DESIGNER TOOLBOX: How Small Fashion Brands Can Use Instagram To Be Featured In Vogue

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Hi guys,
I know how Instagram became important to fashion today, including to small brands. After you having how to get featured by Instagram influencers  and the 3 Instagram mistakes small fashion brands keep doing, we decided to end the series of Instagram tools with the main takeouts of last week’s Facebook Live session.
We interviewed brand lover and marketing project manager Sara El Khouya Ali. Passionate by the product development and the client experience in the luxury and fashion industry, she made her debut in retail and marketing in prestigious houses such as Chanel, L’Oréal and Berluti.
She recently worked on consulting assignments for fashion brands such as Ioanna Deschamps, a French Romantic, Chic and Modern brand of handmade hats. During a year she helped the emerging fashion brand to better use communication tools especially Instagram to gain visibility.
In this interview she shared how she helped the French hat brand get exposure in the biggest names of the fashion press.

Sara you helped French brand Ioanna Deschamps get a quite impressive coverage in the fashion press (Vogue Japan & UK, Elle UK, Harper’s Bazaar US, Les Eclaireuses, Socialter, The Hat Magazine) using Instagram. Can you explain to us how you did that?

Thank you Bako for your invitation! A pleasure to share my experience in brand image!
And indeed being visible is one key issue for fashion emerging brands, to attract prospects, their future clients. For Ioanna Deschamps, to develop her brand, there are two axes: the retail approach and the brand image management. I choose to give her some pieces of advice regarding her communication strategy. For your information, I am a Marketing specialist and Communication is an extension of my business skills. I was comfy to help her and to make her brand gain visibility.
Basic advice:

  • Choose a professional photograph and organise shootings to highlight the features of each hat (packshot and with a model).
  • Publish some pictures that explain the inspiration of the current collection.
  • Alternate with posts including quote (fashion, music, literature, paris, women empowerment)

Major results: the number of followers suddenly increased and Ioanna Deschamps was contacted by Direct Messages or by email. She then described her brand, told her story as a hat lover and the magazines wrote an article and published one of the iconic fedoras “Orchidée” or “Pensée”.

So which steps should an emerging fashion brand follow to achieve the same result?

First and major step: deeply analyse your brand DNA, redefine your brand with simple words, if necessary draw a mind map with a lot of adjectives and pick the most relevant and impactful ones. That helps you create your own signature.
Another type of work: make the effort of introspection, close your eyes and remember why you have decided to create your brand, your product, your universe. That will give elements to justify how unique your brand is, how you have been thrilled to launch your brand. This first work is a major step to build one’s own storytelling.
Second: Now you know storytelling is the key. How to make it real?
It depends on your budget, dear emerging brands!

You could make a brand movie or feed your facebook with articles related to your sector or with launching product campaigns. But actually it’s common to first create an Instagram account having a proper biography and a link to your website. Use the hashtags that define your own signature, the ones, which are relevant to easily find your brand on the feed.
Then, as I have said, publish some pictures so that we rapidly recognize the brand signature (colours, the writing or font, mood) and why not create your own hashtag like #hatspiration for D’Estrée.
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You worked in the sales and marketing department of fashion and luxury brands such as Chanel, L’Oréal and Berluti. Did it help you obtaining those results? How?

During my missions at Chanel, L’Oréal and Berluti, all the projects I led had to take into account the respect of the brand image. I propose to explain for each brand what I have learned from them, how they deal with their brand DNA.

  • Chanel (Retail Marketing Manager): there was a training at the beginning to better know the House, it was like a summary of the chapters of Inside Chanel. Besides I always quote the Inside Chanel chapters for the emerging brands, to help them to build their storytelling.

