Design is a challenging profession and there are plenty of designers who start their careers only to quickly give up. Most designers join a large, corporate brand to keep designing without the stress of being an entrepreneur or the small paychecks that smaller companies offer. Trends in retail channels and consumer groups however, are beginning to make it easier for designers to make their own concepts a reality.
The biggest obstacles to starting a clothing and apparel brand are manufacturing and operations. Even if designers can find production channels, all of the risks of marketing and selling the product are on them if they are independent.
This does not seem to be daunting the millennial generation of entrepreneurs. A report from the White House found that over 50 percent of millennials want to start a business. A different survey found that 37 percent of millennials do not trust big business brands.
This is perfect timing for entrepreneurs and small businesses to capitalize on millennial attitudes by presenting their niche brands in approachable, transparent ways. BazaarVoice also found that 51 percent of millennials’ purchasing decisions are influenced by the opinions of others online.
These data points indicate that millennials are looking for smaller brands that have been reviewed or validated by their peers.
Trends Benefiting Small Clothing Brands
Design Creation Platforms
More and more companies are recognizing the challenges that come with breaking into an industry as an independent brand or creator. Companies like Etsy have created marketplaces for artisans to share their products with the world. This model works for industries that require minimal manufacturing expertise and for those creators that don’t mind staying small in scale.
For those in more manufacturing intensive sectors like apparel, footwear, and functional accessories, platforms need to include more than a marketplace. Ryan Kang, the CEO and co-founder of ROOY, an online shoe creation platform, explains, “To produce a design you need to have great relationships with manufacturers. Many smaller brands don’t have the necessary expertise to produce their products independently. By leveraging manufacturing networks and providing an eCommerce platform for designers, we are able to launch small brands on a regular basis.”
Since millennials are seeking out smaller brands with positive consumer feedback, models like ROOY’s are a way of gaining millennial customer share. Leveraging designer creativity has helped eCommerce sites grow quickly; the key is providing the infrastructure for designers to scale their ideas.
As social media technologies become more integrated with retail applications, purchasing behavior has never been more subject to social influence. With advertisements on platforms like Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram, the level of social engagement that plays into purchasing decisions increases as well.
Brands have begun to leverage the feedback from these tools to change product offerings, identify new styles, and find new designers. Kang explains, “By crowdsourcing the product creation process, brands can create content that is uniquely tailored to their audiences.”
Businesses interested in taking part in the social shopping movement should find micro-influencers that share a similar product space and study their voice. Getting familiar with tastemakers on social platforms is one of the best ways to get started with a sound social strategy.
Retail Data Changing the Game
The fashion industry is changing its focus from telling consumers what products are “in,” or “out,” to looking for real-time data that tells them what is going to sell the most. The emergence of data firms specifically aimed at the fashion retail industry like Editd and WSGN are prime examples of how valuable data can be when predicting fashion trends.
The benefits of data aren’t just for businesses, they help the consumer too. Geoff Watts, founder of Editd in an interview with Fortune said, “It lets consumers be more fluid with their tastes and it lets the market be more efficient and more green.” Smaller brands can leverage data like this to avoid tying up production efforts in trends that are likely to fail when they go to market.
As the fashion and design-centric industries undergo rapid change due to technology and changes in demand, it is important for businesses to operate lean and be ready for sudden changes in the market. For designers, this may mean jumping in with a platform that helps get their ideas to market faster. For brands, this might mean simplifying the design process or crowdsourcing ideas from social influencers.
Businesses that can stay innovative and follow the trends stand to gain immense consumer share. Consumers benefit because designs will be more tailored to individual preferences and more readily available.
Fashion Studio Photo via Shutterstock