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Monday, February 18, 2013

Designing for Grown Up Women

If you are a fashion designer and aged around 23, you probably consider anyone of 40 to be elderly, and a 60-year-old to be so ancient as not to be worth even the slightest consideration.

This is entirely understandable, but also commercially suicidal in today’s highly competitive fashion market.

For the older woman customer has changed. These days she is unlikely to be a crinkly-haired granny clad in elasticated waist trousers and a fleece who puts her feet up with a cup of cocoa and a copy of Saga magazine.

She is far more likely to be a sassy, savvy, gym-fit woman with highlights, Acne ankle boots and Rouge Noir nails who shops at My-Wardrobe, Matches and Reiss and is probably running a PR firm, editing a magazine (Anna Wintour, editor of American Vogue, is 63) or, hey, like my co-director Cyndy Lessing and me, a fashion website, SoSensational.co.uk

Not only has the older woman changed, but – vitally important to you as a designer who needs to sell his or her products – she has more disposable income than any other female demographic and, most relevant for you, she likes to spend her money on fashion and luxury goods.

According to a Mintel report, the UK population aged over 55 is in control of around 80 per cent of the country’s wealth. In 2008, it was worth £5.4 billion, and by 2014 – that’s next year – it is forecast to grow to £6.4 billion.

According to a 2007 Mintel report, women aged 50 to 69 buy more designer fashion and luxury goods than any other group.

In mid-2006 approximately one in five people in the UK were aged under 16 while one in six people were aged 65 or over. According to market analysts Datamonitor, in 2000 there were about 132 million over-50s in Western Europe. By 2025 there are expected to be 177 million.

If those statistics have made you feel it may be worth taking a fresh look at your attitude to grown up women we have some suggestions which may be helpful. And the good news is that, you will almost certainly be able to extend your line to appeal to an older clientele (as these images from successful luxury brands highlight) without compromising on your aesthetic vision.

Garment length 
This is a vital area to consider. If all the dresses in your collection finish four inches above the knee, your brand will not appeal to a stylish older woman. Take a look at the shapes. Will any of the styles work if they are longer? Big, high profile players like Erdem, Preen, Roland Mouret, Antonio Berardi and Jonathan Saunders have all produced wonderful dresses that are on-the-knee or over-the-knee, which would appeal to a stylish woman of any age.

A perfect example of a new designer label which has taken on board the need to produce longer hemlines  is a fabulous fashion brand called Art on Fashion, which can also be found on the SoSensational Directory. Their offering is beautiful dresses, tunics and tops, in amazing prints created using specially commissioned artwork from artists in Japan, Europe and the USA.

They could quite easily have produced garments appropriate only for a very young clientele, featuring vest tops and short dresses. What they have done, instead, is to offer those things, but they have also produced wonderful and very on-trend over-the-knee dresses and longer-length tops which would appeal to the kind of woman – of any age – who would probably like Erdem, Preen, Berardi, Mouret, Saunders, et al.

Sleeves are a tricky subject. It is quite likely that the image which shimmers into your head is of horrid, polyester sleeves added to a frock as an afterthought. In fact, sleeves are a key trend this season – especially bracelet-length sleeves, which play into the whole retro mood.

Fabric quality
The quality of the fabric will be largely determined by your production budget, but if you have the budget flexibility to produce a few garments in a fabric that is slightly weightier, you may find you have expanded your appeal. Lining can also make a garment appeal to an older customer. But if you can’t afford to – or don’t want to – line a garment throughout, you may want to line the skirt of a dress, especially if it is in a very light colour and very see-through.

Selling online? Give the customer the information she needs 
If you are selling on the web, give the customer as much information as you can. Key pieces of information include whether a garment is lined, the length of a garment and whether the garment is true to size. Not only do you increase the chance she will buy, but you will cut down on returns, which can be a big cost for a fledgling business. And when it comes to length, don’t rely on a model shot making it clear what length a garment is. Even if you publish the model’s height, it can still be hard to judge the correct length, so a simple measurement – in inches and cms – is simple but effective.

By Jan Shure
Jan Shure is the former fashion editor of the Jewish Chronicle, broadcaster, blogger and an award-winning magazine editor. She is co-founder of SoSensational.co.uk, the shopping website for grown-up women.

Images courtesy of Browns, Matches and My-Wardrobe, all available to shop at SoSensational

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Fashion Angel launches business mentoring competition sponsored by ASOS Marketplace

We are delighted to announce the launch of our latest competition, sponsored by ASOS Marketplace.

One lucky ASOS Marketplace seller has the chance to win six months of Fashion Angel business mentoring.

James Hart, E-commerce Director at ASOS, said: “We are very excited to be working with Fashion Angel again to provide another amazing mentoring opportunity for one deserving ASOS Marketplace seller. We are looking forward to seeing the results of their business development on the site over the next 6 months”

The competition is open to fashion and accessory designers and vintage collectors that currently sell their products on ASOS Marketplace.

