Essentially, this is a challenge to designers. Distinguish yourself and create create create. This is also to encourage designers to step out of their comfort zones (i.e Ankara/Kitenge everything) and be adventurous in their designs.
People buy what’s relevant and new and fresh and that is why it is important for designers to stay relevant by constantly designing, creating, innovating and challenging. Playing it safe never got anyone anywhere.
So how can you as a designer make sure you remain relevant? Here are some things designers can do to stay ahead and move forward. This is no way represents an exhaustive list.
1. Invest in skills
This entails committing to learn more about the trade. If it means enrolling in fashion design school or learning online as much as possible on different cuts, patterns, stitching and sketching then go for it. Research, research, research..this never stops. In so doing you will be better to suited to challenge yourself in your work. Learn as much as possible so as to experiment and find your niche as a designer. The more you learn, the more you need to learn. It is a continuous process and once you accept that you don’t know anything, the better suited you will be to know more than you thought possible. Finding what works for you and your brand. This leads to point number two.
Research and further learning is definitely key to being aware of what is happening in your industry. Its important to remember that your competitor is not necessarily within your borders. Look further and stretch your abilities.
This topic cannot be covered sufficiently in one paragraph and so will be discussed in our branding series. For now, however, the following can be said. As a designer, your brand is your identity and your image. What does your name, logo and product say and are they speaking the same language? Branding entails posing all the necessary questions about what your designs are all about. Take the time to write down those elements that signify who you are and your brand and what distinguishes you from the rest. Also write down who your target market is (who will be buying from you) as this will provide focus in your work. Determine what is unique about your designs and work on developing that further. Having a clear brand ensures that you keep yourself as a designer and your products accountable to its essence at all times therefore ensuring its not lost on your customers. Invest time in branding to really have it reflect who you are and your garments. Your brand needs to resonate with your customers, the moment a brand fails to do so, it fail in achieving its goals.
3. Re-Brand if you need to
This is simple. We sometimes start a project with a particular vision and name and slogan in mind but as the brand grows, as edits and changes are made, reassessing those elements are crucial to keep your brand updated with the changes. To keep up with the new changes, one needs to reassess all elements of their business. After all, if you are still unaware, starting a designer label is fundamentally a business and therefore should be carried out with the same principles. (More on the business of fashion in our later series). Here is an example of major fashion houses we are all aware of who updated/changed their names and logos over time: The House of Chanel was founded in 1909, now known as Chanel, Christian Dior in 1946 became simply Dior, The House of Givenchy in 1952 is now Givenchy and Fratelli Prada founded in 1913 is now Prada. If they re-branded maybe you should too.
Ignorance in this instance is not bliss, it’s damaging
4. Awareness- know what is going on around you
In any industry, it is always crucial to remain knowledgeable on the new developments. This then means that one must find a way to know what is happening in the fashion industry both locally and internationally at all levels. Take an interest, develop a habit of learning. There are plenty of resources out there (magazines, documentaries, short videos, books..etc..) that will provide the necessary knowledge to stay ahead of the game. Know what your competitors (internationally) are doing, know what they are not doing, see where you can fit in and how you can challenge yourself to be better. In line with this, set up benchmarks and targets for yourself as a designer and as your brand. Being able to measure your progress and consequently your success is crucial. Ignorance in this instance is not bliss, it’s damaging.
5. Keep an account of your own progress
Always looking back at what you did in your previous work will help you to see how you can improve and become better than you were before. Although competition exists, it’s important to compete with yourself first and know that you did your very best this time from your last collection. This will make sure that you are staying relevant not only to yourself but to your consumers as well. It will also keep people waiting and wanting to see how you have outdone yourself this time and with each step up comes a great sense of accomplishment.
6. Is your content outdated?
Here is what this means. As fashion designers, you are constantly connecting with the public and your clients on what is new and fresh in your collection and what they can expect. This means that communication is key and a means to connect with you is even more important. This entails keeping yourself updated on social media, having a functional website (that is not constantly under maintenance), having contact numbers that actually work and an email that we can reach you on. This may involve hiring someone to do a polished website or for yourself to invest with time. Either way, your website is the gateway to your brand so make it count. As a consumer, we might see something interesting online, go to your website and get…”under maintenance” or an “oops!”…2 seconds and you have a lost a customer. It should not be work for a customer to find you and find out how we can purchase your goods.
Again, this is not a comprehensive list so feel to add some below.