So until Wednesday, I assumed that the fashion “industry” was one big entity that I needed to get in on. But Salman Khokhar of Koka Consulting (also a UM alum!) took the overwhelming force that is fashion and ripped it to pieces. Now I feel like I can focus on trying to get my foot in the door on one aspect, instead of trying to conquer a whole industry.
He has a pretty impressive resume, playing a role in the growth of Calvin Klein and Donna Karan, so all of us bright eyed fashion hopefuls knew we could trust his perspective. His focus? Brand building. While Marc Ecko talked about the hopeful, conceptual side of the industry, Khokhar was more of the tangible, business side. He had a lot of advice in regards to starting your own line or developing your brand.
So what is the fashion “industry”? Well the industry consists of Design, Manufacturing, Merchandising , Retail [in the store], Sales [tradeshows, sell to the retail], Marketing/PR/Advertising [runway production]. And each piece has their own sub-categories[and corresponding responsibilities, and Khokhar just scratched the surface!].
He identified the challenge for starting your own [insert your prospect here] as getting directly to the customer, which the easiest way to do that is to go to the World Wide Web. Challenge there? Everyone is doing it, so he said that your brand has to be signifiantly more different than everyone else’s out there. You have to find and hone in on your niche and your voice. He also said you have to have a CLEAR demographic in mind for your product. Find that niche! And once you do, stay true to it like Ecko said.
ADVICE TO YOUNG DESIGNERS FROM KHOKHAR: “The quality of your merchandise needs to be 25% better than the big names, but 15% cheaper. The product neets to scream ‘I am better!’” His point? Because the big names have their brands built up, you have to work that much harder to be recognized and respected. He stressed that product needs to be perfect; “Spend the time to make it look beautiful. Packaging says a lot. Don’t launch unless it’s perfect.” But he also said get it out there fast, because whoever has the initiative and whoever can do whatever you’re trying to do first, wins.
He said for branding purposes, your website needs to looks like a million dollars even if it doesn’t yet operate like a million. He also said when it comes to the business end, have two business plans, 1 for if you get the million dollar investor, and 1 for when you are your only investor. If you have an idea, demand that others take it seriously by putting it on paper.
He even had advice for approaching manufacturers! He said treat manufacturers like they are investors. Utilize the business plan and show them numbers and benchmarks. And to contact them, give them a call or Skype with them.
Ok, honestly, sitting down and listening to him I felt like a lot of this went over my head. But now that’s it’s marinated a little, I know I am a more informed person when it comes to brand building. And since my major is Advertising now, that’s important…so yeah. I am happy I’ve learned more, but if you have more I should know about email me at email@example.com :)