The 5 Business Lessons They Didn’t Teach You In Fashion School

From sourcing trims to deciding where to sell… Do you have the basics down?

By Hannah Connolly

28 January 2022

rt school and fashion universities are often a siren call to creatives, a place to express your talents and to explore your craft, but art school doesn't teach you everything. Business and strategy can often fall by the wayside, as countless students graduate only to realise they don't have the tools to establish a sustainable plan.

Bottom line, it's about striking the right balance of creative intuition and business savviness and The Stack is on hand to give you a heads up about some of the basics, but the lessons don't have to stop here…

If you are on the lookout for actionable advice and access to a community of like-minded creatives become a member of Elizabeth Stiles', The Fashion Brand Clinic Club and get ready to take the temperature of your company in monthly sessions designed to take your business to the next level.

Know your niche

It’s no secret that the fashion industry is a little crowded… generating over $2.5 trillion a year, there is a lot of competition. A good first step is owning and honing what you're good at. Then work towards identifying that gap in the market and strive to fill it.

This ‘niche’ can materialize in many ways. Whether your usp is a historical reference and antique fabrics, or you are looking towards innovative and exciting options for zero waste production, embed this essence into the core of your company. This will be a pull for buyers, stylists and editors, all of which are looking to put your clothes out to the world and most importantly your customer who will be drawn to your ethos. This is how you will attract loyalty and set up, particularly at the start. a reliable revenue stream.

Sourcing requires a plan

How and why you source your materials will be not only integral to your label but also to your forward-thinking business plan. Whether you opt for deadstock or made-to-order you have to be sure this fits with your ethos and your budget.

On top of fabric, you will need to consider: size labels, care labels, brand labels and tags, hook and eyes and button sizing by the mm, the list goes on. So, when taking your design to production be prepared to be met with a lot of choices. The key is decisiveness. If you already have a set plan stick to it and don’t be distracted by newness, if you work from instinct trust that but set a budget before that you cannot exceed – whatever you do stand firm by your decisions and make sure you preplan.

Be cost-effective with your materials and trims

It’s no secret that fashion production is expensive, especially at first. Make it British, a leading voice on UK based fashion labels found that the average sartorial start-up spends at least £15,000. This isn’t a hard and fast rule bear in mind, but learning how to be smart with what materials you have on hand is an important first step to ensure your success has longevity.

Spend some time assessing your patterns, production models or samples and be innovative about how to minimise wastage, from both a sustainable point of view and a financial one. If you have a limited amount of zips make less garments that require them, or cut the length of the closure - to do this effectively you need to reguarly take stock of your supplies. Make your inventory list your best friend and always know what you have on hand.

Be creative with your sales channel

The vision of a brick and mortar store may well be your end goal but how are you getting there and what do you have in place in the meantime?

Tech and social media can be your greatest asset for both marketing and as a place for sales so explore your options and pick a platform that fits, as Elizabeth Stiles recently shared with The Stack, she has worked with 8-figure companies that began in Instagram DMs.

When it comes to setting up a digital space to sell there are multiple options, from Esty to Depop preexisting sites can be your first stepping stone. Alternatively, go your own way and opt for Shopify (setting up a basic store will cost you £22), or the likes of Square Space and Wix which will allow you to purchase your own domain – something you will be thankful for in the future.

Use your network or carve one out

The saying goes it’s not what you know it's who you know and it’s a sentiment that permeates fashion, it is an industry rife with nepotism. But this isn't the advice here, try it's what you know and who you choose to know, instead.

You will be hard-pressed to find a single powerhouse designer or brand founder that has done the whole thing alone. Often, as with most creative industries, collaboration really is key. Think about the pool of talented people around you - know a graphic designer? Ask them to help you with label design. If you don’t, jump on LinkedIn or post on Instagram and ask if anyone else does. This way you can establish a mini-community of creatives all elevating each other's craft. This will forge meaningful connections that will last a career lifetime.

If you, like so many early career and graduate talents, are wondering where to start with creating your own business become a member of The Fashion Brand Clinic.

The Short Stack

From sourcing trims to deciding where to sell… Do you have the basics down?

By Hannah Connolly

More from Business