Example of my loyalty project: the French stores were aim at encouraging the purchase of ready-to-wear products. Several tools were at their disposal to contact their loyal customers: emailing (newsletter), mailing (last brochure), private event (La Veste Event, private concert of Vanessa Paradis, after-show cocktail, privatisation of a Museum section…), phone calls, etc

  • L’Oréal (Product Manager): I joined a brand (Decléor), which just had been bought by L’Oréal. It implied to restructure the brand products collection, to redefine the brand signature as you were supposed to build the 2016 marketing plan. Several changes were expected to make the brand a luxury one and the luxury and fashion codes were reused: the colour (give up the yellow colour, too cheap and go for the gold colour instead), highlight the founder Solange Dessimoulie, starify the iconic product of the brand, the Aromessence, an oil serum, and finally use all the references to nature and vegetation.
  • Berluti (Special Order Manager, Leather product lines): I was part of the special order and bespoke team at a international scale. I was close to a perfect luxury service propose to clients. The signature of the brand was in the product itself: the high quality of the leather and the use of patina, a total handmade product that makes it exclusive and unique for the client. If you see the Instagram account, there are always references to the leather (calf to alligator skin), it is very light and “male”.

Knowing this, I was inspired to work with Ioanna and to help her to better understand on what she was expected to show on her instagram account to attract magazines, retailers and clients.

If you had 1 top advice for emerging brands to be seen on IG: what would it be?

Be clear on what you are and what you want to show, the brand is part of you, so share a part of yourself, be closer to your future customers.


Download our Instagram quick checklist for small fashion brands

 What to put in your bio to make it compelling, what you should do before posting and a nice app to keep your content nice and cohesive

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DESIGNER TOOLBOX: The 3 Instagram Mistakes Emerging Fashion Brands Should Fix Right Now

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Hi Guys,
We asked digital nomad and Instagram expert Elise Darma for guidance to help emerging fashion brands improve their Instagram profile. She made this very insightful video, just for you. Thank you so much Elise <3.

Here are the main takeouts from her video:
"When it comes to fashion brands, I see common mistakes with fashion brands.

MISTAKE # 1 – The handle and name field are not optimized for searches by target buyers

One common mistake I see, is that the bio is often not optimized. In Instagram, you have a handle (username) and the name field. A lot of people will put the same information in both. For example, the handle will be the name of their shop and the name field will be the name of their shop again. Both of those fields – the handle and the name field – are search friendly. So Instagram will allow those fields to be search optimized for people looking for certain keywords on Instagram.

  • Handle: have their brand name
  • Name field: edit it with the main keywords that their target buyers are searching for

MISTAKE # 2 – The bio is not enough about the customer and lifestyle

With your bio, you really want to speak to that customer, to let them know that they are home. This is the place they have been looking for. They found it through your profile. You are going to speak specifically to that person. That means that you are not going to speak to everyone, which is fine because you do not want to attract everyone as a customer. As a fashion brand, you want to become known by a specific group of people for that specific style. For example, when I started to work with Shelfies, they were very new with their photo realistic prints and that was their unique angle. They really targeted teens and young adults because they were the ones to wear that kind of clothing. So all of the messages and captions in that bio was focused on that audience.

  • Define a customer target
  • Speak the language of the target customer. Use slang if they use it. Use words that not everyone knows but those target customers know especially if you are into a trendy pop culture kind of style.
  • Show the brand personality and highlight that your Instagram is their home. Make it fun.

MISTAKE # 3 – Do not just focus your posts on your products

Some brands just put product pictures after product pictures. What those Instagram profiles are missing are some lifestyle images. The lifestyle images could be real people wearing the clothes, user generated content that you are reposting. Maybe there is a specific hashtag that you are using to get reposted.
What are the other elements that your ideal customers want in their life? So for example, my agency @canupee is all about tropical vibes and the beach so I am not only talking about copywriting services and social media. I am giving my target customers what they want: pretty imagery of beaches.
One other of my clients sells green beauty products. So our feed is not only product after product. We have that but because we are appealing to people who like healthy living and healthy products, we are sharing a lot of images related to nature, the food they might eat and the activities they might do. Se we are sort of encompassing and showing a visual representation of their lifestyle because that is who you want to speak to. We are talking to a woman who typically likes yoga, she eats very healthy and she wants to put products on her face that are going to help her not harm her. So collecting those lifestyle images are really important because they get more engagement and they are solidifying to the clients that this brand is for them. (See example of clementinefields and frank_bod in the video).

