Design Create Sell is a really practical business book for graduates and non-graduates who want to start a professional fashion or fashion accessories business.
What I really like about this book is that it is aimed at both fashion graduates and non-graduates. Throughout the book you will see how important it is to have a wide variety of skills. Not just design but also production, quality and project management, finance, selling and marketing.
Design Create Sell is an extremely practical business book showing the wide variety of small fashion and fashion accessory businesses you can run. And the opportunities open to you online.
This book is full of real life, startup business experiences – sharing some great insights and based on the reality of setting up a business based on a limited budgets.
The author, Alison Lewy, ran er own fashion label for 15 years and is founder of Fashion Angel, a fashion business accelerator that offers support to both emerging and established fashion industry entrepreneurs.
As well as successfully designing and building her own label, Alsion set up production agency Skin Solutions and worked with many high-end designers on product development and manufacturing. Alison went on to run the Fashion and Textile Museum in London for six years, before setting up Fashion Angel and the Fashion Angel Business Club, which is a Design Trust partner.
One of the best parts of this book are the case studies, which are all very recent start-ups from a variety of backgrounds, so very relevant if you want to set up your own fashion business.
There are some wonderful niches in this book, based on the owners’ specific passions and backgrounds, such as Land Girl who create gardening clothes for professional and amateur female gardeners; Upper Street who create handmade shoes made-to-order and designed by customers online; Redhound for Dogs who create practical stylish coats and jumpers for dogs and their owners.
If u read my marketing blog posts regularly you will know that I am a big fan of niches and niche marketing, and these case studies really show that if you specialise and focus on a specific area, expertise or target market you can become a successful small business.
It is also noticeable that the case studies are very often partnerships of two people working together, reflecting that in the fashion sector people often need to combine finances and compliment the wide variety of skills required.
Many of the case studies have had some experience in the sector before they started there own business, so they have the contacts and knowledge to succeed.
Just a couple of observations for you to ponder over what YOU need to have in place to create your own successful fashion business.
The book starts with a good overview of the fashion sector, the wide variety of job roles and detailed functions from design to production and sales. Thereby it explains the entire supply chain for fashion and you can identify where you fit in and what additional skills or products you need to buy in.
It is essential as a starter in fashion that you really identify where you fit best and how you plan to operate in some detail.
In my experience as a creative business adviser this often long and complicated supply chain is a major challenge for many starters in fashion: trying to do too much themselves without having the necessary skills OR wanting to buy in lots of skills or materials without having the necessary money. What can you really do to get something off the ground with your limited skills and finances? What are you an expert in and with whom could you work? Where do you fit in exactly? How do you relate to your supply chain and your competitors?
Design Create Sell gives some great practical tips and asks you really useful questions for your market research and to identify your target customer and competitors. There is a very handy comparative shopping matrix and a range planning template to help you position yourself, but also to identify your specific items in your potential collection and their price points.
There is a very solid chapter on production and how to get your work made, including how to source and select manufacturers, UK versus overseas production, quality control and sample management.
My favourite part of the book is when Alison explains really clearly how to cost a garment in detail, and then shares her experience with practical examples of how to save on production costs when you are at the designing stage. Some small savings on the cost price have a major impact on the final retail price!
The book has got a very handy design/garment specification sheet template and overview of the fitting process. There are very useful planning sheets for production and critical path management, quality control checklists and loads of online manufacturing resources and links.
The book gives a solid overview of a formal business plan and its content. This is given at the start of the book, but then each chapter feeds back into this, so that you step-by-step develop your own plan.
Formal business planning and budgeting is a must as fashion designers often require external finance to get started. Sharp cash flow management is crucial for any starting and growing business selling products as the time between buying raw materials and getting paid yourself very likely spans various months. Who will cover that financial gap?
Good internal planning and management is crucial for fashion companies – especially as the supply chain needs to be closely managed and the entire fashion industry cycle is so driven by Fashion Week event deadlines that dictate what needs to be done nd when.
The marketing and routes-to-market chapter is very up-to-date and covers both direct selling and wholesaling in detail. It includes many of the names and links of the new online market places, specialist online retailers and pop up opportunities, as well as the more traditional routes of fairs, catwalk shows, competitions and agents/distributors.
Alison explains really clearly how to cold call a buyer, or alternatively how to send info (by post or email) and follow up by phone. There are great tips on how to introduce your fashion business swiftly, confidently and professionally to any buyer. Again practical tips and a checklist on how to negotiate on pricing, exclusivity, and payment terms and conditions.
There is more practical info about marketing and PR in the chapter ‘Telling The World’ with press pack details and a press release template, a short overview of social media, and various fashion sponsorship and awards opportunities.
I think Design Create Sell is a really practical introductory book for people who are thinking about or are starting a fashion related business, whatever your background. There are just a couple of things that I felt were not mentioned as well as they probably should have been.
Branding for fashion is essential (as this books very clearly states) but then gives very limited practical advice how to actually start creating that brand beyond 2 pages about identifying your USP (Unique Selling Point) and working with a freelance graphic designer.
More surprisingly is that photography is barely mentioned, while this is so important to establish your brand and to tell your story. But I assume there are plenty of other books who present that topic in much more depth.
The importance of finance and financial management, costing and pricing is mentioned throughout the book. It’s a little disappointing that the actual finance chapter is so short. It also could have done with some additional templates here of a start up budget and cash flow (Although I believe you van download some financial templates.)
The info about how to get finance (often crucial in the fashion industry to get started, and one of the most asked questions for The Design Trust) is fairly minimal.
How to legally protect your designs and work is mentioned in a very short chapter, and some more detailed advice and a wider variety of resources here would have been helpfull as there are some major problems with retailers and (overseas) manufacturers copying the work of successful young designers.
The design of the book is in two colours only, and without any photographs. That’s a shame, especially with the case studies it would be great to see some full colour photographs of their work. There are little drawings on nearly every page, often there just for decoration, cluttering the layout. In my opinion they make the book look like it is aimed at a lower level of designers, and hobbyists even, than it actually is.
That is a shame as I think Design Create Sell is a really useful book, very practical and knowledgeable for all professionals who who want to start their own fashion-related book.
You can purchase Design Create Sell directly from the publishers Brightword Publishing (click the link), or in Kindle format Design Create Sell: A guide to starting and running a successful fashion business (Country Living) from Amazon. The Design Trust is an affiliate partner of Brightword Publishing and Amazon and we earn a commission on any sales, which financially support The Design Trust to provide many of its free services at no extra cost to you.