The business side of fashion requires alot of responsibility. But if you want to play in the big leagues, and win, you have got to know the rules. If you try to undermine the regulations the star player under your brand umbrella can quickly get benched; and your team’s reputation ruined before you ever even see profit or success. As the global marketplace expands, so do opportunities and outreach. The potential to influence markets around the world is now just a simple click away.
Rule Number One: Know your product.
When I say “know your product” I mean in terms of materials and fabric. Requirements are so strict now on what you can import into the U.S. it’s your responsibility as a designer to know what your product is made of. Certify and verify the materials. If your designs contain hardware, sequins, zippers, studs, dyes or any other value added details; you have to have them tested for chemicals like carcinogens. Make suppliers provide proof your product’s been tested and properly labeled because if it hasn’t been, your head is on the chopping block.
Rule Number Two: Know your manufacture.
Don’t use a sweatshop point blank, period. You want fair wages and work conditions in the factories you use. No child labor, human trafficking, or inhumane conditions. It’s not only bad business, but bad Karma. What you put out into the universe, is definitely what you’ll get back. Nobody wants to associate with a company that sources manufacturing to a factory that’s against women’s rights, or anything else that infringes on human rights. It’s ok to raise your price point a to balance the cost. Address this issue in the product development stage to appeal to a target market that won’t mind the trade off.
Rule Number Three: Know your distributor.
Don’t distribute directly to discount chains. Require clear and concise paperwork. You want control of where your product goes, how, and when. Just in case they don’t oblige, legal ramifications need to be felt. If your brand culture is high-end to luxury market, distribution to outlets is an early death, your brand will never fully recover and your customers will never pay the price you set forth.
Rule Number Four: Protect yourself.
Copyright, trademark, and patents have to be in place before you make any major moves. The worst thing that can happen is you have a multi-million dollar idea, and somebody steals it from you, believe me, it happens all the time in fashion. Develop a backup plan, or backup brand, to follow suit if you do get knocked off. You copyright the art, patent the construction, a trademark the distinguishing characteristics of your product. Once you register it, counterfeits can’t come into the country. Mark your patterns, sketches, brainstorms and notes. Sign and date everything, make a photocopy and mail it to yourself; this is called a “poor man’s copy”. Until you can afford all your legal paperwork.
Rule Number Five: Go green.
If you can afford it, go green. Move to environmentally friendly materials and operations. Go paperless, use hemp cloth, whatever you can afford to do to make your company more sustainable. It shows your brand is socially conscious.
Rule Number Six: Support something besides yourself.
Support your community and the global community as a whole. Teach a class, support a class, volunteer, plant a community garden, adopt a tree; share your knowledge and good karma with an outsider. It never fails, you’ll be surprised how much more successful you’ll be and how fast the good times will come when you reach out to others. This will also build a good reputation for your company, more brand awareness, and brand loyalty.
Rule Number Seven: Personally oversee your paperwork.
If you can afford it, get an attorney. But even if you do, you need to personally understand, sign and approve every piece of paperwork. Especially if there is a licensing agreement involved. Don’t be afraid to limit your partner’s role, and retain creative control. You want anything licensed under your umbrella to communicate a unified brand message. The visuals and promotion should all be in sync.
Remember, your brand is an asset, it’s as valuable as your body parts. It’s more than your money, it’s your life. Your dreams coming to life, so treat it as such. Develop a full strategy because if you’ve invested years like I have, you can’t stand the risk of someone coming in and snatching the rug from under your feet; you can’t stand to lose….stay tuned, MUAH aaand scene.
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