SUCCESS STORY – 2 Unusual Ways To Break Into The Fashion Industry

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Hi Guys,
Today we are going to go through unusual strategies used by two now thriving fashion companies to break out in the fashion business.

The two examples  selected are no classic profiles. They did not graduate from a facny fashion school. They did not launch with an insanely glamorous fashion show. They did not have a massive budget to spend on advertising. They are both very different. Each company has its own personality. One is from France, the other is from the US. But they both leveraged the power of social media in a smart AND organic way: we are talking about French brand Le Slip Français and US platform The Red Dress Boutique.


For those of you who do not speak French, Le Slip Français litteraly means “The French underpants”. And in French, this word “slip” is not the nice sexy version. Nope! In French the word slip is the ugly old fashioned version of underpants. Today the founder who originally worked in an organic store chain is one of the favorite success stories in France.
The story tells that the founder Guillaume Gibault made a bet with his friend that he would make underpants fashionable.
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He ordered 600 underpants and started the adventure.

The brand signature is: French made and audacity – audacity which is also a trait French people are famous for. The waistband has the colours of the French flag. And all the products are made in France, which is also a guarantee of quality;
The big breakout occurred in 2012 on French election. One of the candidate had a catchphrase that said “The change is for now”. The brand le slip français twisted the message with a video “The change of underpants is for now”. (I will let you watch it in the replay of our live video on top of this post – it starts at 05:33).
Needless to say that this campaign made a massive organic hit on social media. People shared it because it was bold and funny. And audacious.
It was worth sharing.
Besides he always stayed cohesive with the identity of the brand. For example, he also gave typically French or even Gaul nicknames to each product, like names that you would have read in this French comic book: Asterix the Gaul – “The Intrepid” “The valiant”…

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Here are the best lessons that you can take out of this

#1 – Know who you are

The usual and favorite Fashion FXF advice: have a strong DNA. For that, you don’t have to have a necessarily complicated identity. On the constrary – Stay simple but true to who you are. In this case they Chose Underpants French Audacity. That’s it. And everything is aligned to that: design, production, tone of voice used in communication.

#2 – Use or twist something that is trending right now

Then you know what people are eager to share and talk about right now – You can go on websites such as Medium to see what’s trending – And use that for your communication. Of course, you have to be careful of the potential complaints. In this case, none of the candidates complained about the twist
Also be careful to not use any kind of news. Just use the ones that make sense for your brand and that can speak to your target audience. In this case, it made sense because it was the French elections and let’s admit it: the candidate’s message was just perfect for an audacious joke!

#3 – Share messages that are worth sharing

Lots of brands just dump posts on their audience…
Honestly have you wondered, how you change people’s life? Have you thought about the people at the other end? How will your product change their lives?
So from now on, what you need to do is to think of ways how your product can contribute to your audience’s life and lifestyle.
Inspire. Teach something. Make people feel something.
In this case it was funny but it doesn’t have to be funny. It can be comforting, motivating, whichever feels right for your brand identity and your audience.

Contribute to your audience’s life and well being.
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The Red Dress boutique is an online e-commerce website and brick and mortar shop that sell cute and affordable clothing for women. They are from Georgia in the US. The company was founded by Diana Harbour.
At the beginning, she targeted students of the University of Georgia.
She got people’s attention by keeping her audience updated about upcoming items and re-stocks. It was the beginning of Facebook…and no other retail store was doing that.

And here is the trick (which still works today
She constantly asked for customer feedback. Her engagement is very high. So for example when she is on her buying trips to curate new items, she asks for feedback from her target audience to know if they’d like it or not. And depending on the answers obtained, she adjusts the quantity of items to buy. So she only gets the most wanted items in, which also decreases the need for markdown. Smart, right?
The same goes with the pictures she posts – She worked with students who posed for her pictures. But for example if the picture did not get much engagement, she changed it a little bit and posted the one that got most engagement.
To finish, the identity of the red dress boutique can be summarized in one word: caring. The founder genuinely cares about her customers. She cares about their opinion but she also cares about their life. She thinks of them – each package is wrapped like a gift and there is a handwritten note. Here is what you can read when you go on the website:
“I also wanted to create this place that would bring color and confidence and happiness to a woman’s day. Sometimes just having that one fantastic new outfit is all a woman needs to turn a bad day into a good one, to give a woman the confidence she needs going into an interview or to give that stay at home mom a reason to smile after that rare moment she treats herself. So I started handwriting all the thank you cards that went in our orders, packing it up like the present that it was and sending it off in hopes that it brought a smile to the woman it went to.”

