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A Telegram Straight from Paris The Business of Fashion

Regular incoming calls and emails, all from more or less developed fashion brands. A recurrent leitmotiv appears: how do we develop our sales? There is a little bit of everything: cautious emails from fashion brands that already got their fi rst media success as well as cries for help from overwhelmed designers. In the overcrowded fashion market, independent brands work hard in order to stand out. And yet, there is no miracle. Among these brands, only some will manage to get people’s attention. But then, is there a golden rule and if so, what is it? I believe there is none. There is nonetheless some sort of fashion common sense, the main logic of which I shared in my book, “The Fashion Business Plan.”

Principle 1 – Breathe Fashion or Die A few years ago, it would have seemed odd for me to have to say this out loud. However, at the peak of the era of DIY successful newcomers from other sectors gave hope to many other aspiring fashion entrepreneurs. And yet, not every aspiring fashion entrepreneur actually grasps the philosophy of this industry. I would say that fashion is characterized by its capacity to create desire and strong emotions. To break into the fashion industry, it is necessary to be aware of the fact that, even more than in other sectors, the ability to touch people using design, fabric, crafts, images, music, etc is essential. The quality of the pieces, the visuals, the photographs and the website must be excellent. Besides, the designer’s fashion point of view must absolutely show as a theme, to touch the brand’s customer.

Principle 2 – Know Thyself The Socratic philosophy also applies to fashion design. Successful brands are those that are mature enough to synthesize the essence of their work in a concept, a state of mind. Once the brand understands what constitutes its DNA, it has to stay in line with it. Whether when launching new collections, doing photo shoots for a look book, communicating with fans, decorating a booth in a retail shop, selecting other brands to collaborate with and even when raising funds, fashion brands need to be consistent with their blueprint. The brand identity must be perceptible from the beginning and at any level. For example, I recently had the case of a menswear brand that’s sold truly beautiful pieces. However once the pieces were put side by side, it looked as though they belonged to very diff erent brands and meant to be worn by very diff erent customers. Hence quality products are fi ne but it is not enough to make an impact.

Principle 3 – Identify the Target Customer and Understand How He Lives There are still too many fashion brand owners who come to me and say they target everyone. Unless they sell basics or the new equivalent of the jeans, products that can be considered as democratic are rare. Which means that the brands must absolutely target their customers, understand their culture and lifestyle, and address them with the right product using a strategy that appeals to their lifestyle.

Principle 4 – Value Well-being & Awareness You undoubtedly read it in the press or perhaps even observe this phenomenon around you. These last years, a new kind of customers has emerged. They are concerned by their impact on the planet and their environment and they expect the brands they buy to act correspondingly. When I attended the ‘Who’s Next Paris Trade Fair’ last September, I noted fashion brands were always asked the same questions: is the fabric organic? What about the dyeing process? Where was this manufactured? The customer of today is clearly both extremely well informed and conscious. This growing concern also shows in the new initiatives conveyed by large corporates of the fashion and luxury industry. Kering launched an app that enables any designer to measure his ethical impact. Additionally, today’s customer is also more focused on well-being. That explains in particular why interest for plus-sizes increased as much in 2016. The state of fashion report by Business of Fashion and McKinsey states that the number of mentions of plus-size brands tripled in 2016 compared to the previous year. However, whatever the trends of the moment, it is necessary to fi nd a coherent way to combine those with the DNA of the brand. If not, it will just look like another meaningless trend added to a random fashion brand.

Principle 5 – Let the Customers Cocreate with the Fashion Brand and Customize the Pieces They Buy Among the fashion brands that stand out, some are very smart with customization. For example, ‘Prints All Over Me’ off ers to customize the designs of a large number of products marketed on their website. In 2015 the French brand, “Le Slip Français,” dedicated an evening with fans to co-design what would be their new signature underpants for Christmas. Or the other French brand, Habit Cactus, sells emoji stickers, which can be stuck as much as you want on their black Velcro products.

Principle 6 – Understand How Your Brand Vision Translates in Terms of Design and Image Once all that is assimilated, fashion brands need to understand how it can be expressed in terms of design and image. Fashion and graphic design are like foreign languages. There are specifi c words to say feminine, rigor, audacity or extravagance in terms of volume, cut, colors, fabric texture, the way a garment falls. A fashion piece speaks for itself, it tells a life, a philosophy, a state of mind, and the time and love it took a dressmaker to make it.

Principle 7 - Off er True Brand Experience It appears essential to know how to translate the promises and the values of a fashion brand in terms of emotion. What captivates your customers? In what kind of world do you want to take them? To succeed in fashion, it is above all about being able to tell a story unique to the brand in diff erent languages, the languages being fashion and graphic design, photography, web design, social media, etc. And it is essential that the same message is expressed, whatever the language, in order to mesmerize your customer.


Printsesy Bako Rambinintsoa

About the Author Descending from a Malagasy princely family deeply involved with high-end craft, Printsesy Bako Rambinintsoa, also known as Bako Rambini, is an entrepreneur, author, blogger and founder of Fashion Cross Functional, empowering fashion brands.

Bako has helped many fashion designers reinforce their fashion businesses.

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