  • Understand the lifestyle of your target customer
  • Alternate promotional pictures with lifestyle pictures”

To get more amazing Instagram insights from Elise, you can read the following:


Download our Instagram quick checklist for small fashion brands

 What to put in your bio to make it compelling, what you should do before posting and a nice app to keep your content nice and cohesive

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DESIGNER TOOLBOX: 6 Killer Advice From Instagram Influencers To Small Fashion Brands

Hi Guys,
Maybe you can relate with this: all the conversations with my clients somehow end up talking about Instagram.
Instagram, the giant that according to scored $2.8 billion ad revenues in 2016. Over 600 million users were counted as of April 2017. As part of the second largest industry represented on Instagram, most of the small fashion brands have an account there, hoping to be on top of the list of what influencers wear.
To increase your chances to get featured, we approached influencers to better understand what they are expecting from small fashion brands. We exchanged with two active Instagram influencers with different sizes of audience (over 18k followers) and a fashion blogger who uses Instagram to find collaborations with fashion brands. We wrapped up their feedbacks in the lessons hereafter.

#1 – Yes a small fashion brand can interest an influencer

The influencers we contacted were quite unanymous. Small fashion brands do have all their chances to get featured by influencers. As The BongFashion founder Chandrayee Chakraborty  suggests, small fashion brands can do either of the two for a start:
1) a barter where brands send free products to influencers for campaigning
2) mass loop giveaways where brands pay the influencers a certain amount to run the giveaways on their Instagram account.

#2 – Have a strong brand DNA and contact an influencer with a similar style

If you have been following our news, you may know by now that the fashion brand DNA is the number one ingredient you need to work on from the start. At any step of the life of your brand, you will need to go back to the core of your DNA. This rule also applies to partnerships and collaborations you build with bloggers and Instagram influencers. So work on making your Instagram account look cohesive.
Besides, like her peers, Germany-based Instagram influencer Malia Keana emphasizes the importance of the fit between the brand and the influencer. In order for influencers to wear your product, it has to blend in with their lifestyle. Hence make sure to contact the influencers with a similar style. As fashion blogger Lily Angelova said: “When the style is identical, the collaboration is really effortless and does not appear like advertisement.”

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#3 – Size matters

Lily Angelova is positive. The size of the influencers’ audience matters. “As an entrepreneur as well as a blogger I have been in both situations: a brand looking to work with bloggers and a blogger who  is offered a collaboration. Unless they have a big budget for advertising I would suggest to look for influencers who have a similar or a bit larger audience. Influencers with following around 5,000 are a great start.”
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#4 – Measure the influencers’ influence

There is the size of the influencers’ audience on one side and their actual influence on another. Here’s a great tool to help small fashion brands evaluate an influencer on Instagram. It enables to measure the costs and the estimated return on investment for each Instagram user.

#5 – Be authentic: create a connection with the influencer

“Generic template-like emails are obvious. They are not the best way to start a  relationship. The best collaboration will be the one where both parties are excited to work with one another and love and value each others work.”, says Lily Angelova. 

#6 – Be clear on what you should expect from each other

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In order to avoid misunderstandings, Beauty and the nature blogger Lily Angelova reminded how important it is to have “very clear conditions stated prior to the collaboration, so both parties would know what to expect and what they have to do.”


Download our Instagram quick checklist for small fashion brands

 What to put in bio to make it compelling, what you should do before posting and a nice app to keep your content nice and cohesive

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CASH & FUNDING: 5 Lessons Emerging Designers Can Learn From Nasty Gal’s Bankruptcy

5 hard lessons emerging designers can learn from nasty gal s bankruptcy

Hi guys,
Probably like you these last few months, my newsfeed has been swamped with articles related to Nasty Gal’s bankruptcy. I do not know if it is because I watched the Girlboss TV show on Netflix:  maybe having the impression to share Sophia Amoruso’s joys and tears on screen made me care but reading all those articles made me really sad. Her bold approach to the fashion industry was a beacon of hope for me.
I adored the fact that she was young and built an empire with nothing more than an Ebay account.
I adored the fact that she made it with a strong edgy vintage point of view, a take on fashion she imposed.
I adored the fact that she extended the concept and had the courage to start her own clothing line.

Unfortunately, whichever the industry, at some point an entrepreneur cannot escape some hard facts.
When I read about the bankruptcy, even if I wrote a book that partly points out the significance of finance, I felt really sorry to conclude that once again, finance won.
So I felt the urge to share a few lessons any emerging fashion designer should take out of her story. I know that for lots of you, finance, funding, cash, figures are just not your thing. However if you are on your own, it is better for the future of your brand to face reality. There will be a time when you will have to negotiate with other professionals.
Show people that you are not another dreamer. Show them you have what it takes to be a reliable businessperson.