That’s how much she cares about her audience and from all the engagement she gets from people and the way she keeps listening to what her audience has to say, it is so sincere that she made a business model out of it.
So what kind of lessons can you take from this?

#4 – Care about your customers

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Start bonding with them. We have a fantastic opportunity with social media, stop ruining it by dumping your products on people.
Ask their opinion. Find out how they live, give a damn about what they are going through and how your product makes them feel.

Today you cannot just dump your posts on people: you have to engage. So start engaging.
And I am not only talking about putting green hearts and emojis on people’s posts. (ughhh…I have that account on Instagram that keeps posting that same green heart over and over again).
Share something useful that could enlighten that person’s day. Because guess what they are going to do once you care a little bit about them: they are going to check your profile and interact with you. Tadaaaa.
Plus social media totally loves and favors posts that engage.

#5 – Test until it works

It is applicable for the photos you use on social media but also for your posts. You need to find that tone and content that your audience best reacts to.

#6 – Ask for customer feedback

A lot of designers out there stay in their bubble and do not engage. with their audience. But how are you going to know what works if you stay in your bubble? You have to go out there and ask what they think about your product. How they like it, where they wear it, how it went, how it makes them feel.
Because all this is information that you will be able to fuel back into your marketing.


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SUCCESS STORY: 4 Fierce Lessons That Led To The Nasty Gal Phenomenon

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Hey guys,

Last week we published an article with the lessons emerging designers could learn out of Nasty gal’s bankruptcy.  After having briefly analyzed what lead the fashion wunderkind to bankruptcy, I wanted to remember the effervescence of the beginning.

From a simple eBay account to nearly 100 million dollars in sales in six years: in spite of the tragic turn of events, Sophia Amoruso certainly did a few things right.
So what could emerging brands learn out of that?

#1 – Rather than selling what works, sell what you are excellent at

Sophia Amoruso is excellent at one thing: bargain buying hand picked vintage garment. She has a real skill in seeing an old garment’s potential, how it can be revamped and where to get it for an interesting price.

It’s a combination of very specific skills actually.   
By following that formula she did not try to copy other existing fashion stores, she built something out of something she was excellent at.

Think about which fashion skill you are really good at. Maybe it is the way you work on leather, jeans, the way you drape a garment. Or the way you hand paint on fabric or leather?
Really think of what you’re excellent at and think how you can apply it on your own fashion business.

#2 – Three words: Branding, branding. And branding

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When Sophia Amoruso started  Nasty gal, she built a proper fashion branding right from the start. 

She immediately gave a certain vibe to the store. The name she chose to begin with, was inspired by soul singer Betty Davis’s song. The photos all had this vintage rock feeling. It was well thought and cohesive from the beginning.
Some beginner brands I have worked with either are not aware how branding vital is to a fashion line or they struggle a bit to achieve a cohesive image. For example, they want their brand to be about glamour and luxury but in reality when you watch the collection or the visuals, it fails to give the sophisticated look it aims for. 


This free resource explains what you should work on to start a clothing line. The branding concept is the first thing you should start with. Explore the first chapter of our free ebook to shape a proper branding for your own fashion business. 

#3 – Have the humility to learn what is key for the fashion industry

Let’s take an example from another industry. When you buy a smartphone, companies compete by promoting the quality of the photos/videos it takes, the size of the screen, the possibility to unlock it using your fingerprint etc. However none of the phone company has ever promoted the ability for a smartphone to make proper calls. It is a given! when you buy a smartphone, the phone function is expected to be excellent.
In the fashion industry, it is the same. There are a few basics that are expected from the start:

  • a good fit
  • proper finishing
  • professional photos
  • a good looking website

Fashion IS about image. You cannot skip that one. Your visuals have to look no less than STUNNING.
Sophia Amoruso did not have any fashion designer education. However she made Nasty Gal a success and she was willing to learn what it would take to thrive.
She was humble enough to acknowledge she did not know and learn about it. She read books to learn how to run an eBay store. She also learned how to take photos.

Ask yourself what is important in this industry. Figure out what you still need to learn.
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If you take care of your own website and photos, do they reach the expectations of the industry? Or maybe you need to learn basic SEO techniques or how to run a business?
Find out in which key area you need to improve and either hire someone to take care of it or learn about it.

