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Marketing tips for Fashion Designers

How to Think Like a Business Owner (and a Fashion Designer)

Making a living doing what you love is important. I've had the privilege of working in the communications field for over 18 years and I'm passionate about my work. Working in the fashion business, it's likely you're living your dream as well. I've yet to meet a designer who isn't passionate about fashion, her designs and her customers. Yet that enthusiasm less often extends to the other, less creative aspects of running a business. Unfortunately, setting up your business properly can be one of the most important ways to set yourself up for success in the long-term.

The truth is you're not only a fashion designer, you're a business owner.

Map Out a Business Plan

Much in the way you sketch your next great creation or draw out your patterns before sewing, set aside some time to map out what your vision is for your company and create a business plan. You can find several templates and examples online to help you get started. By following along with the template, you will be forced to consider questions like - who are your stakeholders? What is the operations plan? Are you planning to work solo or do you need to incorporate? What is your marketing plan, major messaging and key areas of differentiation.  Business plans are often modified as your dreams become reality, but spending time in this planning phase is crucial, for your own sanity and if you ever hope to have an investor take you seriously.

Develop Customer Profiles

Who is your target customer? I can't count how many times I've heard designers say "everyone" because they feel their product is so great! Even saying "women over 25" is too general. A great way to get specific is to develop customer profiles or personas. Give your 35 year old, college-educated, zumba dancing, Africa-safari going, major metropolitan living, mom of two girls aged 2 and 6 looking for comfortable separates that will help her stand out, a name. Give her a face!  And then design for her.

Being clear on who your target is not only helps line up your image and brand so that it resonates with that target, it allows you to research further into her experience. Host a focus group, invite friends or friends of friends over for tea and have them talk to you about what they are looking for in their closet each morning. In addition, a clear target helps with public relations and securing media coverage. As a quick example, we know that Nylon skews a bit younger, is edgy and tied to music and underground culture.  W Magazine, on the other hand, attracts a more sophisticated, polished and affluent reader. Perhaps there are aspects of your line that appeal to both, but make sure your pitch is targeted to appeal to the specific vibe of the publication.

Make Budgeting Your New BFF

It's important to make sure you have enough savings to keep you afloat during the first few months. As a designer, you also need to map out start up costs (and likely get an accountant) and get your books in order for tax time. Consider how much money you need to pay for portions of your design business that you may not always operate yourself. For instance, a sales staff, seamstresses, a PR and marketing budget, bookkeeping, etc.

Commit to Losing (a bit) of Control

As a designer/business owner, you will have a great deal of creative control, after all, it's your design and your business. Even so, you'll need to be open to advice and guidance from those who are skilled in areas you struggle with. Allow your brand to evolve in ways you never expected, and be open to opportunities that come your way (just make sure they fit with your overall brand identity!).

A Case Study: Always be open to new opportunities

Our firm has worked with the fashion label Essence Flowers over the years, who was initially known for designing gorgeous dresses - from cocktail dresses to ball gowns that appeal to an elite,  high profile crowd, including celebrities and dignitaries. As Essence moved toward looking at growing her business and building a sustainable brand, she began to explore swimwear, which has proven to be a highly lucrative new channel. In 2010, Essence Flowers designed suits for the 2010 Tampa Bay Buccaneer cheerleading calendar, and the the NFL cheerleading team loved her designs so much, they asked her to design their 2010 uniforms. She has since launched a sports division to cater to this new market, and to date, she continues to design uniforms and swimwear for the Tampa Bay Buccaneer cheerleading team and has also designed for the cheerleading squads of the Miami Dolphins, Dallas Cowboys, San Francisco 49ers and more.

The transition has required a bit of adaptation, but has allowed her to maintain her role designing quality clothing for discerning consumers, while supporting her overall business. If she hadn't been open to exploring other aspects of her field, she may not have ever come across, or made use of, the opportunity design for cheerleaders. And her willingness to explore other aspects of the business allowed her to reach a new market, continue to design dresses for fancy social affairs and do what she loves to do while building her business.

Are you looking at your designer skills through a business lens? What advice do you have for fashion designers just starting their businesses?

PS: For access to $1500 worth of fashion business consulting for just $45, take a look at Build Your Fashion Brand, digital courses for emerging designers.

This article originally appeared on PR Couture in 2011

Photo Credit: Jason Hargrove

Nanette Lepore Nanette Lepore Live Video Chat, July 31

Ask Designer Nanette Lepore about Fashion PR (& More!)

