Building a Fashion Brand that is Successful, Profitable and Ethical
One of the main problems with the notion of sustainable fashion is the paradox between the capitalist business structures upon which the fashion industry so heavily relies, and true sustainability. It can sometimes feel like fighting against the tyranny of the fast fashion system, with its reliance on unsustainable materials, wasteful practices and little regard for workers in the supply chain, is a losing battle. But it doesn't have to be. At The Sustainable Fashion Collective, one of our main aims is helping businesses to be profitable and successful, without losing sight of their ethics. And, the good news is, it is totally possible to do both!
Drawing on expert information from our Masterclasses, and guidance from our six week course, "How to Build a Successful Fashion Line: Strategy, Sales & Profit," these are the initial areas to consider when building your successful, ethical brand.
SO, WHAT DO YOU NEED IN ORDER TO BUILD A SUCCESSFUL ETHICAL FASHION LINE?
These are our top steps, which all revolve around putting in the work to understand who and what your business is, and when you should be obtaining feedback:
- a financially sustainable business model
- a clear idea of your target audience, your USP and your competitors
- an understanding of what makes a set of winning designs
- feedback on your designs
- a step-by-step sales strategy, with accompanying line sheets
- a concise marketing plan ready to put into action
YOUR BUSINESS MODEL
Deciding on which sustainable business model to employ in your business can be tricky, but is a necessary starting point. Choosing a model that focuses on sustainability and ethics, and using this as the basis for your development, will allow you to remain ethical as your business grows.
Below are a few examples of sustainable business models that you might want to consider for your brand:
Using the business to solve social problems. The primary focus is a social cause such as protecting the environment or empowering labourers. These ventures use the business to sustain themselves, so they don’t depend on donations.
A firm owned, controlled, and operated by a group of users or workers for their own benefit. Each member contributes equity capital, and shares in the control of the firm on the basis of one-member, one-vote principle (and not in proportion to his or her equity contribution).
MADE TO ORDER BUSINESS
The product is manufactured only after a customer places the order it saves resources and avoids wastage and losses from overproduced stock. With technological advances, this can be easier and easier.
[For more information about sustainable business models and tips on how to improve on a current business model, visit our lesson - Different Types of Sustainable Business Models, where we talk you through the business models, and give case studies of businesses that are using them]
YOUR UNIQUE SELLING POINT
Who is your target audience? How do you figure out a product or service that is unique to you while addressing a problem? Your USP forms the foundation of your brand story; this is so important, not just when you're first starting out, but throughout the life of your business.
Having a clear idea of your USP will help keep you on track as your business develops, and make sure that you do not forget about your ethics and ethos as you grow.
Easily overlooked, competitive analysis is one of the most critical steps of your business. You need to equip yourself with the efficient tools to research and identify your competitors' weaknesses - and understand how to turn these into your opportunities.
Understanding the solution that your fashion line hopes to solve is key to keep in mind when designing; you do not want to design too little or too many options - a balanced range plan is required. But what is an optimal line for the fashion category you aim to exist in? e.g. if you are a swimwear brand, how many swimswuits, bikinis and trunks do you actually need, and how many colourways?
[Unsure how to even design a collection? We show you how in this Masterclass - The Design Process: From Design To Product - led by design consultancy James Hillman]
YOUR SALES PROCESS
Now you’ve got your unique designs; it’s time to make those all-important sales. You need to identify the stores you want to sell to, channels you want to sell on, and then recognise those winning techniques for getting in front of buyers to physically get your product on their shelves (or marketplaces).
MARKETING YOUR PRODUCT
Marketing strategies could feel complex if you do not have experience in this arena, but you need to put the effort in to understand them, otherwise, how will you be effective in getting visibility for your products - and then keep them in demand? Not all businesses use the same strategy, as they are dependent on your specific business model, product or service and size.
[For additional case studies, check out the Masterclasses - Where and How To Sell: Getting Started and Going It Alone and Wholesale, Agents and Online Marketplaces]
It is important and valuable to take the time, at least twice a year to reflect on your goals, action plan and progress. What goals are important to you, and how will you achieve them? Who will hold you accountable, and how? How will you move forward if a goal is not reached?
[For more help reflecting on your past successes, or setting goals for the future, head to our Masterclass How to Keep Your Fashion Business on Track]