Alison Lewy said " the overwhelming response to last year's competition shows there is huge demand for specialist fashion industry business support. We enjoyed working with the 2012 winner, Fazane Malik, who as a result has taken her business in a new direction "

The winner will be announced on Wednesday April 3rd 2013.

The Prize
Six months Fashion Angel business mentoring package.

The winner will win a place on the Fashion Angel six month business start up mentoring programme.It’s a fantastic opportunity for fashion industry entrepreneurs to access six months of one to one mentoring from industry professionals.

By the end of the programme the winner will have an infrastructure in place and have the confidence to build a successful and sustainable business. They will also benefit from the exposure their brand will be receiving as a result of winning the competition. Click here for more information on the Fashion Angel mentoring programme.

Deadline for Entries: Wednesday  17th March 2013
Finalist Notified: Wednesday 3rd April 2013

Entrance Criteria
Open to ASOS Marketplace sellers who are based in the UK.


To enter the award, entrants must complete the online application form, or request one from info@fashion-angel.co.uk and submit 3 product images.

Full terms and conditions can be found
on the application form.

Follow @FashionAngel1

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Social Media for Fashion Brands Event Summary

Last week’s Social Media for Fashion Brands networking talk was one of the busiest yet and we were lucky  to have two guests on our panel this time.  This is a longer post than usual as so much was discussed.

Fashion blogger, Lois Waller, has built a huge following since she started her Bunni Punch blog in 2009, as well as over 5,000 twitter followers. She also runs her own PR agency Carrot Top PR, so has a unique perspective from both a PR and blogger's point of view.

Our second guest was designer Harriet Posner who has extensive experience advising labels on their branding and marketing strategy and has publishing a  book Marketing Fashion as a practical guide to the principles of marketing and branding. She also lectures on Fashion Business and Marketing at the LCF and Insitute Margioni and is about to launch her own label, Brompton Finch, which produces customised interior furnishings and fashion accessories inspired by flowers.

Harriet Posner, Alison Lewy and Lois Waller

The talk was kindly hosted by the American Intercontinental University and it was lovely to see their students mix and network with our business club members and fashion entrepreneurs that attended the event.

Most of us are aware of how important blogs and social media platforms are in helping promote a fashion brand, but don’t necessarily know how to utilise these platforms to the best advantage.

Fashion Angel networking talk audience
Below is a summary of the questions posed by the chair Alison Lewy, and some tips from the panel:-

Why does a brand need a blog, and to engage with bloggers?
Fashion bloggers are good for outfit posts to promote your product. The aim is to get several influential  bloggers to feature your designs to have a wide reach.
A label’s own blog is a brand building tool to create an emotional connection with your target audience.
It is important to be clear about who you are trying to reach depending on what your product and target market is.

What makes a good blog?
A blog should portray your brand in the best light and it should reflects your brands ethos - you shouldn't use it as a platform to moan about things
Build a conversation and a relationship with the audience by talking about your business journey, what inspires you, sharing behind the scenes footage at your studio or before a catwalk show all  can help.
Lois’s sees Bunni Punch as an informative tool that mixes up new and old brands, luxury and low end product outfit posts  - happy to include Primark if they produce something she thinks is cool.
It should be linked to your twitter and Facebook account so they are updated when you post.

How does it help a label reach trade buyers?
Buyers are now using blogs to research and find new brands – it’s much easier than trawling through websites. They have to be aware of the trends and so they look to the popular bloggers to feed them with up to date information which helps them filter through the brands that approach them.
If you show at London Fashion Week, make the most out of the opportunity and invite bloggers to attend and wear your products so hopefully they will write about your brand in their show coverage.
If your brand has built a big following on social media sites eg twitter & Facebook, the buyers will be more inclined to look at it, as it indicates there is a demand for your product.

How does a brand attract the attention of  bloggers?
Use twitter or email to approach them.  Not all will respond but some will.
Be aware that now many bloggers attend the shows and contact brands just to get free products, but don’t give anything back.
Try to build an on-going relationship with a blogger who’s going to feature you on a regular basis.

Do you have to pay  bloggers to feature products?
The fashion blogging world has changed and some of the influential bloggers do get paid for nearly all their posts. They are offered so much money  that it is no doubt hard to refuse, but it does change the nature of the relationship.
Lois’s focus is on creativity and showcasing new brands that interest her, in some cases she may earn some money out of it , but it doesn't influence her choices.
Hilary felt that it’s best to take a pragmatic approach – if a customer clicks on a blog link and then goes on to purchase that product she didn't feel there was anything wrong for the blogger to earn money from it providing the relationship is transparent.
Consumers follow blogs to see a curated selection of products from a blogger that they feel has a style aesthetic they like, so it can be look on as a service to some extent.
Harriet Posner, Alison Lewy and Lois Waller

What are the important platforms to be on?
This depends on your business model  and your segmentation targeting and positioning – you need to understand and have a presence on the platforms used by your target audience.

Lois told us over 80% of her new clients are through twitter. It’s a powerful research tool for businesses as can be used it to search what relevant  people are blogging about.
You can investigate who the key bloggers are in your field of interest and then  follow them – hopefully they'll follow you back, thus helping to build your community.
Hashtags can be used to help you find other interesting twitter feeds.

