10 Things You Need to Start a Fashion Brand

I frequently get letters from people asking for advice on how to start their own fashion brand, and I’m often surprised at how few skills or experience they have going into it. Starting a fashion business is not just a fun project to do on the side, it requires commitment and these ten very important things.

1. Industry experience. Whether you’ve worked in design, manufacturing, PR, modelling, pattern making, or sales – you really need some basic fashion industry experience to start a brand. Would I decide to open a car repair if I knew nothing about how cars are repaired? No. So don’t do the same with fashion.

alexis barrell, new fashion brand

All images from very cool and new (ish) designer Alexis Barrell (www.alexisbarrell.com)

2. A good idea. The hallmark of all great fashion brands. And remember, just because your friends think it is a good idea, doesn’t mean it is.

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Loathe: American Fashion Cookbook

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If you judge a book by its cover, then this one screams “tacky.”

Here’s a little gem I found online that was published in 2009: American Fashion Cookbook, a book of recipes and illustrations from American fashion designers. It’s ironic that I’m always complaining about how annoying it is that everyone “says” they are a fashion designer, because now the fashion designers are saying they are cooks. Ok, not quite, but really, is this book necessary? When I need a recipe, I go to a website or a book that is written by expert cooks, the same way I want to buy my clothes designed by expert designers. Why would I want Isaac Mizrahi’s Mushroom Truffle Spaghetti or Carolina Herrera’s Pommes Toupinel? I’d rather get the recipe from a chef whose profession is making these things.

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Richard Lambertson’s crab cakes. Somehow I doubt the final result will look anything like the illustration…

And this comment (which was part of a 5 star review?!?!) sums it up: “My only two gripes are that the recipes are a bit unexact and hard to follow, and there aren’t any pictures.” Um, isn’t the WHOLE POINT of a recipe book to have instructions that are exact and easy to follow? And how often have you made a recipe without a photo? Me? Never. This book sounds like an absolute waste of $35. Designers, your profession is making dresses and not chowder, leave the cooking to the pros.

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6 of the Worst Slogan Tees on Sale Now

Summer and working from home all the time has made me appreciate the benefits of a good t-shirt. While I was snooping around some of the online stores for some new tops, I kept coming across these incredibly tacky slogan t-shirts. I can understand if these were being worn by twelve years olds, but something (the prices, for example) tells me that these are being marketed for adults. Can someone help me out here? I cannot understand why anyone would want to wear one of these, unless they were at the gym (and even then, I would not wear one of these to the gym because I’d look like a twat.)

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Left: “Tout va bien” t-shirt by J Crew. Since when did they become a French brand? And according to reports, things are not going “bien” over there right now and sales are dipping. Right: “Let it be!” t-shirt by Happiness. Beatles lyrics are annoying no end – but made even worse when you add an exclamation point at the end.

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Loathe: Adidas’ Muddy Shoes

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I hoped that this was a joke when I saw it on my Facebook feed, but alas, no, this is really an item for sale: running shoes with fake mud splatter on the bottom. Here is the description from the website:

“These sneakers re-imagine the iconic ZX 750 running shoe in a snow-white leather upper with a clever mud-splatter effect.”

I can think of a few words I’d use in lieu of “clever.” Perhaps idiotic? Ridiculous? Stupid? Laughable? Farcical? Imbecilic? Pointless? You get my point…

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Ask Alexandra: Visions of Fashion

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All these images are from the portfolio of talented London College of Fashion student JiaXin Gao, whom I am pretty sure has some sewing skills.

Dear Alexandra,

I really enjoy reading your posts. They are very helpful and informative. I have been having these visions (of models wearing my designs walking the runway) day and night for a very long time now which I think are ,what I call “symptoms” of “a fashion design aspirant.” So, I know I am interested in fashion design, but sewing in particular, is something that I do not enjoy so much. Does that mean I am not just fit for “fashion design” and cannot hope that someday I may become a good (don’t care about famous, but believe in making women look beautiful in my designs) fashion designer? I do not have any former education in fashion, but am planning on applying for one soon. I would like to know your opinion on the sewing experience one must have to become a decent fashion designer. What is the level of sewing skills one must have to learn/study fashion design? What are your chances of success as a designer with no sewing skills?

PS: I already have a Masters degree in an engineering related field and currently employed. I am 29 and I do not think I am too late for fashion (unless I am over-estimating myself). I need your help to guide me into switching my careers. Do I have to apply for a foundation course first (because I do not know how to sew) or can I do MA in Fashion (I know schools do not teach sewing in PG courses) skipping the pre-requisite altogether?

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Dear Swetha,

These visions you talk about are not necessarily a sign that you should become a fashion designer. I have visions of myself as a prima ballerina, but I do not pursue them, because I try and make career decisions based on what I am good at, as well as what I enjoy. However, if you are truly interested in a career as a fashion designer, then by all means you should try. And no, I don’t think you are too late to start.

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