How to launch a fashion brand online.
Choosing to launch your own fashion brand online may be one of the most exciting decisions you make in your career.
I have supported numerous fashion entrepreneurs to realise their dream by following this 6 step process. These steps are designed to take you from idea validation through to online launch, it’s that simple.
You can be your own boss. You can realise your dream. You can launch your fashion brand online. Read on to learn how.
Find your niche in the market.
The first step is designed to give you a comprehensive understanding of the industry through researching the market, product opportunities and your consumer. It is critical to the success of your fashion brand to collate this research in order to validate your idea. You need to confirm that there is a demand in the market for your product and also that there is an opportunity. You don’t want to launch something that already exists. You need to give your consumers a reason to buy your fashion brand online.
At this stage, you should continually evaluate the data you have collected through your research and then summarise what you have learnt. This will fulfil your objective of finding your niche in the market. Once you have established your focus points it is time to validate your idea.
Areas of research are:
- What are your competitors doing?
- How to price your product competitively.
- What is the best channel for you?
- Who is your target audience?
Our students are encouraged to create an action plan after each research topic and document it in their business plan.
It is best to build up a business in stages. Start by making decisions based on your research then documenting those decisions and actions in your business plan. This way you will start to build a plan that is focused on the first 3 steps of learning how to launch a fashion brand online.
Plan your collection.
Now you know that you have a great product for which there is market demand, it is time to plan what your collection will look like.
There are several factors that you need to consider before taking a commercial decision. You may have already covered some of the factors listed below in your research. Check the list now and your answers will inform your decisions, helping you build a considered and ultimately successful collection.
You need to consider the market factors that will influence your range.
- Will you be designing for a specific hemisphere when planning your range? Will you consider climates, consumer mindsets and fashions around the world?
- Will you create a season-less collection? Can your collection be sold anywhere in the world or is it influenced by weather, culture, or trends.
- Does sustainability matter to your fashion brand? How will you be sustainable within your collection, if at all?
- Will you source locally or globally? What are the benefits of both and how to choose what is right for your brand’s messaging and product?
Every time you answer a question you increase your level of understanding. Greater understanding gives you a greater chance of a successful online launch.
You now have a greater focus on the product direction of your collection. Now you need to define the collection itself by answering these questions.
- Which categories will you sell? Just tops or tops & bottoms etc.
- Which body size will you cater to?
○ Both have an influence on your designs and also which manufacturer you will select.
- How many drops you will produce each season, if applicable to your fashion brand. Factors that will help decide this answer are:
○ Which channel are you launching on? Will you work in wholesale and DTC.
○ Will you be a seasonless brand if so you may choose to drop collections every month?
The final step in planning your collection is to create a sales plan. This will inform your range plan and how many options you need to deliver each season/drop and make the budget.
A range plan is built around many factors such as price points and fashion vs core product, but the main factor is the sales plan. Your brand will have a financial target to achieve each QTR, and therefore you need to plan your collection to meet this target. There is a raft of detail that goes behind this step and for more information contact me for help.
"Every time you answer a question you increase your level of understanding. Greater understanding gives you a greater chance of a successful online launch."
Design, make and ship your collection.
At this point in the process, you will have a firm idea of exactly what your product and launch collection will look like. Now it is time to make your product come alive and put pen to paper and thread to the material.
The creative process is exciting. It is where you choose to be influenced by trends or go your own way. You have the freedom to create mood boards, set your colour palette and give life to your story. We encourage all fashion brands that have designed their range and created spec packs for each design to hold a ‘sign off’ on the collection.
If you are operating your fashion brand by yourself, enlist ex-colleagues, ex-students, family or friends to approve your designs. This will confirm:
- Commerciality of the design.
- Does it fit your brief – reference the business plan to date.
- Does it show value? Does the design match the price point?
We strongly encourage, for the success of your fashion brand, you obtain a second or if possible several opinions.
Once you have confirmed your collection it is time to find a manufacturer for your brand. I have written a detailed process outlined in this blog post on how to source effectively.
The next few steps all coincide and overlap. You need to cost your collection once you have been given the final costs from your chosen manufacturer. You need to decide if this fits your sales plan and selected RRP for each product. Is it achievable to sell your collection and make money?
Another consideration at this stage is who is going to ship your goods? How are you going to package your goods and where are you going to store your stock? All of these processes will have a cost that will need adding to your budget.
Once your order is placed and production starts you will move into managing a critical path for your collection. A critical path is an essential document for all fashion brands. It will ensure an on-time launch where each of the following milestones will be met:
- Approve strike off.
- 1st fit.
- Pre-production sample.
- Production sample.
Manage your business.
To successfully launch a fashion brand online you need to manage your business.
You need to learn how to manage your finances including your cash flow. You need to control the money going out before your revenue starts to come in. How to launch a fashion brand online will teach you how and give you the templates you need.
In our hero course, we give you a business plan template and through the duration of the course you will learn how to fill it out. A business plan is an essential document for any fashion brand looking for investment from a third party. It will also bring other benefits.
Aside from finances, there are other essential tasks you need to complete when managing your business. They are:
- Start-up business 101 ( email addresses and signatures, phone lines, branding everything, registering with google business etc.) the list is endless.
- The benefits of using G-suite.
- Mailchimp and email management tools.
- Business legalities covering; insurance, business bank account, an accountant etc.
Many fashion brands focus on creativity; the designing and branding. This will not make you a successful business. To be successful from day one, as well as having the capacity to grow, you need to manage all of your business in a professional way. Professionalism is everything. You don’t want to look like a graduate or a startup; you need look and act like a small business.
Build and launch your brand.
I encourage fashion entrepreneurs looking to launch a fashion brand online to follow this step by step process. It is important to deal with all the factors involved in building your business. You need to be able to manage your business before you build your brand.
Branding is your DNA and your tone of voice. Your brand is universally recognised by your logo and colour palette. Therefore it is essential that you get this right and it accurately reflects your brand’s vision. A really great way to start branding is to revert back to step one, specifically the research conducted about your target audience. Now you really want to focus on their personalities and consumer traits. Consumer traits will inform the language and content you need to use to entice and capture the attention of your audience. Listen to what your customer is saying!
Now that your brand has come to life, it’s time to share it with the world and build your online presence. For the launch, I would encourage a fashion brand to launch their own DTC channel as an MVP with the potential to look into wholesale. The wider the reach the wider the presence and the greater the sales. This method will also help you scale up and have quicker growth.
Building an online presence is most effective through social media and paid ads. I would encourage you to do both. Build your social media presence across all platforms, linking the content; these being Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest and YouTube. Focus your initial investment in Facebook and Google ads.
A soft launch is always recommended for any new fashion brand. Why? After the initial launch, gauge reactions in week one and two. Make any necessary amendments or even place top-up orders on strong sellers, then make a louder noise and launch. This way you can test and improve before saying hi to the world.
The average timeline from idea validation to online launch is 6-9 months. Time is expensive but for less than a daily take-out coffee you can make that time count by investing in our Unzipped Hero Course, How to Launch a Fashion Brand Online today. Trust the experts!