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Friday, August 30, 2013

David Longshaw on Setting Up his Own Fashion Label

In this week's interview we talked to fashion entrepreneur David Longshaw, Founder and Designer of one of London’s highly regarded emerging designer brands.

David graduated from Central St Martin’s with a BA (Hons) in Fashion Design (womenswear) in 2005 and achieved an MA from the RCA in 2007, and has been nominated for numerous international design awards. 

In February 2010, after gaining experience as a designer at Alberta Ferretti and Max Mara in Italy, David returned to the UK to launch his own label. He won the BFC/ELLE Talent Launch Pad 2010 and was selected for the ‘ones to watch’ catwalk show by Fashion Scout and to show at the LFW Exhibition. Today, David Longshaw’s collections are sold worldwide in the UK, USA, Japan, Hong Kong, Dubai and more.

David shared with us some of his valuable experience running his own fashion label.

When did you decide you wanted to launch your own label?
I knew I wanted to start my own label before I went to Central St. Martins. This was the reason I wanted to go there and then decided to complete my MA at the RCA.

How did you decide when was the right time to set up the label ?
It was important for me to gain some experience before starting my own label and working for Max Mara gave me the chance to gain high end commercial experience. Once I learnt as much as I could, I felt ready to come back to England and start my own label.

Having gained valuable industry  experience but felt I had  my own distinctive style (in design) to offer. Also, I wanted to start my label before I got too comfortable with the job I was doing. 

What has been your biggest achievement so far?
That people enjoy wearing my clothes and take pleasure in my work. The likes of Isabella Blow (when I was at St Martins), Helena Christensen wearing my clothes and Mary Quant complimenting me on my designs.

What has been the most difficult obstacle in your career until now, and how did you overcome it?
Dealing with Maude’s ego (Maude is the fictional fabric mouse I created whilst at St Martins and have illustrated for various magazines including Vogue Italia and vogue.com)

What support structures have helped the business grow?
When my first capsule collection was selected for Fashion Scout's ‘one’s to watch’ catwalk show and for the LFW exhibition I was lucky to receive mentoring from them. At that point, different PR agencies also approached me to represent the brand. Another important element was hiring an accountant. Many young designers forget about the money side and think they can just spend all their time designing collections. You have to make sure that you are on top of the finances.

I also received support from the UKFT to exhibit in Paris for Fashion Week and our production is outsourced to a variety of different factories and individual machinists.  

What would you describe as the most important decision you have made in order to get to where you are today?
Deciding on the direction and style I wanted to develop for my label and to stay true to that idea was important in the development of my USP. Part of my brand positioning strategy was to showcase my creativity through multiple channels.

I created a weekly comic strip for Vogue Italia online and an animation for LOVE magazine, as well as collaborations such as a multi-media art installation for the last LFW. All of which adds to the label in general.

After the  ‘One’s to watch’ catwalk, I had to decide which route to take. I didn't want to invest all the business's money in to catwalk presentations. Catwalk shows can cost 20- 50K and grow to 100-200K, and this twice a year. It's just not a sustainable business model for young designers.

Catwalks work as part of the advertising and marketing strategies of big labels like Chanel. I didn't want to get too wrapped up in the (catwalk show) glory. As a young designer you need to sell the collection, and it needs to make sense as a business. That’s why I decided to exhibit in Paris and London where I can meet people who are relevant to my business such as buyers and press. At exhibitions you meet people face to face and can build relationships.

What advice would you give to entrepreneurs who plan to start their own fashion label?
Do your research! Absorb information about pricing, stores, range plans, etc. – talk to different people at different stages of their business journey. Networking and introductions are very important. As an example, through gaining funding  to exhibit in Paris I was invited to a party at the British Ambassador’s residence and introduced to the owner of a store, which lead to a collaboration.

With everything you are doing you must be extremely busy. How do you fit everything in?
I like to have several projects at one time I tend to work more efficiently when I'm very busy – the projects can all help inspire each other and when I'm resolving problems for one aspect of a collection it may give me an idea for another project…also I don’t get much sleep.........

What are the business goals that motivate you? 
To continue being as creative as possible and to create clothing, designs, animations that people love.

David Longshaw A/W 13/14

David Longshaw A/W 13/14

Illustrations by David Longshaw

Interview by Katja Widder 

Friday, August 23, 2013

6 Reasons using Google Tools can improve your Fashion Business

Most of us use Google as our default search engine, but it offers so much more, including a host of free tools that can help your fashion business.

Here are our 6 favourites:-

Google +

1.  Lets potential customers find your business faster
Using Google+ improves your SEO. Google+ is Google’s answer to Facebook and unlike  other social media channels, posts are indexed in to Google search results. This means customers are more likely to find your website through Google search.

2. Helps you target the right posts to the right people
While posts on Facebook or Twitter reach all your followers, Google+ enables you to create ‘circles’ and segment your audience in different categories. How about creating a circle for customers, and one for influencers such as bloggers?

Google Drive

3. Offers you flexibility
Have you tried Google Drive? This app allows you to access your work from any computer, smartphone or tablet. You can share documents, spreadsheets, presentations and more with others and work together online on the same file at the same time.

Google Analytics

4. Gives you insight in the way people find your website
The Multi-Channel Funnels, a tool of Google Analytics, allow you to get insight in your consumers’ online behaviour and how they make their purchase decision.
It shows you the pathway your consumers are going until they reach your website or online shop. For instance, whether they already know your brand and directly type in the URL of your website or whether they find it through a search engine.

