VFS Mentoring Event Review - Sales

VFS Sales Mentoring Class has featured guest speakers from both sides of the sales channel. Sales are fundamental to the success of a designers selling collection and this event aims to provide a comprehensive guide to attracting and sustaining both sales agents and buyers’ interest. With an insight into the process, the problems and the pricing we are trying to give the advice to help designers grow their business.

Guest Speakers:

Andrew Ibi Timeline, owner of “The Convenience Store”

Graduates from Middlesex University in 1996 scooping the Graduate of the year award, specialising in menswear. Works in New York and Toronto, fashion forecasting and taking the steps to design. From 2000-2006 Andrew sets up street wear label Handpaintibi and works on rage for Oki-Ni as well as teaching.

Currently developing ‘The Convenience Store’ concept, stocking Intelligent, Influential, Avant-Garde Womenswear fashion labels and FCS Women’s Luxury Accessories line whilst continuing to pursue high-level design consultancy.

Emma Crosby: brand ambassador to TribaSpace, Buyers Relations Manager of Vauxhall Fashion Scout

With a career spanning 25 years and including roles in Sales Management, Brand Management, Buying and Merchandising,. Emma is a freelance consultant to new designers, brand ambassador to TribaSpace and Buyer Relations Manager for VFS. Existing relationships include major department stores, buying agents for international groups and cool indies.

Things to consider when Preparing for Fashion Week

- Look for a contemporary buyer who wants new, edgy, innovative things
- Buyers want brands that fit their profile
- Your brand will not work for everyone
- Be careful and thoughtful about who you target – they must be relevant to your brand
- Understand where your product sits in the market place – do your research
- The pieces may not necessarily look like it, but would still sit with it
- Look at how the store buys into brands
- If shop has something similar to you it’s already covered
- Look for other stores which is similar that do not have that look covered
- Look at your contemporaries/competitors and where they are stocked
- You must pitch brand at the right store
- Do not pitch to everyone – Focus on key stores you want – Do not spread yourself too thin
- Develop a few good relationships

How do you bang on a door?

- Send images under 2mb
- Follow up phone call
- Three season rule – stop trying after this
- ‘No budget for you’ – they don’t want you
- Tailor your approach differently for every store
- Consider the customers of the stores
- Fine line between ‘genius’ and missing the point completely
- If you think your work does not fit in the store do not waste time contacting them
- Book appointments for April
- Showing someone your range and getting feedback is invaluable
- Strengths you can show as a young designers are being organised and switched on, and following up emails, phone calls and arrangement – they know you are not a corporate company so it does not need to be marketed like corporate Gucci

You = enthusiastic, brand = enthusiastic – you are an extension of your brand

Materials for Fashion Week

- Some images
- Business card is enough
- Press release/postcard with a few pictures – snapshot
- Don’t need big book
- Order sheets
- Terms – when I deliver, when I need payment, deposit


- Calculate the value of that store to your business
- Gaining profile but losing money
- Could be broad range of locations
- Which links can they give you to make up lost business?
- Direct recommendation for their stores in other countries
- For example: £5000 for exclusivities – nothing – four accounts could be £20000
- Might fall off radar of other stores
- Can negotiate to be with another store too
- Department stores ,boutiques and online retailers all have contemporaries so have to be careful who you sell to
- For example if you sell to John Lewis you won’t be bought by Liberty
- Asos and net-a-porter will not buy the same products
- Vivienne Westwood took fifteen years to become huge and only in independents
- Keep lines of communication open – might want to use the that store later for another season

Who are buying young designers?

- Italy, Japan, China, Middle East
- Keep mind open
- New stores popping up
- Context and relevance
- Might have to tweak to fit in – do not do completely new pieces
- Listen to advice of buyers – best pieces are dressers – expand your dresses

Payment Terms

- Deposit upfront – 30-50%
- Always ask, can negotiate
- After delivery – normal payment terms = 30 days
- Department stores can go up to 60 days
- Independents pay on delivery
- Online pay upfront

Use instinct in business scenario

- As soon as you have one stockist you look like a business
- Look for references from other smaller brands to see if the stores pay on time – not big brands because they will always be paid on time
- The best decisions you could profit no money, some of the worst could profit you lots of money
- Don’t do sale or return to somewhere you can’t visit yourself
- Don’t bankrupt yourself for the best name out there

Who is your customer?

- With your Price point you should be targeting professionals in media, city workers and some celebrities
- Think about where is your customer going to wear your designs
- Look at brands you like and try to under cut them
- Look at retail market stalls – they know their customers
- Small designers don’t need massive collections – ten strong pieces – delivered on time

Charlotte Summers