Speakers: (L-R) Alison Chisholm, Matthew Watters & Erin Mullaney
Vauxhall Fashion Scout are thrilled to be able to host Mentoring Events for emerging talent in British Design. Inviting some of the leading experts in the fashion industry, the events provide an insight into the industry through a blend of question and answer's from invited audience members and the panel of experts.
This Mentoring event saw Orla Kiely, Harvey Nichols and Avenue 32 venture to Beach Blanket Babylon in Shoreditch to talk to an audience of over 50 designers and new talents in the industry.
Don't worry if you missed it... we took notes for you...
When is it best to send your information to a buyer?
- As early as possible is best, to give the buyer chance to go over your information and come back to you.
- During and after London Fashion Week is when buyers are on the look out for new designers. The first couple of weeks after London Fashion Week is best for emerging designers to ensure their designs are seen as this is a key time in the year for buyers.
- Paris Fashion Week is the best time as buyers are more willing to spend money in Paris then London which is often too busy for them to part with their cash!
- June-August, and November-Christmas are the only real 'downtimes' for buyers. So once you contact them, make sure you mention a visit or a follow-up at a later stage when buyers might be more open to dedicate a time to sit and discuss options with you.
- Don't leave long phone messages... they won't get listened to. Emails first thing in the morning are best, especially prior to 9am on the way to office...
- Email Buyer and Assistant Buyer if you can, but avoid emailing them when they are likely to be out of the country- Paris, New York, Milan Fashion Week...
- Agencies such as 'Lambert & Butler' and 'Mint' are good to have on board, and they will carry more weight with a buyer...
Buyers will always ask for exclusives, and these can work in your favour but they can also work against you...
- Don't limit yourself, especially when it comes to specific countries. You don't want to risk losing orders from other buyers because you've promised an exclusive, especially if it's small boutiques that have a limited market.
- Be prepared to compromise! Exclusives are very in trend, especially with big department stores, so if they want an exclusive you don't want to give, maybe offer an exclusive colour-way instead.
- Magazine Editors in particular are very enthusiastic about exclusives, so some companies will put a large amount of marketing behind exclusive pieces, even if the garment isn't back financially, the press coverage could be just as valuable.
Offering incentives and bonuses for stores could help your brand leave the shop floor...
- Once a sales assistant is passionate or motivated about the brand, they are going to want to push the sales and sell the product to the best of their ability. Even if the garment goes unsold, the information learnt and distributed by the Sales Assistants will be passed onto customers and others in the company- promoting the brand and, more than likely, selling the brand as well.
- Customers like to know about inspirations, stories and meanings behind the garments- as do buyers. If there is an emotional connection to garments as well as aesthetics, then you're brand will look a lot more appealing.
There are a couple of options for designers when approaching buyers about your collections...
- Agencies or showrooms are always a good idea, but you have to factor in costs as their will be an admin fee plus commission which is normally around 15%-20%.
- You can get lost in big showrooms - those that let you organise your own appointments and sell your own garments like Vauxhall Fashion Scout are the best, as you have complete control.
- Contact buyers yourself if money is a problem and you want full control over the influx of business.
- Look for funding to back your brand. There are so many initiatives out there to support young british talent, that it's a wasted resource if you don't seek them out!
- Platforms, such as Vauxhall Fashion Scout are perfect to launch your brand and invite/meet buyers, plus you have the security and knowledge that you're being looked after.
- If you offer to go to a buyer, rather then them coming to you, it really shows an effort and a sense of importance and pride about your brand...
"Sometimes it's not that we don't want to see the garments, but we might just not have the time to get to you. If you come to us, you're here already, so it's much easier." Harvey Nichols.
- Remember- you always want the best, buyers are interested in what other buyers are purchasing. If you have a good buyer stocking your designs, tell other buyers so they know that you are being sought after! Competition is rife, and you have to make buyers want your designs over everybody else's!
- Distribution is vital for young designers, as you are developing your brand identity in the market. You need to think about who your key customer is, and make sure that the buyers that want your brand have the same key customer in mind for your brand.
Also- always take the big stores that you want first. If it doesn't work out, then smaller boutiques and stores are ideal, but you don't want to be caught out with being unable to fulfil an order because your stock is already spread into several small boutiques.
Talking to Buyers...
- Don't always listen to the buyer when it comes to your garment selection. You know more about your collection and the ethic behind it... they're the buyers but your the designer, so stick up for yourself!
- If buyers give you advice on which way to approach your collection, more often then not, it's usually to point you in the way of something more commercial.
- Don't be afraid to tell a buyer if an order is too big. It's better to negotiate, then not to provide the product on time, which will cost you the relationship with the buyer, who will (most likely) cancel the order.