#4 – The power of tribe

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Sophia Amoruso grew her tribe using My Space. She first identified Nylon magazine gave a similar feeling to Nasty Gal. She thought their followers would most relate to her auctions. So she engaged with them. She meticulously answered all their comments.
Which already existing community would be interested in relating with your brand? Go on social media (especially Instagram, Twitter, Facebook). Check the communities and where you feel you find a similar vibe as yours, engage with people.


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SUCCESS STORY: Miu Miu, How To Master A Diffusion Line

Miu miu

“Designing for me is a very complex process. There are many ideas that I want to express in one object, very often contradictory. The creative process in Miu Miu is completely different from that of Prada. Miu Miu is not as complicated and thought out as Prada. Rather than being young, Miu Miu is immediate. Prada is very sophisticated and considered; Miu Miu is much more naïve. The solution, when I am working on Miu Miu, has to come immediately, instinctively, spontaneously with whatever is available at the moment. If I think three times, I stop.”
Miu Miu is the best dressing-up box you’ve ever owned.  Created as a counterpart to the established Prada brand, Miu Miu presents a sense of freedom, exploration and extroversion its big sister does not.  A women’s playground, it inspires fun, laughter and even rebellion at times – there are no rules.
In 1993 Prada was at its most minimalist; through tailoring and a dark palette, the brand empowered the modern women.  The nature of Prada’s designs gave the brand a serious and somewhat intimidating edge, and Muccia Prada saw room for something more accessible.  She envisaged a women with the same amount of independence but with less restrictions, rules and boundaries, and created the diffusion line, Miu Miu, to allow just that.
Miu Miu showcased its first collections at Fashion Weeks in New York, London and Milan,  with top models such as Kate Moss and Angela Lindvall, which helped gain initial interest from the Industry.  This first glimpse of the Designers anti-conformist and experimental, feminine designs quickly gained Miu Miu a following – these were women who has previously been weary of the suits and dark colours that Prada offered and revelled in the accessibility Miu Miu offered.  It’s unique and playful take on avant-garde fashion continued to lead the brand to success from there, receiving enormous enthusiasm at its first PFW in 2006.
Since then Miu Miu has been admired for its colourful campaigns, which present a youthful naivety relatable to all women, no matter their age or stature.  The brand has dressed stars such as Kylie Monique, Drew Barrymore and Reese Witherspoon and is a favourite among celebrity style bloggers and street stylists alike. Miu Miu now occupies some of the prime retail positions in New York, London, Paris, Milan, Tokyo, Beijing and Hong Kong and doesn’t look to be overshadowed by its older sister, Prada, anytime soon.  After all, who ever gets tired of dressing up ?

Now we’ve heard Muccia Prada’s Success Story, let’s put it into practise and analyse how she managed to successfully diversify an existing brand:
Brand Separation
Prada was already a globally successful brand when Muccia Prada branched out and created Miu Miu.  Why not just use Prada and create more diverse pieces within the brand ?  The continued success of Prada was possible because she decided against doing just that, thereby adhering to the tastes and desires of her already loyal customers and continuing to provide them with a brand they knew and loved.  The creation of Miu Miu allowed her to continue success with Prada’s audience, while targeting a new type of customer.  Her avant-garde pieces appealed to this new market, when they would have deterred the customers of Prada.
Getting Big Names on Board

Audiences who were used to seeing Muccia Prada’s designs take on the more serious and minimalist vibe that Prada specialised in at the time may have been dubious of Miu Miu’s somewhat ‘wacky’ pieces.  By involving major model faces at the time such as Kate Moss and Angela Lindvall, the brand gained credibility and also media attention in the Fashion world.
Distinguished Designs
Due to the existence of Prada, Brand Identity of Miu Miu was more important than ever in order that customers could differentiate between the two.  Muccia Prada’s quirky designs helped achieve just that.  Undeterred by style boundaries, each of Miu Miu’s collections presents us with something new and exciting, with unexpected colour combinations, textures and shapes.  While there are cross overs between Prada and Miu Miu, they are always seen as separate, with the latter viewed as the more fun, rebellious and ungrounded counterpart of her older sister.
Relatable Advertising Campaigns
Miu Miu’s campaigns are always memorable.  Just like the brand itself, they are edgy yet accessible, making Couture desirable to all.  Often the avant-garde clothes are modelled in slouchy positions, on the floor, or on chairs, making the World of High-Fashion relatable to all women of all ages.  They have aided enormously in the development on Miu Miu’s brand identity,  giving the brand a reputation for fun, joyfulness and unpretentiousness that all girls want to embody.

