“The best design is accountable, delivering both creatively and commercially. That’s the very essence of effective design.” That’s how The Design Business Association in the UK summed up successful design today. But hang on, didn’t you become a creative to express yourself? Your vision? There’s no way you would have your brand associated with the dirty C word.
Part of the reason the term ‘commercial’ is considered pejorative in fashion is that it’s synonymous with words such as safe, predictable, dull and uninspired. But then you remember the cost of fashion and all the bills you must pay. So, is there a way to share your unique vision but still make great sales each month?
Do some info-digging
Aka, know your target market. Yes, this point again. Unless you’re designing just for yourself, you need to understand the person who you’re expecting to buy you product. One way to gauge your collection in through analytic data from your store. What was a mover and what’s still collecting dust in inventory? What do your best sellers have in common? That could be the missing link to commercial success.
On top of the numbers your sales (or lack thereof) you’re generating, you’ll need to talk to your customers. Prying detailed feedback from them and from people who don’t buy your collections to get a market view of your brand. Information like this can guide your innovation or idea in a direction that will makes shoppers want to scoop your products off the shelf. It can also help you develop the knack of predicting what shoppers will need in the future, allowing you to work your creativity into it whilst keeping you one step ahead of your customers’ needs.
Can they pop your tags?
We covered the various pricing methods you can use to value your products. But are you taking into consideration your shopper’s spending power? Fast fashion has already made it difficult to compete on the price point. On top of that, your customer is expecting a value-for-money product that is distinctive. Sure, you love the intricate hand-embroided details or higher end fabrics for your brand; which calls for a higher price tag. As spectacular as the design is, if your target market can’t afford it, it won’t be selling anytime soon.
Anglerfish your customers
If you’re not familiar with this bottom of the abyss species, it uses a light above its head to lure prey towards itself. In a fashion context, your light would be your ‘Wow’ pieces. These are clothes in a collection that create excitement about the whole collection. They tell the story of the full collection while reinforcing your brands message and who you are as a designer. These are the pieces that get media attention and act as fashion-forward styles that you can use to market your brand online and in stores.
Once close enough, you’ll hook them with the just-as-great but more affordable or more conservative parts of the collection. there are the clothes or accessories that a consumer can buy and wear in an everyday setting.
Dealing with ‘The Man’
Once you begin to get traction as a blogger or designer, and people start to look at you as a fashion authority, Companies will take notice too. So much so that they will probably want to push their products on your page in one way or the other. How do you do this without coming across as a money-hungry fashionista; who ends up alienating their followers for 30 pieces of silver? Instead of running an advert as it and claiming you have always believed in it (even though you only just heard of it), become a content creator. If this company or product aligns with who you are as a brand, create a campaign that still manages to deliver your honest opinion and input. It’s a collaboration not an acquisition.
The same applies for trends. Just because wearable tech is in or that every other fashion blogger is using a certain social media platform, doesn’t mean you should as well. Blindly following the herd is what kills you as a creative. If the trend can connect to a fundamental aspect of your brand, by all means, tap into it.
If you’re feeling a little conflicted between the two worlds, don’t worry. You’re not alone. All designers struggle to find the right balance. Fashion isn’t static and thus, designers must keep pushing boundaries and creating fresh collections. However, they must do so whilst operating a business. The fact of the matter is that if you want to keep making what you love, you must discover your commercial appeal to make the sales that keep your brand afloat. Remember that you don’t have to compromise your self-expression for money; you just have to learn to use the information around you to create the right environment for your brand.
You can watch more about this discussion in the link below but we’d love to hear the diverse or unusual ways you’re keeping your creativity alive, with the local customer in mind, in the comment section below.