This is a guest post by Eric Fitzgerald, an independent business consultant and the founder of Fashion Business Insider.
Like most aspiring designers, your sketch books are probably filled will lots of new and exciting design ideas that you want to someday explore in your collection. Having a platform to experiment with new ideas, fabrics, and silhouettes is the dream of any entrepreneurial designer. As much as creativity will help define your brand, remember that you’re also running a business and that brands take time to develop. Part of that development process is being consistent with what you offer your customer and how you offer it to them.
Consistency does not mean you need to be boring or basic. In fact, as an emerging designer, ensure that your product speaks volumes about who you are and what your brand stands for. Push yourself creatively and continue to innovate. But do so from a vantage point that is influenced by your overall brand vision. Provides your customer with a touchstone that they will identify with your brand. There are two areas to focus when developing brand consistency, product and marketing.
Product is an essential part of your business. It’s what customers first identify with your brand. Before they know your name or see your marketing, they will most likely encounter your product hanging on a rack in their favorite retail store.
Consistency in your product offering is key when starting a fashion brand and building your business. Being consistent for several seasons will help build brand recognition and brand trust with your potential customers. It will also help to build brand recognition with magazine editors who will think of you when they need your type of product for a photo shoot.
Additionally, you’ll need time to analyze the sales performance of the product you’re offering. Remember, by the time you get customer feedback on your first collection, you’ll already have designed 2 - 4 additional collections, depending on your delivery schedule. If each of your collections are drastically different from one another, it will be difficult to compare the sales results of each and understand what worked and what didn’t.
There are several ways to ensure consistency within your product offering. Focus on a product category that may make your brand more identifiable. You may choose to design within only one product category, like knitwear or outerwear, or you may choose to make that category a focus of your overall collection. When choosing a product category, be sure it’s something you are technically strong at designing. A good example of consistency in a product category is the contemporary brand Theory. The line started in 1997 with a focus on women’s stretch trousers and it is still well known for this product category today.
You could choose a specific style aesthetic to be a consistent element in your collections. Making vibrant prints a regular design element in your product, for example, will help customers identify your brand season after season. Or maybe you prefer to regularly reference the streamlined silhouettes of the 1920s in your designs. Rather than focusing on a specific product category, you can focus on style choices that remain consistent throughout your collection.
Another way to ensure consistency in your designs, is by choosing to work with the same fabrics season after season. Maybe you choose to incorporate technical fabrics into all your designs. Or maybe you choose to work exclusively in leather, building a name for yourself in this specific product group. By focusing on the same fabrics each season, not only do you ensure consistency in your product offering, but you may be able to reduce your costs by purchasing larger quantities of the fabric you choose, knowing you will be using it for several seasons to come.
Marketing is the other area of your business where you should try to be consistent. As your business grows, your marketing will play an important role in telling your brand story. As with product, it’s not a good idea to be all over the place with your marketing. You want to build up brand recognition with a consistent and layered marketing approach.
Just like with product, your seasonal marketing message will be developed months before it is implemented. And then it’ll be several more months until you get feedback on it’s effectiveness. One season is too short to effectively convey your brand message to potential customers, especially when just starting out. A consistent message over several seasons will help create multiple impressions with your target customers, building brand recognition and trust.
Consistency with the themes and overall look of your brand imagery will also create a familiar visual reference of your brand that customers will recognize over time. With a plethora of marketing platforms available to the emerging designer, from traditional advertising to social media, it will take time to analyze results and decide which platforms perform best in reaching your target customer.
When marketing your brand, there are several ways to be consistent. Start by developing a marketing plan that addresses long term goals and strategies. This will ensure that your marketing approach remains consistent over a longer period of your brand development.
Be consistent with the marketing platforms you choose to employ to get your brand message out. Test these platforms, like social media, over several seasons to garner enough analytics to evaluate how well each works for your brand and make minor adjustments along the way.
Figure out how to use consistent elements in your visual marketing. That could be a specific model that represents your target customer or possibly a location or backdrop that speaks to your overall brand aesthetic. The DKNY brand is a good example of this technique, where New York City is regularly a reference in the background of its print advertising. This consistent element references the brand’s more urban inspired aesthetic and creates a clear separation to the Donna Karan parent label.
About the Author:
Eric Fitzgerald is an independent business consultant with nearly two decades of experience in the fashion industry, specializing in business development, brand management, strategic planning, market research, and mentorship for fashion businesses. He is also the founder of Fashion Business Insider, a website committed to helping entrepreneurs navigate the business-side of the fashion industry.