No matter how modest your initial business is, we all dream of creating a global brand someday. Who wouldn’t want to be behind the next Nike, Apple or IBM?
I am no exception. I am going global with my brand, LANYU, a fashion label I launched 11 years ago when I was 19 in my home country, China. As I have taken my startup from China to Australia and Paris and now the US, I have learned what’s most important when going global.
Stay true to yourself
There are a number of variables to consider when entering a new market including consumer response and local trends. They are all unpredictable, no matter what kind of big data you’re using. The only thing you can control is who you are. Whether you are a fashion designer or a tech innovator, authenticity is a founder’s anchor in an ever-changing business world.
Staying honest to one’s brand identity does not mean staying the same. A brand’s identity must constantly be evolving. I learned to strike the balance between meeting the market’s desire and staying true to your personal inspirations through experience.
It’s very important for company founders to have confidence in their product, style or business model. It’s no use trying to fake an identity to fool the market – the market always figures it out, sooner or later. While this is especially true as a fashion designer, I believe this commitment to integrity and identity translates to all kinds of entrepreneurships.
Do your homework
The secret of our brand’s success is that we know the market – and our customers – better than the competition does. However, we also know that is not enough anymore -- our clients are becoming global in terms of taste and expecting more from us.
The best way for us to stay ahead of the curve is to internationalize ourselves. About two years ago we established an office Paris, where part of design team is based. We also started to take our collection to show in Australia. The overseas offices have served as a great window for us to observe the markets in the rest of the world.
The United States is our latest new market. I was already familiar with New York because I studied at the Fashion Institute of Technology. To prepare for our US launch, I recently relocated to New York again for six months. This way, I was able to immerse myself in the current environment, and hire and work closely with our New York-based team as we opened our first New York office and showroom. With this foundation, my New York team and I can be best positioned to compete in the US market.
This approach to new markets has helped me up my game as a designer and business leader. We don’t get new ideas by reading the same books, watching the same movies and talking to the same people. To expand your creativity, you need to expand your circle of influence. As the old saying goes, “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”
The Bottom Line
All designers and all business people should have a similar sense of mission. The heart of business is bringing something new or much-needed to new audiences. If you find or create something valuable, it should bring you a sense of excitement and joy that will help push you forward.