Fashion – people obsess over it, rock it, defy it, live for it and even sing about (think David Bowie & Madonna!). For many it’s more than just something you wear – it’s an extension of their personality, a way of life and a career. But breaking into the competitive fashion industry can seem overwhelming for designers just starting out. So how do emerging designers get the contacts, education and support to embark on their dream job?
We asked industry insider and the Director of Brisbane Fashion Month (BFM), Laura Churchill how to break into the business. Her top six tips were...
1. Dare to be different
In the crowded fashion market you need to find a niche for your label by having a point of difference. It might be your style ethos, colours, fabric choice, philosophy, brand ethics or manufacturing technique. Don’t try to be everything to everyone, have a clear understanding of your market and your goals. Also get to know your customers, encourage feedback and use it to build your brand.
2. See and be seen
Industry events should be on the radar of every would-be fashion designer. These events are great sources of inspiration, education and invaluable networking opportunities. Contacts and relationships can – and do – open doors in the fashion world. Learn everything you can about the industry from those already in it, discover their backstories, understand the challenges and see what is trending.
3. Get social
Social media has opened the fashion world up to small labels and emerging designers. With Instagram, Pinterest, blogs and Etsy stores, designers can promote their wares, mould their image and sell their creations – all for little or no outlay. It’s also an invaluable way for designers to engage with others in the industry, keep abreast of global trends, find suppliers and also network with industry professionals.
4. Check your ambition
Know what you want for your business. Are you planning on building a national or global brand? A small online business? Or just a creative outlet and a side hustle? You may want to focus on creating individual, one-off garments – or you might dream of seeing your label in the big department stores. Once you are clear on your goals you can find partners and suppliers which align with your objectives. Don’t underestimate the importance of a business plan, many iconic fashion labels have come to grief due to bad management and a lack of direction.
5. Be business savvy
While choosing fabrics might be more sexy than crunching figures, emerging designers need to wear many hats and to look at their label as a holistic business. You need to understand the importance of profit margins, protecting your intellectual property, financing, quality control, packaging, shipping costs and where to price yourself in the market. This is where connecting with a mentor or a supportive network can help to sustain you during the tough times before the money starts flowing in.
6. If you want it – persevere
If you have the passion, desire and drive to make it in the fashion industry, take the plunge and give it your all. Seeing your designs on the runway for the first time or being embraced by the public, is a feeling you will never forget.
Designs on your future
With her in-depth understanding of the challenges facing emerging designers, Laura Churchill is proud to be at the helm of BFM. “We really wanted to create an event which would unite the fashion industry, support emerging talent and grow the depth of the industry in Queensland,” said Laura.
The aim of the event is to showcase designers from all regions across Queensland, while also focussing on running educational forums to help designers connect with peers and industry. While this year’s program is still being finalised, past workshop sessions have covered social media, publicity, finance, legal issues and understanding contracts.
Other BFM highlights include the Wintergarden pop-up store, free public fashion parades, fashion design competition and a new publication this year which will act as a directory of ‘who’s who’ in Brisbane and Queensland fashion. Fashion buyers and suppliers also attend to look for new talent, while designers have the opportunity to meet like-minded people and to collaborate with local photographers, illustrators and manufacturers.
Last year 43 designers were featured across the fields of clothing, footwear, accessories, jewellery, and millinery. The designers ranged from a 16-year-old high school boy to a designer in her retirement years starting on a new business venture.
Brisbane Fashion Month runs from1 -31 October, for more details on the full program of events go to brisbanefashionmonth.com.au