So you want to start your own fashion business? Are you sure? Like, are you super duper sure?? That’s the first question you should be able to answer with 100% confidence. After that, everything else is a piece of cake! Well…
Over the next year (yes, a whole year!), I’ll be sharing insight about my own experiences starting a business in the fashion industry that will hopefully help you get into the right mindset to launching or further developing a successful brand. Make sure to subscribe (and select “Stylishly Advised Series”) to get each new post in your inbox every month!
This month’s topic “Define Your Brand & Ideal Customer” is all about determining what your business stands for and who you’re targeting. I think naturally, the first thing people will want to do when starting a new business is get online as quick as possible. But if you skip over the steps below, a few months from now, when someone asks you a question like, “What’s the mission for your business?” or “What is your brand aesthetic?”, you’ll probably have an “oh shit” look on your face. Trust me, you’ll get to the fun stuff, but first, let’s build the heart of your company.
It’s important to know your brand. When I started out as an independent graphic designer, I wasn’t sure who my audience was. It took me three months to develop an aesthetic that communicated who I was as a designer (and two months after started Stylishly Made, I re-designed my brand to further communicate that aesthetic.
When I bring on a new client, I require them to complete a Client Intake Form. It started as a one-page general questionnaire about the project they wanted me to work on. However, after getting a few projects under my belt, I added sections to the form to ensure that I had all the information I needed upfront. One of which is the creative brief. Some independent designers would wait until after their client has signed the contract to have them complete a creative brief, however, I like to streamline the intake process as much as possible. Plus, it helps me to understand the client and the brand better.
In the past, I’ve worked with clients who had a general idea of what they wanted their brand to communicate to the public, but I always got the sense that they weren’t clear about who their audience was. I usually got links to other websites from my clients telling me that they want their project to be as similar as possible. And while I can appreciate their design taste, part of my job as a designer is to connect with the client and build something unique to them. I may use these links as inspiration, but I make it known that I will not replicate that inspiration and slap their logo on it.
I had sort of a difficult time with one client in particular who designed, what was in my personal opinion, a very non-cohesive clothing collection. After meeting with the client twice, I still wasn’t sure how to creatively communicate the collection. I got the sense that she didn’t really have a good idea of what she wanted to communicate to her customers either. I was also asked to manage the client’s social media pages (which I don’t normally do) until the project deadline, which made it even more difficult since social media platforms give companies the opportunity to further develop their brand by engaging directly with their followers. So I did the best I could with the content I had but kept it fairly general. It’s not one of my proudest projects, but I definitely learned from it.
Your ultimate goal should be to create a cohesive brand both on and offline. This means more than just having a cool logo. Choosing the right color scheme can have a huge impact on how your brand communicates itself. This also goes for typography and graphic elements, such as patterns, icons, etc. Here are some of my favorite examples of great style guides that can be applied to everything from print design to websites to social media content.
Designing Your Brand
Should you hire a graphic designer? Well, if you’re one of my clients, you’ll get a great deal on not only a publicist but a graphic designer as well. I have a degree in graphic design! Visit stylishlymade.com/services for more information on how I can help you. If your budget is a little tighter, no worries! Check out Creative Market, Canva, and Skillshare for products and classes to help improve your graphic design game!
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