP (Unique Selling Point)
- Start viewing yourself as a brand, not just a designer. Your collection may be perfect for the catwalk but if you can create an easier to wear collection without diluting your vision as much, you will generate more positive responses in terms of sales.
- Listen to what people want or see for your brand. If there’s a correction an Editor has suggested, try and work it into your piece. Take advice from people who are in the industry and see it as constructive criticsm.
- Think about smaller pieces, like scarves, to add into your collection. People may want to buy into your brand, but find they cannot afford a dress or jacket. Give them something they can remember you buy by allowing them to be a part of your brand in any way you can find. It also gives stores an opportunity who aren’t too sure the chance to stock you at a level they will feel comfortable at, and encourages them next season to purchase higher priced garments from you.
- Plan your time well. Be realistic about your goals and your ability to be able to deliver and meet demands.
- You can edit your looks for the catwalk, but keep all your garments to photograph for the lookbook.
Pricing Your Garments
- Always add into account not only raw materials, but the amount of time that has been spent creating the garments. This is why showpieces tend to be at a higher price point- they take more work! When exhibiting, always price every garment. You’d be surprised how many showpieces actually sell at events!
- Price your commercial garments realistically. Make a profit of course but keep your target market, aswell as target stockists, in mind. What else do they sell? Does your product relate to them and their prices?
The Financial Side of Designing
- Don’t rush yourself. If you have only just graduated and are still toying with many ideas, take some time out to plan and save up. Your creativity will still be there one year/eighteen months down the line
- If you are interested, try and work under somebody else for a while. It will not only give you an opportunity to save up for your own collection, but you will be able to have a better understanding of how fashion houses and brands run through every aspect of design.
- Plan plan plan. Everything gets easier as you plan, and don’t attempt to start making your collection until you do. Things like sourcing materials, and looking at importers and exporters can be ticked off your plan as you go along and you can thoroughly research everything properly. These kind of things extremely important and you need to know all of your costings before you begin.
- Write a complete and detailed plan, including your incomings and outgoings. Remember, not only do you have to take into account materials, wages and lookbooks, but models, photographers and makeup artists.
- Take into account things like sourcing fabrics abroad and getting your items made there. It will be cheaper than getting it made in England in the majority of cases, but you also have to think about travelling costs to get to the factories abroad.
- Think about getting your business registered and consider things like Tax and VAT. Eliminate all your potential money downfalls at the word go and you will be fine from here on in.
- Sample Sales are an excellent way of generating some income for your next collection. Generally you sell your items at a reduced priced, slightly higher than cost price, just so you can get a little profit.
Finally, the ELSBC provides loans to emerging designers for production costs. This includes things like covering costs for fabric, trimmings and other resources. As your business grows, ELSBC can help you out at every stage and supports designers with excellent advice as well as financially. However, loans are a short term solution, and shouldn’t be relied on long term.
Sarah Potter- Editor