Most of the young designers that I have met in my life, including myself when I was younger, ultimately dream about one day having their own brand. And while we do so – or enrol on the arduous journey of making the dream come through – there are various milestones that we dream about; landing the first order, landing the first order in a top store, dressing a cool celebrity and perhaps being featured in Vogue or another trend-setting magazine.
Of course, these are big achievements among millions of bigger and smaller tasks of various difficulties and completely worth celebrating. But once the celebration has taken off; what does it actually mean to the business and brand?
Well, being featured in Vogue like Ksenia Schnaider on our cover is a big deal, because it’s a sign of approval from a one of the most trend-setting magazines around. It’s these signs of approval – that can come in many shapes such as PR, celebrity endorsement, retail outlets, customer popularity etc. – that ultimately gives a brand its status. And it’s something that is built organically over many, many years. Sure, it can happen faster, but normally behind every fashion success are years and years of hard work. It just doesn’t seem like that, when we come across a ‘new’ brand.
Ksenia Schnaider, for instance, who I’m not sure I would call ‘new’, and devoted Vogue readers will have already noticed her, but she started her brand/studio in 2011. It’s not a lifetime ago, but it’s still 5 years.
The really cool and innovative luxury-tech accessory brand Gianoi that has just launched exclusively with Harvey Nichols has also been around for a couple of years, and prior to that there were years of turning around the idea and working with leather goods.
Paula Cademartori, an accessory brand that has exploded over the last couple of years, was established in 2010. Considering the success, 6 years is not a lot to come this far. It has always been backed by substantial investment, but even that wouldn’t have made it so popular, if it hadn’t simply been a fun product in a moment, where fashion is fun, and also having a very good price point. Voilá.
So, why am I saying this? Well, for two reasons: first of all, because fashion is not a quick fix, and the people, who will make it, are the ones, that are in it, because they freaking love it. Otherwise, it’s just not worth it. Secondly, because these milestones while definitely very important, are still only bricks in a huge brick wall. How much it will affect brand popularity and ultimately sales is hard to say and can vary hugely. Surely, it can be the turning point, but often it’s a more organic process. Even if you do end up in 10 Corso Como or Luisa Via Roma, it’s not sure that sales are huge, because customers haven’t heard about you. With PR lacking behind, maybe it’s not going to be the turning point that you had hoped for.
A rule of thumb when launching your brand is that it wont break-even before the 3rd year of life (and even this is relatively optimistic – depending on the structure, of course). Even interested buyers will ask you, how long you have been running your brand and tell you that they will come back and have a look next season. All the while, you don’t sell anything, wonder why, and run out of money. The thing is that they will not invest in you, unless you’re in it for the long run. They’re not taking the chance!
Preparing oneself that this is going to be a life-long love – supported by a good business plan and product-market fit – is probably the best thing to do. Celebrate the achievements and work hard on the improvements and make sure to build the brand with the various components such as product development, sales, and communication at the same pace. There’s still plenty of space for new, cool initiatives from young designers – we’re just waiting for them.