Facebook is particularly useful for customer communication, brand exposure and to drive traffic to a website.
It is outstanding in terms of engaging people who like a brand, want to share their opinions and participate in giveaways and contests.
A Facebook page should be kept updated to always look relevant.

Useful picture sharing application .
You can take a picture and instantly post it to twitter and Facebook  saving time.
It lets users follow and like brands, therefore building your community.

This virtual scrapbook site is very relevant for fashion brands.
Many brands are finding posting products on to boards translates in to sales
It’s useful  for designers to create their own moodboards.
It’s super quick to set up and update, so very user friendly.

Google+ may not be very exciting and not much seems to be going on, however it is an important technical tool, as will be soon be the  only way to move up Google search rankings.

Lois Waller’s tips:-

  1. Get on twitter - if you’re not on it set up an account immediately!
  2. Harass friends/family to like your page – this helps spread the word and move you up the search rankings.
  3. When you start you have to be proactive and approach magazine press, bloggers, stylist and PR’s to promote your brand and  build your community of followers 
  4. Use scheduling tools to allow you to write bogs in advance when you have the time, and then post them at a later date.
  5. If you want to promote your product, try linking it to something that’s on trend using the relevant hashtag.
  6. Network – it’s a small industry so face to face networking is the best way to get known . It’s also a great way of sharing expertise and forging collaborations. Even if you don’t have tickets,  go to London Fashion Week and trade shows to get to know the stylists and bloggers.
  7. If you want to approach a lot of bloggers – try following them and asking them to follow back, so you can direct message them.

Harriet Posner’s tips:-

  1. Content is key - think about your tone of voice - communicate with and project the values of your brand
  2. Remember the 4 Cs of Content
    Create  - create engaging content ( See point 1)
    Context - what is the aim and purpose of the content you are creating?
    Conversation - how will your content support two way communication between you and your audience?  Use social media to listen to the conversation as well as generate content.
    Conversion - What does conversion mean to you for each platform?   Think about meaningful conversion points of different platforms.  Are you trying to get someone to sign up for a newsletter?  Do you want them to enter a competition? Are you wanting them to purchase? Is the aim to get them to like or reTweet?  Is the purpose to get a key influence or blogger to contribute or feature your work?
  3. SEO - Make sure you use KEY WORDS wisely.  Think about the page title - put what you do before the brand name.  Don't forget to write Alt Tags on images using key words It helps with SEO and bloggers find your images.
  4. Website links should be on key word anchor text, not generic words like ‘more’ or ‘click here’ – eg link black leather jackets to link and not ‘here’
  5. People search Google by short phrases or 2 - 3 words.  Check the Google Key words tool - for example more people search for Milliner than Millinery. 
  6. Use Lists – if you want to keep an eye on a competitor without the public knowing who you are following you can use secret list.

Social media gives you access to data and a way to reach your target customers and can play an integral  part of your overall marketing/communications strategy but basic marketing principles still apply.

Don't forget, it is a support of and not a substitute, for getting out there and meeting people face to face!

Let us know what works best for you?
By Alison Lewy

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Fashion Angel helps young fashion entrepreneurs fly!

We are thrilled to announce that we are partnering with the government backed Start-Up Loans Company, to offer easy to access loans and business support to aspiring fashion industry entrepreneurs.

With London Fashion Week starting soon, highlighting the wealth of design talent and increasing number of fashion brands starting up new enterprises, we are delighted our popular mentoring and business support will now be available to new fashion businesses on the scheme, at the start of their business journey.

Involvement in this initiative continues our commitment to giving fashion brands the guidance and entrepreneurial skills they need to be successful.

Alison Lewy, Fashion Angel’s founder  welcomes this opportunity to support start up fashion businesses in this way

We are so pleased that we can help fashion start-ups get funding and business mentoring to help make their dream business a reality. Traditional lenders are often unsympathetic to lending to creative businesses, so it’s exciting to be able to offer an alternative funding route. As the only delivery partners specialising in this area, we are looking forward to playing an integral part to the success of these young entrepreneurs.”
We have already started approving loans and have now developed a very
simple on-line application process . We're on hand to support applicants both during the application process and while they get their business off the ground.

Start-Up Loans Company chairman, James Caan says”

 “Having started my first business in the fashion industry, I’m delighted to see a fashion-specific Partner on board to help support creative entrepreneurs turn their passion into a business. I believe this surge we are seeing from young people starting their own businesses is simply the beginning of an emerging and lasting trend in entrepreneurship in Britain”
 “Start-Up Loans are unsecured which is exactly what young people with no track-record of business or collateral need to get their idea off the ground. “

Come and find out if a Start Up Loan is right for you at our FREE talk and networking event, Finance for Fashion Start Ups in London on 27th March 2013, where successful Start Up Loan Ambassadors and loan recipients  will be on hand to share their experiences. Places are strictly limited and you can book your place on-line on the Fashion Angel events page

To start your application or to find out more go to  Fashion Angel Start Up Loans