Breaking Into the Fashion Market as an Emerging Designer: The New Rules

When we started working with emerging designers at Vicaire NY, we found ourselves running into the same problem over and over again: a lot of extremely talented emerging designers were unaware of how to break into the fashion market. Many of them were well-researched and reviewed all the materials available to them -- but the fact is, the fashion industry, like so many other industries, is changing. And the emerging designer market is changing with it. The old rules -- therefore -- are largely out, and it's time to create new ones. Here are three new rules to replace old ones that emerging designers should use to break in to the currently fragmented fashion market:

Old Rule #1: Never do consignment or drop-ship.

New Rule: Do it, but do it right.

When the economy took a nose dive, so did the appetite for risk for many retail buyers. They were not as interested in taking a risk with a new designer with a new perspective; instead, many buyers were looking for tried and tested looks that would be an easy sell. For emerging designers this meant that it would become even harder to break into the retail world. The solution is something simple -- offer some of your styles on consignment or drop-ship in an effort to get into the boutique or the web platform. And then work with the store to make those designs sell. If you can help the store to sell out of your product, they are more likely to buy from you down the road. Make sure you can prove that you belong with that retailer.

Old Rule #2: Have your own e-commerce store.

New Rule: Sell on a third-party e-commerce platform that suits your design aesthetic.

Having your own e-commerce store as an emerging designer always sounds like a good idea. You have control over the sales and pricing and you get more money! The problem is that if people don't know your brand exists, then it's hard to sell your designs. It's not worth the time and money that you put into it. The digital world is a savior for emerging designers if they do it right -- as in, find an e-commerce platform that suits the designer's aesthetic, price point, and customer profile. Selling on a well-suited e-commerce site will give you more clout with brick and mortar buyers, especially if you do well on that site. Also, many retail buyers look at emerging designer boutiques and sites to get an idea of who the next big designers will be. So choose and choose well.

Old Rule #3: It's cheaper to produce abroad.

New Rule: It's more economical to produce in New York.

When looking at pricing sheets from factories abroad, the numbers always look much better than the numbers you get from U.S.-based factories. But when you look at in the long run -- it's often more economical to produce in New York rather than abroad. Why, you ask? Producing abroad involves additional costs: (1) international shipping; (2) tariffs; (3) less control over quality and timing; and (4) higher minimums per style. If producing abroad, an emerging designer can end up spending more and ending up with excess inventory. Instead, produce locally. It may cost more per piece, but you will only produce what you need and have more quality control and lower minimums. And -- you're bringing business back to New York City, which is a great added benefit!

Now really is the time to change the way emerging designers break into the fashion market. Let's do it the best way possible.