BRANDING: 6 Common Mistakes Designers Do When Defining Their Fashion Brand DNA

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Hello guys,

Fashion brand DNA: what makes a brand unique.
I’ve had some quite passionate discussions with some of you about the DNA of your fashion brand. Lots of the designers I exchange with now start understanding that this industry is not only about designing good looking pieces. Now you are more and more aware that the fashion brand DNA is a vital foundation of your business and that it is the number one thing you should start working on when you launch a fashion brand.
So some of you sent me their fashion brand DNA descriptions. Since I have been so swamped lately, I was not able to deliver you an individual feedback. So I did this live video yesterday with the common mistakes you guys do when defining your fashion brand DNA.
Historically the fashion brand DNA is not the core thing that I am known for in this business. What I am really known for is writing business plans for fashion businesses. After having drafted some fashion business plans for emerging brands, I have written a book about exactly that: Fashion business plans.  I also teach fashion business planning at the ESMOD Paris fashion school.
However the reason why fashion brand DNA came up so frequently in the fashion FXF blog posts, our live videos and so on, is because I found out that it is the key ingredient of your success, even to get funding. And lots of fashion brands fail because they have not sufficiently worked on that part. In the framework of my work with fashion brands, I had opportunities to exchange with different actors of the fashion industry: fashion press experts, fashion buyers, fashion event managers and I found out that what actually made a fashion business interesting for all those people, even what made a fashion brand interesting to fund, was the impact that it delivered. Because impact means sales which increases your chances to make more profits. And the brands that delivered the strongest impact were those with a very well defined brand DNA. Maybe you have seen our last live when we talked about using Instagram to get featured in the fashion press: Sara who shared her expertise started her work by defining the brand DNA.

So starting from there and observing the successful brands, I came up with a method to generate a cohesive brand DNA for a fashion business. It is all in the book I wrote. And the good thing is that after discussions we had on that subject, you guys start giving it a thought from the beginning. I know it can be a tough exercise for many of you.
So here are the common mistakes designers do when describing their fashion brand DNA.

Mistake # 1: No Fashion Brand DNA

Not having a fashion brand DNA is a big mistake. I know a designer who had great intuition. He was doing high end street wear. He designed amazing pieces, he had lots of talent. He had a real gift in crafting a nice shape for women’s body. But he never took the time to do any introspection and understand what made his work so unique. Plus he had lots of imagination so his designs went all over the place. And he lost himself. And since he never took the time to understand what his signature was, the sales decreased, the success vanished.
why me crying GIF by Team Coco
So to avoid having that kind of one time success that you did not do intentionally, work on your DNA first.

Do things on purpose.

Mistake # 2: Defining a fashion brand DNA for the sake of defining one

It shows immediately: you see sentences that are there for no reason. This is not an exercise where you have to fill in the blanks. You are not telling a story just to tell a story. It has to really mean something and be perceptible for your audience.
For example I saw on one designer who wrote that “she did a cruise in the Caribbean island for some time”. Then I checked the designs and I did not see the Caribbean influence at all. Why do you put that there if there is no link with your design? If you add a sentence into your brand DNA, make it really mean something. What you say should really mean something to the aesthetic of your band and what you say in your fashion brand DNA should systematically be visible on your designs. If you say it is a conservative design with a discrete crazy twist, then each time you create something a bag, a scarf, a hat, trousers, antyhing, you should design something conservative and add that little crazy touch you talked about.
Your fashion DNA description is the promise that you deliver to your customer.
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Mistake #3: Lack of personality

Some designers used generic words such as chic, elegant. I tend to grow allergic to those terms…
bored anna wintour GIF
You have to go the extra mile and spice up the words you are using.
Add some personality to it. Is it “Bon chic bon genre?” is it daring? Is it conservative? Is it audacious? is it whimsical? Dig deep into yourself and make it sound exciting.
It is FASHION, you are here to dazzle and wow your audience.

And the way to do that is to do as if the brand was a person, with its personality traits, the little details and the flaw that makes its charming. Give some depth to your DNA.
Some designers are not inspired and have difficulties describing who they are. In the fashion business plan book, you have a workbook with all kinds of adjectives that you can use to qualify your brand. We use it in our individual workshops as well and the designers I worked with love it in the end because they can really see if they resonate with that.

Mistake #4: A gap between what you say you are, the design you show and your visuals

I guess some designers always dreamt of a certain image and once they start their own brand, they used the words they were dreaming to become one day.
For example, I had a streetwear brand calling its pieces timeless…
fresh prince GIF by mtv

This does not go together! Timeless is a classic design. So it should not be used just because you like the sound of it.
One other mistake I saw is the use of symbols in the logo that had absolutely nothing to do with anything. The brand was selling women’s workwear made of wax fabric but there was an odd shoe in their logo. And they did not even sell any shoes! So why would you use shoes in a logo if your brand is not about shoes?
Another one gap I saw: one designer wrote he was selling luxury design. But the site did not deliver the luxury effect and the logo was not luxury at all. The font was very weird, in a weird blue color. Ideally the graphic design and the visuals should be done with professionals. But in doubt, use a very sleek font, a variation of Helvetica or Lato. But do not use complicated handwritten fonts for your logo.

