The world is big, yes, but all the time we hear about new fashion brands coming out wishing to establish their own line. What I remember from my own experience and from teaching at fashion school is that most young designers – with a few exceptions who want to pursue a path with the big brands – dream about one day having their own label. Social media have offered formats where expressing your art and what you have inside have been made fun, easy and instant, but the dream about having your own brand is still there. One question remains; are there too many fashion brands today?
The world is literally packed with designers and brands, and looking online or strolling in big cities give you an idea about the amount of goods being on offer. In theory, we don’t need more of anything, but a part from the urge to express our style and look presentable (consumers’ need), society as a whole, from economic growth to the end consumer, will need new talent to interpret influences in time, and carry on a hopefully strong and ever-evolving fashion industry. In this, new fashion brands and the designers behind matter.
Even if most of the newer brands close down, it’s nevertheless an important schooling for knowing yourself better as a designer, and a starting point for new things to come. When I was 26-years-old, I did a menswear brand, which I closed after 1 ½ years. For this, there were many reasons, but some of the most important being the awareness that I couldn’t build the brand alone and not having the right team, and also not having the necessary investment. These were eventually things that could have been solved, but in the meanwhile I had moved on to doing different things. As I said; there were many reasons for ending the adventure. The point I would like to make, though, is that I have probably never learnt as much in my whole life as in those 1 ½ years, and I realised I was very good at building a brand with a strong and defined identity and making collections. What I was less good at was the Sales part, because fundamentally it’s not my main interest, and therefore I have no experience in Sales. So was it a failure? Well, that really depends on the viewpoint, but I’m grateful for the experience of having learnt so much, and I’m aware of not repeating the same mistakes today.
Making your own brand isn’t something you should do just for the sake of it, though, as it eventually is more fun to do something successful rather than something that’s not. I still encourage young designers to pursue their dream, if they’re really aware of what’s awaiting them in terms of work, business and the financial part (as much as you can be when you start something without knowing how it will go), and if they can’t imagine doing anything else. Then I think, it’s worth a try.
Luckily some young designers starting their own brand do also succeed. They get attention from participating in fashion competitions, they start their own brand and get noticed by the press, buyers or both, they start in big brands and move on to doing their own label, or the other way around; they start their own label and move on to a high position in a big brand, they create a strong social media profile and slowly start building their collection and so on. These are some of the people, who continue to contribute to a strong fashion industry, and continue to guarantee the quality of it. We all know the quality of a strong Creative Director, and it’s one case where we really see the importance of creative talent. This often comes in the form of trying having your own brand, and exactly because of this new brands and the experience of having one matter.
One last point to be made is that the success of the new and independent designer brands ultimately is up to the consumer. If the consumer doesn’t wish to buy new brands, the designers wont make it and vice versa. My belief is that the consumer is getting ever more individualistic and sometimes want to wear something else than big fashion brands, where the same goods are available anywhere in the world. Therefore, I believe, the time and market is really there. If this is the case, then what we really need are retail outlets, where these new brands can be purchased.
Independent fashion stores have long had their own interesting offer, and the joy of finding something cool and unusual in a small shop is something most sophisticated customers will recognise. With shopping increasingly moving towards online purchasing, the small brands have suffered, as it’s not something you’re likely to buy online. Wolford stockings you buy online, because you know the quality and your size, but a silk dress from a new designer? I reckon this you would like to touch and try on.
With this challenge in mind, projects like Not Just a Label goes back to the Bricks offering the traditional shopping experience with a new flagship store in NYC. Online shopping is convenient, yes, but let’s for a moment not forget what’s going on in the real world, where there are still tons of possibilities. Perhaps exactly this restriction of not being something easily sold online will create new ways of User Experiences, and not being sold anywhere is something that will automatically make the product exclusive, which is well in line with the nature of the set-up. This will happen in a world that needs new designer brands, yes, to challenge the status quo, make us remember creativity, dreams, and the true luxury of owing something special. So are there too many fashion brands today? Well, the answer will be that there’s always space for new, exciting offers.