In the past couple of years, I've worked for five fashion designers, each having their own specialty. Their focuses were primarily on either children's wear, manufacturing, swim wear, or formal wear. Each operated differently and didn't follow a special "formula" for their success.
I have learned the good and the bad from them, and have decided to not implement certain things within my business. This blog post will not speak badly of nor name any of them, but instead discuss how I grew with the knowledge they each gave me.
The first designer primarily focused on attending trade shows throughout the country and selling to their customers via wholesale with a small focus on e-commerce and social media.
1. They bought competitor's garments to compare their technicalities and fit: Often times, when their manufacturer from overseas sent over the product, it wouldn't fit right. So, they had me measure their competitor's garments so I can communicate with the manufacturer where to increase or decrease a garment.
2. They had me pack bulk orders inside their warehouse for their wholesale customer: This was physically tiresome, but it showed me organization of merchandise (same styles packed together, with sizes going in descending order), how to prepare a package for shipment, and how to follow up with a customer to receive their prompt payment (usually done with an email first, then a phone call).
3. Trend Forecasting: Essentially, we used their sales records to choose which colors sold best last season and compared it to Pantone's and WWD's websites to see which colors would be trending this season.
4. Email blasts: This tactic was mostly done to follow up with leads from trade shows (a lead is a potential customer). I found this to not be useful at all. We almost always got no response from the recipient. The flaw with their email templates was that they were always jam-packed with information and had a pretentious tone. Also, we never followed up with a phone call a couple days later; I feel doing this would have given us a better turnaround ratio.
5. How to treat employees: To keep it short, towards the end, this employer began to treat me poorly, yelling at me if I made a mistake. In my defense, I mostly made mistakes because their way of communicating things were incorrect. They'd use words that meant something else, and if they didn't tell me what they wanted done accurately, they would put the blame on me for doing it incorrectly. I took so much away from this experience and learned how not to treat your employees. They took away my voice and made me feel uncomfortable to even ask for clarification or help.
The second designer focuses on manufacturing and custom orders, and specializes in technical design and pattern making. They're killer good when it comes to their craft, many of us had them as an instructor at Ai. I have so much respect for them today.
1. Technical Flats: They showed me all the ins and outs of technical design. This is essentially drawing your garment in a two-dimensional form to show the pattern maker any style lines, notions, closures, etc., to create the patterns.
2. Sewing Secrets: They showed me how to cut fur fabric in a way where you won't trim the nap that hangs from it and shared a secret on how to attach an invisible zipper to a knit garment without causing a rippled affect, but I'll keep those tips and others between us, haha.
3. Pattern Making: How to walk a pattern, trueing lines, working with knits, a little bit of everything.
4. Fashion Shows: Whether it was making last-minute alterations or adding little details, it was always hectic backstage. They had me dress models and help style them according to the designer's taste.
5. Fabric Shopping: Letting the fabric speak to you when you see it. Closing your eyes to feel it and think if it truly fulfills what you need it for.
6. Networking: Connecting with people within the fashion industry and building relationships. They've introduced me to many individuals, and whether or not I built a relationship with them, I still watched and observed them to learn something new.
7. Pricing: What a garment should be priced at without underselling myself. This is a hard one since everyone wants something nice at a great price, and with my line of work, that's not achievable. It's difficult, as much as I want to give my client's a great price, I can't. There are so many things I need to account for when running this business, that underselling myself isn't an option. I've thought about doing this to give potential client's a taste of the brand, but then I realize that I'd only be getting them used to these unrealistic prices.
The third designer focused mostly on growing their social media presence to generate e-commerce sales and carried their luxury goods in many retail stores across the world. This designer began their journey by noticing that the industry was missing what they offer now, and decided to do so themselves. It's impressive how far they've come.
1. Presentations for buyer's meetings: Whenever the new season's collection was created, and the samples from the manufacturer arrived, it was time to show the collection to prospective buyers. During these meetings, it was important to do anything that would impress these buyers into buying more from your brand. This meant that dressing well, having catalogs ready, a model or two present, and a whole rack of all your samples ready for show were vital. These meetings showcase your new products and is an opportunity to get any feedback. Sometimes, designs you thought would do well, don't, and it becomes a great lesson on who your target market is.
2. Trunk Shows: After going to all these buyer's meetings and educating the wholesale customer on the products, it was my turn to educate customers at the stores with what the brand was. Typically, these shows were done on busy weeks or holiday weekends to drive up more sales and traffic into the stores. Doing this showed the buyers and the stores that they received great support from the brand to help them sell the merchandise they bought from the brand. At the root of it all, building relationships was the most important thing.
3. E-Commerce: Most of the sales that were done online from their customers were almost entirely driven from social media. Seeing this trend, I became aware of how vital it was to become active on social media in today's climate. Of course, there's always tips and tricks on how to increase your engagement, but it all depends on who your target market is and what you're selling, so try to figure that out through your failings.
The fourth designer is a small company who releases seasonal collections. I didn't work for them, but I only met them once and they shared this wisdom with me.
1. Patience: They told me everything takes time and reminded me that we all have to start somewhere. They reassured me to stay positive and to keep pushing, as time eventually shows all your efforts.
2. Sewing Knowledge: They awkwardly admitted that they didn't know how to sew and that it's okay to let other people make your garments. This was a tough one to swallow, especially because I took pride in making my garments myself. It was then when I realized that everyone probably does it, too, and that at some point I'll be doing the same, too.
The fifth designer is a growing designer in L.A. and hires seamstresses and pattern makers to make beautiful, luxurious gowns for women. They only focus on custom orders and on the details of a garment.
1. Glamorous Photoshoots: This designer lended many of their garments to women to use as wardrobe for their photoshoots. It was then when I discovered the secrets to fitting a dress that doesn't fit a model properly. Since their target market was primarily petite women, there were no issues with the dresses fitting unless the dress was bigger than them. If this was the case, we'd have to clip the garment tight and hide it from the camera.
2. Fittings for Clientele: There were times where we'd have to go to a client's home or hotel to do fittings. This included having the designer there, their seamstress/pattern maker, and personal assistant (me). We'd have as much as two or three fittings, with the first trial being the toile and after making adjustments, moving onto the final garment. Once the final garment was tried on, there would sometimes be minor adjustments needed, if at all. Once this process was completed, the garment was finally done.
Learning from all of these fashion designers has given me the opportunity to grow from each one and apply it to myself. Although I didn't mention everything I learned with them, I tried mentioning the most important points that you're possibly struggling with yourself. If you have a question, comment down below and I'll be more than happy to pass along my knowledge.
I hope this inspires you to do something for your own personal brand and grow from it and know that it's okay to not be self-taught. Many people will try to take credit for teaching you, and though that's okay, just know that you wouldn't be where you are today because of your own personal will.