I'm on a life-mission to find the perfect pair of black, wide-legged pants. And there is one pair that absolutely haunts me. Because probably more than ten years ago I found them. A pair of perfect, cotton twill Nanette Lepore black pants, with either a side or back zipper. I think they were $200 - more than I had ever spent on a pair of pants, and unfortunately the store only had them in that, "one size too small, squeeze your crotch size", or "one size too big, gap in the back size." After depbting about buying them for my somehow, future, smaller self (as girls do), I reluctantly put them back. But I still think about those pants, way too often. I later borrowed my best friend's Nanette Lepore black and white tweet skirt suit for several years as I went to PR agency job interviews and later to the kind of fancy, corporate speaking engagements and presentations where suits are somewhat required. The skirt even made a cameo in a Secretary-inspired halloween costume. It didn't even matter that my best-friend is a full 6 inches taller than me, this was like the Sisterhood of the Traveling Suit. Such is the power of great clothes. And Nanette Lepore makes some of the best. If you agree, don't miss this upcoming opportunity to ask her anything: learn how she built her brand, her design inspiration and get insider PR, branding and business tips-during a href="" target="_blank">live, interactive video chaton July 31. Wizeo has instituted a "pay what you can" policy for this chat, which means it is FREE, but any donations that participants choose to make will go to Nanette's charity of choice, She's the First, a girls' education nonprofit. (I will of course, be asking if she has a stash of those pants somewhere!).

Chat with Nanette Lepore Details

What: Live, interactive video chat with international fashion designer, Nanette Lepore When: July 31 at 4:30 pm EST Where: Register and view details at!profile/44 Cost: FREE. Voluntary donations benefit Nanette Lepore's charity of choice, She's the First

Get the office together and make it mandatory! See you there!

Fun Gift Ideas for PR Girls

Fashion PR Girl Shopping Guide for July

July marks the first entire month I will have spent at home in ages. I'm trying to make the most of this San Diego summer before heading to Mexico City (more on that soon!) and Italy (eeep!) in August. So, I'm working hard in the mornings and late evenings, when my brain is the most fresh and focused, with afternoons spent out of doors! Do you have a time of day when you're most productive?

And now, onto the July Goodies:

1. No more sneakily fishing your phone out of your purse during a conversation, you know, just to check. 18k gold ring with semi-precious stones, this wearable tech ring vibrates to let you know when that text or email you've been waiting for comes through. Want want want! Order soon before they sell out on your favorite color & raise prices. Moonstone Ringly, $145

2. In love with one-piece swimsuits this summer, and this floral suit has a cut out in the one spot I'm ok showing a bit of skin. By 6 Shore Road, available at Swim Swim, $138

3. Hand-dyed and hilarious, each one comes out a bit differently. This sweatshirt is calling to me. Loudly. Ugh. By Chain Candy, $49.95

4. Of course the perfect summer sandal comes from Bali. Choose from 9 differently colored leathers that will get better season after season. I'm partial to the dark tan, pictured. ELF, $110

5. Tortoise-shell jewelry looks great with a tan, no? Sterling Forever, $24

6. There's nothing good about weating off your makeup. This silicone-free spray makeup primer helps me save face! Skindanavia, $35

7. I love heading out onto my front porch with a class of something bubbly to watch the sunset. But mosquitos are the worst. I'll keep the bugs away in style with this Citronella candle in the fresh, Garden Sage sent! Also makes a great party gift! Leif, $22

8. Summer is nothing without a library of great reads! Next up I'm diving into this "dating rulebook for fashion lovers," by Fashion Writer Stephanie Simons, illustrated by Malia Carter. Kindle, $9.99

What about you kitten? What's on your wish list this month?

Meet Crosby Noricks

Hi. I'm Crosby, the founder of PR Couture and a fashion brand strategist. I care about supporting and celebrating fashion publicists as well as helping rad companies connect with their audiences in more meaningful ways. Recently, iMedia included me in their annual list of 25 Internet Marketing Leaders and Innovators, along with people from Starbucks, Twitter and Volkswagon, which I think is pretty neat. Like Elle Woods, I am a Gemini-vegetarian (that's about where the similarities end). Let's connect: Check out my full bio, Brand Elixer sessions or shoot me an electronic communiqué.