Photo Credit – Virtual Wolf Miu Miu – Creative Commons
by Stephanie Cvetkovic for Fashion Cross Functional

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SUCCESS STORY – Manoush, The Princess Of The Bohemian Style

“The brand’s identity? Poetic, bohemian, girly, some may even say kitsch, and they wouldn’t be wrong. I love things that shine, sing, glisten, and dance. Welcome to my world. Welcome to Manoush”.

Sparkling sequins, metallic threads and neon fabrics are things most Fashion Designers steer clear of, but Frederique Trou-Roy is not most Fashion Designers.  Diving head first into all things that sparkle, her mastery of 3D finishing has become Manoush’s signature style and the aspect that sets this brand apart from the crowd.
After completing her fashion degree at L’ESIMODE in Toulouse, Trou-Roy begun her fashion  career designing accessories for French brand MORGAN.  Having always been a lover of travel – jetting off with her Father on a trip to Africa at just 12 years old – she decided once more to explore some of the world, taking a lone trip to Marrakech.  Here she was inspired by everything she saw; the places, the people and the colours left her hypnotised – she had fallen under the magic spell of travel.
But this was certainly a good kind of magic – her travels in Morocco were to be the tipping point in her career.  Returning home with Artisan-crafted baskets made from sketches drawn during her stay, she quickly found buyers for her unique creations, and the success spurred her on to continue.  With a million ideas in her head from her trip and further exploration of Indian, African and Oriental culture, the designs kept coming, and Manoush was born.
Since then, Clara Racz, Vanessa Paradis and Paris Hilton are just a few of the celebrities who have worn Trou-Roy’s designs.  Manoush’s creations become more and more eccentric season on season, enabling them to stand out in the highly competitive Fashion world by bringing something new to the table.
Now we’ve heard Manoush’s Success Story, let’s put it into practise and analyse how such a quirky brand flourished in a country known for its conservative style.

Always Looking For Inspiration
By being proactive and explorative in her search for inspiration, Trou-Roy was able to have a personal experience, different to that of any other.  While anyone can look for inspiration at their desk by accessing the images online, the sentiments and emotions Trou-Roy felt during her trip in Marrakech cannot be found on Google.  Her experiences abroad are arguably the main reason her designs are so unique.  Manoush shows that stimulus can be found in everything you do, everyone you meet and every place you go.  As a designer, you should always be looking outside the box for the creative details that are hidden in our daily lives.
Strong Brand Design
The bright colours, sparkling embellishments and child-like shapes mean you can spot a Manoush design from a mile away.  Trou-Roy knew that she wanted every piece in her collections to represent the freedom and spirituality she felt during her travels and the people she met there.  Just like Orla Kiely who we discussed last week, Trou-Roy established her vision from the start and etched it in every step of her design process.  She eats, sleeps and breathes her vision, resulting in collections that are coherent to potential buyers and easily recognisable.
Finding A Gap In the Market 

Walking into Galeries lafayette, the Manoush collection catches your eye immediately.  While the rest of the space is filled with collections from various brands in subtle tones, plain fabrics and uninspired styling, Manoush’s rails may as well be under spotlight.  Manoush’s price point is one saturated with many play-safe collections featuring similar designs.  By offering something new with her avant-garde designs and statement looks, she has found a gap in the market, meaning her competition is low and the desirability of her garments high.  Everyone wants to be seen in something different, and Manoush provides just that.  By analysing the market and taking note of what already exists along with what you, as a designer, wish to bring, you too can find a market niche which is one of the sure fire ways of gaining guaranteed success.
Pushing Style Boundaries
Boundaries are meant to be tested, and Manoush is no greater testament to this.  Despite growing up in Paris – a City known for its love of all-black-everything and chic, smart design – Trou-Roy’s designs couldn’t be any more contradictory.  By daring to play with styles, fabrics and colour combinations, she stands out in a world of black and white.  With the rise of technology, Fashion is now extremely accessible, and people want something different, new and inspiring.  Whilst deemed too ‘kitsch’ by some, it’s her puffy skirts, adorned bralets and neon colours that have helped build her strong brand identity, find her a gap in the market and, resultantly, led to her success.
by Stephanie Cvetkovic for Fashion Cross Functional


Build your own success story 

Find more tools to help you through your fashion business plan, with the number one FXF guide. “The Fashion Business Plan” by Bako Rambini is available on Amazon.

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