#1 – Drop the vanity act

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Once you experience your first financial reward, it can be tempting to use the extra cash to show you are able to play in the big league.
With its first success, Nasty Gal moved its headquarters in beautiful but far too large offices. Besides, the company also opened a 500,000-square-foot fulfillment center in Kentucky to handle its own distribution and logistics although it could have outsourced it to a third company. 
And since we are talking about vanity, I seize the opportunity to go a little bit off topic…Stop using vanity metrics to monitor your business. By vanity metrics I mean the number of followers and likes on social media for example. It is fine (and flattering, admit it…) to see the size of your audience grow. However excuse me in advance for being down to earth: your banker or your fabric supplier will not be impressed that you organized a glamorous fashion show and got 100,000 more likes on your Facebook page.
Keep a cool head. Look at what really matters: business.

#2 – Repeat after me: fashion is a business

It is undeniable. Creativity is vital to fashion. However do not forget that it remains a business. And as any other business, even if design and image is a major part of what you sell, you also need to structure your company on very solid grounds.

What matters is that the system you built generates enough money to sustain your business.
As many pure players did, Nasty Gal opened bricks-and-mortar stores. Once you go into this kind of expenditures, you need to be sure to generate enough revenues to cover the related expenses (rent, sales and administrative staff salary, just to name a few) and make profits. The second store was opened a few months only after the first store.
It would have been safer to stabilize the whole in a profit generating system before opening the second shop.

#3 – Learn to make yourself useless: build processes

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Sophia Amoruso built her own fashion business from scratch. After the years, she still remained essential to her business. When she pursued other personal projects, her company suffered from her absence.

To avoid that and always in the spirit of lesson #2, while your business will grow, you will need to chunk down your success formula in written processes and train other people to be able to replace you.
This enables you to maintain the quality level after scaling your business.

#4 – Prefer customer loyalty to customer acquisition

Nasty Gal is said to have spent substantial money in advertising and marketing to acquire new customers. And yet those customers did not necessarily stay loyal to the brand.
There appears to be several reasons for the absence of a loyal customer base. The more obvious one I observed in this case is the unequal quality of the products and services delivered. You just need to read the reviews on the website before the bankruptcy. Already at that time, customers seemed to be unhappy with the quality of the products.
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Before spending money in acquiring new customers, you need to ensure that your system is reliable enough to deliver the products and services you promised to your existing customers first.

#5 – Understand the difference between sales, profits and cash

Sales is the money you make in exchange of a product or a service you deliver to your customer.
Profit is what is left of that money once you withdraw your expenses, your charges and taxes. To make a business sustainable, you need to generate a profit making machine. A machine means that you have a system and methods in place that enable to generate sales in the long term, maintain a good quality level etc. Do not get involved into fixed costs (like the rent of a brick and mortar in the case of Nasty Gal for example) unless you have a reliable analysis that shows it will enable you to multiply your sales.
Cash is the sum of what is in your bank account and in your cash register. Running out of cash is the reason why companies go bankrupt. The factors that impact your cash are:

  • Your profits. This one is quite obvious. If the amount you invoice is higher than the amount you spend, you should have cash left in the end. When Nasty Gal paid heavy marketing and advertising costs to acquire one-time only customers (who probably spent less than what Nasty Gal spent to acquire them), it killed the business.
  • Payment terms. The ideal situation is to be able to impact your buying payment terms to your customers. In the fashion business, this is a tricky game since fabric suppliers and manufacturers do not know you yet and expect you to pay immediately. On top of that, if part of your business is wholesale or if some of your products are in a consignment stock, you will not be paid immediately. It means that you will have to advance a significant amount of cash before getting some back. However designers are sometimes able to negotiate with suppliers and manufacturers. The rule of thumb: Get paid as early as you can and pay as late as you can, without damaging the relationship with the supplier. Negotiate.

Most of the bankrupt fashion business died because they did not go further than the sales logic and did not take the time to build solid process to generate sustainable profits. Think profit more than sales. 


Did you find this article interesting?

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


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