|Wouldn’t it be fascinating to have your own line, enjoyed by the masses, and mentioned by top editors? Imagine seeing your handbags worn by celebrities on the red carpet. You and your handbags are all over the headlines of the top magazines. It is such a great feeling, isn’t it? The reality always starts with dreams. You can turn yourself into the person you always want to be, but dreaming is not enough. You need to start realizing your dreams, act upon them, but watch your steps while you climb to the top. Based on my own past and present experiences, and to help you avoid the mistakes, as well as highlight the successes, here are my 10 important points before you set up your handbag business:
1. Get your fashion education and practice in the sector. It doesn’t matter if you are a student just starting out or a professional who is about to change the direction of your career; getting the proper education, whether it is a MA or a certificate program, will definitely bring much needed professional training and expertise into your business. Following up with working in the fashion industry for some time should be the starting point of developing your portfolio and building up relationships within the global fashion world. There is always a lot to learn from professionals who will be happy to guide you in your venture.
2. Plan your business. It is essential to have a realistic, working (and ever-evolving) business plan when you’re starting up a handbag business. Therefore, ask yourself first what are the differences between your bags with the others on the market and what you have to offer that’s new and relevant. What differentiates you? Who is your customer and what are their needs? Search the market and position your brand there. Identify your competitors and be aware of their strategies. But never ever set off on your journey without defining the direction to get there.
3. Have a mentor or a business model and read their biographies and success stories. And of course implement them into your business. Because as you grow, you will most likely face similar situations and will need to make tough decisions. Each decision you make will be very critical in defining your future. Besides, their struggles to survive will motivate and be very inspirational for you to move forward during difficult times. Statistics show eight out of 10 new businesses fail within the first three years, and you should do whatever it takes to reduce the risk of failure.
4. Follow up trends and visit the trend-setter shows and exhibitions. It is important to head your sector and come up with fresh ideas and new shapes if you want to be known as a leading designer. My favourite shows for sourcing leather and seasonal leather trends are Lineapelle in Bologna, Italy and Première Vision Leather a leather and fur trade show in Paris, France. Première Vision Accessories in Paris is also another trade show where you can source hardware and trimmings for your new collection. Read the pertinent magazines, be active in social media, stay on top of trends in your industry.
|5. Find the right manufacturer to work together. One of the toughest but most important part of being a founder and designer of your label is to keep your promise to buyers and deliver your products on time. The delivered products should be in the same perfect condition as your sample handbags are. When it comes to customer satisfaction, it’s not important how charming or talented designer you are. Be organised, plan your schedule and be a professional business owner. Never promise anything that will harm your reputation in the future. Setting up your terms and conditions and also minimums with a manufacturer is very critical. Your continuing dialogue with the manufacturer you work with should be very direct and detailed. Remember, if anything goes wrong, you are the person ultimately responsible.
6. Have a professional website and catalogue ready. You have done your market research and worked on your debut collection, now it is time to set your terms and take your business to the next level. As perception means everything nowadays, you must work with a professional photographer and agent to project the right message to the right consumer you are aiming for. This is also another critical area you should be very careful with. If you don’t invest enough in photography and your website, you will make it almost impossible to advance your business.
7. Be represented by a PR and sales agent within your niche market. As I have been in the fashion business for quite some time now, I have learned from my mistakes and I don’t want you go through the same. You must collaborate with the right agent who directly focuses on your niche market. This is why positioning your label is very important. Wrong agents, whether it is a single professional or multi label showrooms, will take you to the wrong buyers and the wrong market. We don’t have the time to waste a season, do we? Ask them before you sign any contract, about their clients’ profile and what their strategy is to approach the buyers, to make sure they align with yours. Which trade shows or fashion weeks are in their diaries? It is better to have a trial contract for a couple of seasons rather than an exclusive and long-term one for obvious reasons and to see everything plays out fair for each party.
8. Introduce your brand to the market via trade shows and fashion weeks. Whether by yourself or with a multi-brand agency, it is quite important to attend the shows where you can reach your potential customers. I love the atmosphere and opportunities given by fashion weeks and trade shows such as LFW, Mercedes-Fashion Week, WWDMagic and Who’s Next where you can attract the right professionals and introduce your collection to the fashion industry. And I became obsessed recently with Premiere Classe and Vendome Luxury in Paris.
|9. Cooperate with celebrities and their charity foundations. During my visit to Beverly Hills I met with several charity foundations that recognise dedicated people, whose contributions are the life source and voices of the non-profit organisations. It was then I started to think differently and became aware of the real philanthropic spirit. It wasn’t a marketing strategy to delude the audience, it was real. The only question now is when would be the right time to contribute to these campaigns? The answer should be when it is practical, but very soon in the process.
10. Be open to improving yourself, to new ideas, to new challenges along the way. It is all about you, your strengths, your attitude, and your perseverance as you lead and grow your business. If you are determined enough, as I always believe and share in my own case, there is nothing you can’t be and you can’t do. One of the major secrets of the growing process is networking and sharing your enthusiasm with the professionals who will guide you in your venture. Be prepared to take risks and tackle challenges as much as being ready and open for new inspirations. Good luck!