Author: Wanjiku N. M | Editor and Founder of TDS | Twitter: @WanjikuNM
We had so much fun last month gathering stories from around this continent on our Africa Speaks Series. From the artistic photographs of Nairobi at night from Nairobi Noir to the question of if we really need a Vogue Africa. This month, we take a different route, a business kind of route. Are you a designer, aspiring to become a fashion designer, or in the fashion industry in some other way (photography, model..)?
Well, this month, we want to highlight a sometimes-illusive fact: Fashion is a Business. It is not a hobby or side gig. It’s not a competition on who can design the craziest boldest outfit or piece of jewelry and win some award or mention in the newspaper. You are fashion designers and you have customers who ultimately will put food on your table. Your customers are human beings with jobs and families. Look around you and start to think of your brand realistically, practically and either as a business to consumer (B2C) or business to business (B2B) Company.
On that note, if you want to create a fashion business, a Company is legally registered. If you are serious then make your business a serious one as well. There are so many missed opportunities both locally and internationally if your business is not a real registered company/partnership or whichever legal entity so preferred. Go the whole way or not at all. It is not for glamour, glitzy nights, and photos in the Newspaper Lifestyle Section so you can call yourself a proclaimed celebrity. Being a fashion designer or in the industry requires a mental shift into blending your passion and turning it into a business.
It’s great to be passionate and be gifted but are you thinking of the long term business end of it? Fashion is sometimes dismissed as unimportant because of the shining lights and red carpet vibes but behind the scenes of a the Vogue magazine and the Mercedes Benz Fashion Week are business plans, business strategies, marketing plans, brand creation, financial statements, business partners, board meetings and annual reports. Fashion is not just about dressing up, making clothes and money appears. You need to think of your work as a business otherwise what is your end game?
These may be difficult topics or perhaps you know them already, but we thought it was important to delve deeper and restate some hard facts and realities. Firstly, what you see in the paper and in glossy magazine is not what it really is. Don’t be fooled, it takes years to build a brand and as you have read from the designers you have featured, their hard work and dedication for more than 4 years on average is proof that a brand is built over time. There are some questions you need to think about seriously before you delve in or go any further.
The first question is do you still want to be in the fashion industry for all the unglamorous, tiresome, hectic side of it? Are you in fashion for the right reasons (fame is not one of them)? Are you willing to go through long hours, long weeks, maybe no social life, budgeting monthly and years of not making money? Are you able to distinguish yourself from the next guy who calls himself a designer using the same material and designs you do? Are you creating your own work or simply copying from others in the hopes of making a quick buck? Are you even thinking of a brand which includes putting some thought, purpose and longevity to your brand name? Are you willing to be criticized for your work, spend more money before you make it, learn your customer and learn the importance of making sales beyond attending events and winning awards?
These are only a few of the starting questions you need to think about as these are similar questions to anyone starting any business. At the end of the day, I am hoping that being in the fashion industry for you now or later is in fact about making a living out of it. In this month, we are going take you through some basics lessons and deeper considerations on the business of fashion. We take you through the importance of a plan (business plan or otherwise), knowing who your customer is and designing for them, creating a brand and distinguishing yourself, thinking long term and choosing a business model that works for you.
We don’t have all the answers but perhaps we can start to steer you on a path to creating a profitable business. Hope this month may be an inspirational one for you and that in sharing knowledge; we can grow together in this industry and show the world that we are serious.
Have an awesome October!
Let’s get started.