5. Helps you find out which social media channels work best for your business
This also allows you to see how the social media channels you are using interact and which of these channels drive traffic to your site.  

6. It's free
Google Analytics is free if your website generates 10 million viewers or less every month.

How have Google Tools helped your fashion business?

By Katja Widder

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

A Start Up Loan helps Swimwear Designer Sarah Reader Swim to Success

Designer Sarah Reader applied for a Start Up Loan to help her set up her new swimwear label Project 104. Sarah had become frustrated that she couldn't find  any swimwear she liked in the marketplace, at an affordable price.

A graduate in fashion design at Ravensbourne, she decided to combine her design skills with her professional swimming background, and fill this gap in the market .

She decided to design a swimwear collection that was an affordable alternative to the mass produced offer on the high street. The Project 104 ‘s USP is that it offers the first limited edition, individually numbered fashion swimwear made entirely in the UK. She is passionate about ethical sourcing and supporting UK manufacturing, so keep production in the UK was a key element of her business proposition.

She heard about the Start Up Loan scheme via delivery partner Fashion Angel who is the only partner specialising in supporting fashion industry entrepreneurs. Sarah says ” The pre-loan support I received was highly beneficial in assisting me to think through and gain a better understanding of my business direction and goals.”
The process helped her identify the brand's target customer as 18-35 fashion conscious women who want a unique quality product that they won't find others wearing.

The Start Up Loan was used to finance the development of the first collection named   “My Body, My Shrine”, make up some stock to sell, and to set up the Project 104 e commerce site, which was launched in May 2013.

Project 104 S/S 13 Collection
Project 104 S/S Collection

Sarah’s advice to other aspiring entrepreneurs ” Plan, plan, plan! If you don't spend enough time planning and researching you’re constantly chasing your tail and achieving nothing”. Having a clear idea of what you’re going to do with key milestones, helps you achieve your goals step by step. Keeping track of your finances is also essential.  Designing is only part of the business, if you don’t understand and control the money going in and have a clear handle on your costs and profit margins, then your creativity doesn't have a chance of being a viable business.”

She goes on to say “Thanks to Fashion Angel I have channelled my creative ambitions into what I believe to be my business future. The initial Start Up Loan funding has enabled me to invest in creating a supply chain for my products that would be impossible to do otherwise as banks aren't interested in helping a start up business without security.”

Her plans are for the brand to supply international stockists as well as selling direct to the consumer via the Project 104 website. Since the launch they have secured both national and international stockists, so she is well on her way to making her dream a reality…..


See how a Start Up Loan and FREE mentoring from Fashion Angel can help make your business dream happen.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Watch out for London’s emerging designers!

                                                                                                       Sister by Sibling AW 13

It’s the exciting time of the year again – 1 month to go until London’s most popular designers will show their SS/14 collections at London Fashion Week starting on Friday, 13th September.

How about looking at the capital’s emerging designers?

Looking back on last season’s AW/13 shows in February, Sister by Sibling, Simone Rocha, Marques Almeida, J.JS Lee and Lucas Nascimento are the 5 winners of the BFC/NEWGEN catwalk sponsorship. They will all be showing their SS/14 collections at LFW starting with Sister by Sibling on Day 1 who are undoubtedly the ones to watch - we can't wait to see how their designs have evolved last season.

Some wise words from the Sister by Sibling team Joe Bates, Sid Bryan and Cozette McCreery ‘It is never as easy as it looks and most importantly that invaluable lesson in how not to do something. Also if all else fails: have a cup of tea, a nice biscuit and laugh!’ 

That’s an attitude we love!

By Katja Widder

Source: British Fashion Council

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Which are the right sales channels for your fashion business?

                                                 Image courtesy of Stockimages / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Choosing the right sales channels from the beginning contributes significantly to the success of your business.
There are plenty of opportunities on how to bring your products to your target customer. The first thing to decide is do you intend to retail your products yourself or sell them to a wholesaler? Or do you choose a combination of both?

B2C – Business to Customer (Retail)

The Advantages

  • There is no intermediary, which means you will make a higher profit.
  • Gain brand loyalty – buying directly from your brand will generate a more personal shopping experience for your customers and if they like your products, they will certainly come back to you.
  • Improve your cashflow. Cashflow is the difference in amount of cash in your account at the beginning of a period and the amount at the end of the period. Selling your products directly to the customer means that money will go into your account as soon as you make a sale, while in wholesale in can take up to 120 days until you receive the payments for your products. Especially if you have just started your business it is important to have sufficient cashflow in order to pay your expenses.

B2B – Business to Business(Wholesale)

Wholesale involves selling your products to retail stores. Here are 3 facts on wholesale which are good to know:

  •  Wholesale can be an effective way to grow an emerging brand as you will have larger orders on your products.
  •  It is lower risk as you will manufacture according to the orders you receive from the retailers. However, as the retailer has to also make their (larger) profit margin, your profits will be lower than when selling directly to your customers.
  • Having your product in the right stores can be an effective and quicker way of building your brand especially if you are a new brand and want to gain press coverage.

Do you want to learn more about how to determine the right sales channels for your business? Check out our Routes to Market workshop on 2nd October. 

More info on our upcoming events and workshops here.

By Katja Widder