So, you want to become a fashion designer ….
You want to become a fashion designer but you’re afraid of the risk? You’re definitely not alone. I’ve worked in the industry for several years now and I’d be lying if I told you that I never questioned it. The fashion industry combined with our global economy is rocky and unpredictable. BUT if you’re too busy contemplating the risk before you’ve even started—then you probably aren’t ready to be an entrepreneur. Most designers believe that the first part of launching a business is drafting the business plan, building an online following, or producing a sample. But you can’t do those effectively if you haven’t cultivated a winning, “whatever it takes” mindset. Here are the three main dilemmas that new designers face and how to overcome them.
1. “Do people really need more clothes these days? Aren’t there enough brands producing clothing that people don’t buy/need?”
Did you know that Westerners only wear about 20-30% of the clothing in their closets?
In an industry notorious for waste, it’s logical to ask yourself this question. It seems like the more we produce, the more we are either polluting the Earth (according to films like True Cost) or the more we’re donating garments to second-hand shops after 3-4 uses. You’re probably aware of the exhaustive but real problems within the fashion industry—the toxic dyes, genetically modified cotton fields, size exclusivity, and the tons of unsold second-hand items that we’re dumping into third world countries.
If you’re feeling insecure about your carbon footprint, overcome this by studying innovative fashion business models.
So many designers are already breaking the mold. You don’t have to follow the antiquated fashion calendar or produce two collections a year to be successful. And you can create a whole new system for producing and selling clothing that’s rooted in your studies of consumer behavior. After all, that’s what innovation is all about! Fashion companies like Stitchfix, Rent the Runway, Genussee, Warby Parker, and Everlane are all great examples of business models that thrive off of thoughtful innovation. And don’t feel like you have to save the world and attack every cause. Have focus. For example, Genussee designs eyewear with upcycled plastic bottles to combat waste while Everlane focuses on fair labor and providing customers with complete manufacturing transparency. Find your niche. That will be what sets you apart and sets you UP for success!
2. “No one has money for nice clothes. The fashion industry/ economy is failing and major retailers are shutting down.”
Millennials and Gen Z’ers are opting for experiences (dining out, Instagram-worthy vacations, etc.) over new “things.” Sixty-five percent of Millennials are saving money for travel, which is a higher percentage than any preceding generation! Born in the midst of the recession, Gen Zers are seeing Millennials idled with student loan debt and scant retirement plans, and they’re spending money more selectively—either saving/investing it or spending it on unforgettable experiences.
You can overcome this dilemma by simply getting creative.
If consumers are craving experiences, think of ways to incorporate that into your business. Hosting hands-on, interactive pop-up events, crowdfunding with a 5K marathon or throwing exclusive events for VIP clients are just a few ways to up your experiential value.
3. “People don’t value nice clothes anymore. Responding to consumer behavior is too demanding.”
With clothing being sold for so little and delivered so quickly (Amazon has same-day delivery now!) buyers are less intrigued by luxury clothing. Baby boomers are still the primary buyers of expensive, luxury clothing while younger shoppers are happy with cheaper clothes and a designer accessory here and there. Since Gen Z’ers are so young, it’s hard for economists to predict their future shopping habits; but whenever they do invest in clothing—they will likely support brands who stand for causes they believe in. Today’s consumers need trust and transparency more than the former generations.
Overcome this dilemma by assessing your personal values.
In the age of #slowfashion, #metoo, and #blacklivesmatter it seems like everyone is an activist—so it’s important to know what you stand for! Resist the urge to identify with popular movements just for the sake of it. People can smell inauthenticity. Harness your own voice as an entrepreneur/thought leader. Designers like Eileen Fisher or Pyer Moss’s Kerby Jean-Raymond are great examples of this.
What’s the ROI??
Problems in fashion are very real but when you zoom out, you’ll remember that as long as humans are alive, we’ll always need clothing. It’s a fundamental need, though it seems frivolous at times. Zooming out also helps you remember that our free-market economy thrives on healthy competition. The more businesses, the more commerce, and cash flow. And more commerce equals more jobs and a better economy. (Just make sure you’re producing from a socio-environmentally conscious place, of course).
Every industry is challenging. And yes, it’s true that fifty percent of businesses fold after the first five years but doesn’t the faith in the midst of uncertainty—the possibility of bettering mankind in even a small, unique way make fashion so worth it?
Still Want to Become a Fashion Designer?
If you've faced these dilemmas and you still want to become a fashion designer, comment why below and don't forget to check out our courses for help with your fashion business!
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