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Setting up shop: How to start a fashion business anywhere in the world

You have a brilliant fashion business idea that you believe will be successful. Now what? Learn the secrets of success from these experts who spoke at the recent Asia Fashion Summit.

Measure up your market before getting startedMarket research is the most important thing when venturing into a business, says Ann Kositchotitana,founder of Front Row Group. Knowing your market very well can save a lot of money. Ann explains that she lost at least $100,000 in her first year of business because she stocked only what she liked and overlooked others’ tastes.

Before choosing your market, you need to ask yourself whether you want to be doing a line for the masses or something more niche. Which country or region do you want to target? Who are you creating the brand for? You need to know the answers to these questions and keep them in mind.

Study your competitors to learn about their brands and find out where you stand in relation to them. Even if you’re unique and don’t have many direct competitors, that doesn’t matter: in the consumer’s mind, you will always be grouped with a set of similar brands.

“Production is what kills most brands,” Ann reveals. Without careful strategic planning, your brand may not even materialise. In the world of fashion, absolutely anything can happen.

One label recently shut down its operations because its seamstress retired. It could not find another seamstress or even a factory with the specific skill set to produce garments of the same quality. Although this problem might sound like a simple one that could be solved easily, it meant the company had to cease trading.

The lesson here is that it is wise to spread your production resources in different areas or even countries. Natural disasters, or something as basic as problems with customs clearance, can also be unexpected and expensive hurdles.

In this digital era, marketing goes beyond magazines, billboards and direct mail. Consumers are now updated with real-time information. What’s happening this second may go viral the next. Integrating social media into your business is essential, and most start-ups begin with an online store.

Which digital tools should you use? Daniel Saynt, founder and CEO of Socialyte (socialyte.co) recommends the big five of social media – Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube and Instagram. Barbara Ende, president of Sycamore Marketing Group Inc, wants you to ask yourself: Do your customers use that particular social media tool? You should only invest in those that feature in your customers’ everyday lives and in tools that offer the most creativity.

Using social media is all about telling and only 10 percent actual selling. Build a fan culture and let them talk among themselves – they are your brand ambassadors. Continuous digital marketing will help drive traffic to your website consistently. By feeding followers information, you stand a higher chance of increasing their interest in your products. They may not buy now, but they will in the future.

Brands should also connect with others who have a strong social media presence. Tap into their followers and make your presence felt. If they’re interested, they will start following your brand too.

Last but not least, network with people from the industry, talk to experts and tap into their knowledge. Attend trade shows, workshops or conferences such as Asia Fashion Summit (www.asiafashionsummit.com), an annual event where experts, buyers and CEOs from the industry gather to discuss fashion and business topics.

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