- Don't assume buyer always know what they're doing - if you feel that the relationship isn't going the way you would like your brand to go, or doesn't reflect your collection, then speak up and ask questions!
What should I take on a Buyer visit?
- Anything & Everything you can carry that is relevant for that buyer to see!!
- If you are limited- fabric samples are always best, and high quality images of the garments.
- When bringing garments- don't panic if you can't bring the whole collection with you, just bring enough pieces to represent the collection as a whole.
- The pieces you bring need to be exciting enough to stand out against the range of existing collections, so do your research about existing designers and the layout of your store and choose your pieces accordingly.
- If you have to edit your collection before a buyer visits, especially if you're unsure on a product, take it out- it'll bring the whole collection down.
"It's much better to have 25 pieces that are really hot, then 100's which will ultimately cost you..." Avenue 32.
- Online stores are very different to actual stores. Online garments have to really jump out from the page, and present a very different way of buying, so make sure you plan and prepare for each specific buyer.
- Look Books are also a great way to present your brand to a buyer. A good look book could be the difference between a buyer making that final purchase, or not.
- Look Books are so vital for a buyer when considering a designer's collection. Not only are the garments taken into account, but the lay out, the production etc.. When you have a great photographer, great hair and great make-up, it makes the garments look more desirable.
- Don't be afraid to send a look book to a buyer- before or after a meeting, or even to try and secure one. If you send a printed look book with a personal message from the designer the buyer feels they have to respond, as respect and pride is shown in taking the time to personally contact the buyer.
- Sending emails, or letters- making sure that the letter is addressed to the right person is crucial, as if it's wrong it could get lost or even ignored.
The economical climate is tough on everybody...
- You have to remember that although these buyers can come from large companies, everybody is on a tighter budget and it's not set to get better any time soon.
- Young designers especially don't seem to realise that not only are buyers looking at emerging designers, they are also looking at established designers- both of whom could have a high price point, and if so, the buyers are more likely to go with the established designer as it is hard to justify a high price point unless the designer in question is set to be a big seller.
- Try not to fluctuate on prices too much, as it will confuse the buyers and the customers. Be aware of the pricing of established brands with a similar aesthetic or that use similar fabrics, and judge your pricing accordingly.
- Stay away from discount sites online. Be careful that stores or buyers don't discount your garments- this will lower your brand appeal and undermine your credibility as an emerging designer.
- Do what you need to to try and keep a profit- everyone is in the same boat, so when approaching a buyer, bare in mind what will make you the 'big bucks' if sold.
Garments- when they leave the designer and head for the store...
- Think about the time of the year and the season and your collection... You may get a great store buy into your collection, but if they receive heavy garments in June, they aren't very likely to go onto the shop floor until summer has past. Sometimes, you can be too early with submitting your garments.
- Remember with online stores that have global shipping can appeal to a world wide climate, so there is no garment style too early or too late- especially with sites like Net-a-porter who don't sell collections as per the seasons.
- Be aware when dealing with different countries- especially in the economic climate, some countries (as a generalisation) will only be able to pay you for your garments once they've been sold in store, so make sure all payment is settled, in writing and that you've researched well before any agreement is made.
- When dealing with certain buyers, if you spot an unhealthy or 'negative' pattern, make sure you pull them up on it before money or garments are compromised.
- When it comes to shipping, most stores will expect you to pay, so make sure you factor that into your costs when negotiating with buyers. Always try and get the best deal you can, after all buyers wouldn't offer to buy if they weren't interested in having your collection in store.
"If we want you in our store, we will do the best to get you in there..." Harvey Nichols
- SOR is not really recommended for emerging designers, it's in the best interest of the buyer, but if you can negotiate something else, it is recommended. Especially when placed in larger stores, you can lost amongst the more established brands.
- Biggest seasons are pre-seasons, where collections are mainly commercial and then more experimental pieces come in as seasons peak.
- There is always the option of window dressing for those garments that are a little too experimental to be 'best sellers', but will undoubtably catch people's attention.
- The way that people are buying online is changing constantly.
- There's a convenience element to online shopping that isn't available for in-store. Most people spend their evening browsing stores online when stores are closed, and even plan ahead for season's to come, so no garment is irrelevant.
- Buyers will spend their spare time searching competitor sites and designer websites to see what's new and exciting, as well as comparing designers that have already been bought or they are planning to buy.
- If a brand sells well, then of course the buyer will re-order, but be prepared to offer something that has proved popular but perhaps with an extra dimension...
"We look for transition/progression but if something sells really well, the same garment in a different colour way is great!"
- Maximise potential sales by cancelling low sellers and swapping them for well-selling product.
Images by Rowan Papier - www.rowanpapier.com
With thanks to Beach Blanket Babylon & Mayor of London