calling all would-be brands: here’s how to catch the eye of the world’s best stores
As part of the "ASOS Making It," buyers from London’s favourite boutique Machine-A and ASOS give you some highly sought after advice about making your brand a business.
Fashion is a fickle mistress. While the industry's relentless cycle spins some designers into a flurry of success, others sadly stagnate before they've even begun. 2016's biggest cult successes have taken the retailing and distribution of their product into their own hands; going online and reaping the rewards and recognitions that come with it. To become a truly global brand, having stockists can be an important component of getting your vision across. Little beats getting up close and personal with the clothes, appreciating the plush fabrics, intricate detailing as well as admiring the love, sweat and stitches that went into every piece. But a saturated market means our favourite department stores and boutiques can't take a chance on everyone, making it hard to get yourself noticed. So we asked Stavros Karelis, Buying Director of London's most forward thinking boutique Machine-A as well ASOS's Buying Director Nikki Tattersall about the most important things to consider when getting stockists for your brand.
Be Yourself, Everyone Else Is Taken
Stavros: The most promising designers have been the ones that have never designed a collection based on what a store likes, what press thinks of them, what the current trends are or what sells. The smartest thing an emerging designer can do is to distant themselves from anything that can influence their creativity and be true to themselves; and create collections and a strong identity that represent themselves. If a collection is unique, inspirational, well-produced and reasonably priced then everyone will approach them. Everyone should be prepared by entering this profession that the competition is hard, the rejection very regular and the chances for success quite slim. However, once in awhile, there is an extremely talented person with strong ideas, a unique identity and understanding who breaks through. My main advice is to believe in what you do, listen to people with more experience and the ones who understand you. Be noble and nice to everyone as this industry is very small and don't forget to have fun with it! Success through hard work will always come, but make sure when you get it, you are ready to handle
Nikki: We always consider product first and foremost but increasingly our customers want to know more about the story behind brands so the more a new brand can convey their influences and their personality the more they will stand apart. Social media is a great way to do this, your own personal aesthetic and branding should be reflected in everything you touch.
Establish Your Visual Identity From The Beginning
Stavros: Due to the nature of my work as a Buying Director for MACHINE-A & SHOWstudio, I have been heavily involved with many emerging designers that have grown to become successful brands. Nasir Mazhar, Astrid Andersen, ALYX, Hyein Seo, Tigran Avetisyan, Xander Zhou, Cottweiler, Ximon Lee, Grace Wales Bonner and Marta Jakubowski are just a few examples of the designers that I have been working with since the very early beginning, some even while they were studying. I remember the first time I saw Tigran's graduate collection and I invited him for a meeting and we discussed launching his graduate collection in store. He was very noble but very sure of his collection, he listened to every single piece of advice and went away and did it all. I remember almost two years ago that I was in the CSM BA show and I saw Kiko Kostadinov's and Grace Wales Bonner's designs for the first time. Grace's collection was so strong and unique nothing like I have seen before, and Kiko's was the same. I immediately contacted them and we arranged to launch a collaboration with JOYCE HK. They worked extremely hard straight out of their universities and acted like established designers; hard-working yet willing to listen to advice with a strong direction in their minds. Really all of those designers have a vision so strong and a brand identity such that no matter what, they will create emotions, interest and loyalty.
Take Every Opportunity To Exhibit Your Work
Stavros: For me, when looking for new talent, graduate shows are extremely important, as well as being a member of the committees of NEWGEN MEN, NEWGEN WOMEN and IFS. I see so much emerging talent and I think being in London is so important as no there is no city in the world that has so many fantastic universities like Central Saint Martins, Royal College of Art, London College of Fashion, Westminster and others with so many talented people graduating every year.
Nikki: Our new brand sourcing has naturally gravitated to the places where our customer is spending the majority of their time; Instagram, Pinterest and blogs. Obviously social media has no barriers or borders, so it's incredibly exciting that we can now search the globe via social media to discover new up-and-coming brands.
Learn to Walk Before You Run
Stavros: Sales and distribution is a key aspect that determines the success of an emerging brand especially in the early stages. Smaller designers tend to over price their products. Furthermore many retailers unfortunately don't offer very favourable payment terms and conditions to these young designers and as a result they have to make very difficult decisions that can put them at a massive risk in the very first steps of their career. I always say to designers to not accept SOR terms - sale or return terms- which can absolutely destroy them and require deposits on order confirmations. Many stores are against offering deposits but that is the only secure way that designers can protect themselves and make sure they can produce the collections and deliver on time to the stores. It's much better for a young emerging designer to partner with one store they trust, and that can help them establish themselves, giving them valuable feedback and a retail experience before they move to increase their stockists. Increasing stockists should only happen when designers are ready to support a much bigger production that won't affect the quality and pricing of the products. Slow growth is much safer and the wisest choice to minimise risk that can jeopardise the longevity of the brand.
Nikki: We'd encourage any new brand to have a clear strategy and stick to it, take influences from cultural and fashion trends, but be true to your vision and don't compromise. Generally the feedback we give most often to new brands surrounds inconsistency in their pricing architecture, any new brand needs to define who they are targeting, who their desired brand adjacencies are and what their price range is.
Be Social Media Savvy
Nikki: Our buyers now check out any prospective brands social following as part of the sign off process… it's not a prerequisite but if a brand has a compelling social presence it can influence our decision making.
Stavros: For me, social media and especially Instagram works as the mood board of each designer. I do check it, to get the feeling of who they are, what they like and what their aesthetic is but I am not interested in likes and followers. These can be bought and don't mean anything to me, social media are just tools; they cannot affect my decision of working with someone which is dependent on their charisma, talent, hard work, ethos, character and commitment.
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