Mistake #5: too technical descriptions

I see lots of sustainable businesses that do that mistake. They get too caught up in the technical details of what they do. They strongly believe in what they do, which is okay but they totally forget to make their customers dream.
A fashion piece should ALWAYS be desirable. Do not forget: your customers will buy from you firstly because they think the designs look good and your pieces make them feel something special. Of course, your beliefs and the ideas you defend are important. But saying that you are an activist against animal testing or waste should not make you forget about the style.

Style and personality should always come first.

Mistake #6: lack of cohesion

Sometimes designers put too many different adjectives together. As a result, the brand DNA description becomes incoherent and cofusing. Sometimes they are afraid to miss out on sales and they try to target everyone. So the fashion brand DNA becomes this mix of words that do not match.
But who are you? and what is your brand about?
confused jamie foxx GIF by Beat Shazam
In my fashion brand DNA workshop, I help designers generate a cohesive image. Since some designers do not necessarily have the words to express who they are, I offer individual workshops in which we go through styles but also a huge list of words that describe a personality. And they pick three of them that they feel most correspond to them. And during this exercise, it is sometimes difficult to get designers to focus because some of them want to talk to everyone.

One designer picked exuberant and sleek in the same brand DNA description. It does not go together. Is it exuberant or is it sleek?
Pick one. And preferably the one that corresponds to your design.


Interested in seriously working on your fashion brand DNA? 

Here is the tool you need to get for yourself. The fashion business plan starts with a workbook on the brand DNA and explains how the DNA can build up to a tailored strategy for your fashion business.

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The Fashion Business plan - Fashion FXF - Fashion cross functional


Elegance Is Elimination

Hi guys,
Here we are again, as announced. After a well-deserved short vacation in Barcelona, we took some time off and met the fashion business community there. It was a wonderful occasion to discover their vision of fashion and also find the common fashion denominator. It came down to one fact to which I think all fashioners will agree upon: fashion is about translating a unique vision into a business and for that, image is your key success factor. Image through your design and collection, image through the quality of your website, your pictures and video (as obvious as it seems, it’s always good to remind it) and the image you project while applying your business strategy.

Elegance is elimination

So in the end, it comes back to the Balenciaga fashion rule: “Elegance is elimination”. In order to stand out, a fashion brand needs to find its own voice and eliminate all that visually and strategically doesn’t fit with its vision. We are aware that in the loneliness of their creative moments, sometimes fashion designers twist fabric around their mannequin in search of a revelation…and stop there, maybe in the hope that nobody will notice and still find some beauty in the unfinished thinking process…

What is your core message to the world?

Since you are already designing, take the necessary time to investigate what is your true essence. What is it that you care enough about on this planet that your fashion business would be proud to share to the world?
Once you found what it is, make sure that each detail you add contributes to that purpose. Remember the judges’ faces on Project Runway when they complained there’s too much happening on the same look? That’s what we don’t want!

michael kors.jpg
Project Runway – Michael Kors as a judge


Honor your vision

Honoring your vision means not only by following it but also by providing your brand with the quality website, pictures and videos they deserve…So unless amateur is a part of the spirit of your concept, remember that you are in a very competitive and overcrowded market. Today, any fashion designers need to be able to deliver professional HD material and the lack of budget is not an excuse.
Moreover, when you decide to work with someone who will be deeply involved in your design and strategy, take the time necessary to assess if they understand your creative vision. If they don’t, it doesn’t matter if their services are cheap. They won’t make the cut so move on.

Consistency in taste

Taste is not only being able to match a color with another one or being able to understand the beauty in a designer piece, however conceptual it is. It goes beyond that. It’s a philosophy of life. It’s also about the way you decorate your shop, your e-shop, address your customers and counterparts etc. You can’t say your brand is all about luxury lifestyle and have a cluttered website or make spelling mistakes in your communication. So make sure you remain consistently tasteful.
So for this week, let’s all embrace the wisdom of Balenciaga’s quote and address our fashion accordingly.


Wondering how to find your core message to the world?

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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Transform A Yellow Spot Into The Sun

Hi Guys,
Monday’s back, time to analyze last month’s sales.

So how did you do this time?
Have a look at your products…A nice cut, a delicate draping on the waist, the way the fabric flows, the excitement you feel when you unpack your leather bag, the atmosphere in a shop you like spending time into…Is it really what it’s about ?
What makes a customer pick you over another brand? What makes a customer come back?
Enchanted customers want an enchanting brand
The world needs you for your vision and your dream. You have to offer the access to a new universe, something distinctive that corresponds to your sole vision.

And the uniqueness of your voice is key. Your customers will not reward you for being an imitation of other brands. You have to cut out. You have to make a difference.
For that reason, you have to give us a taste of what makes you truly unique.
As a fashion designer, your job is to dream. Your job is to translate your inner world in a brand. Your job is to stir up desire, arouse curiosity, make people happy and create an obsession to reach maximum impact.  

Show us the most accurate version of your vision
Pablo Picasso said “Some painters transform the sun into a yellow spot, others transform a yellow spot into the sun.”

So be that painter. Be that visionnaire.
Your job as a fashion designer is firstly to get the most accurate idea of your vision. Then you have to find the fullest way to translate your vision in terms of design and business strategy.
Maximum impact is reached through the alignment of vision, design and strategy.
So today, THINK BIG.

How do you want to enchant your Customer?
Happy successful week to all of you!

How can I transform a yellow spot into the sun? 

Find more tools to help you through your fashion business plan, with the number one FXF guide.

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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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

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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