7 Fashion Myths That Waste Your Time And Money

by Jan 3, 2018

Do you know them all? Not sure?

Like any industry, the fashion business carries common stereotypes and misconceptions. You may not know why all these assertions are so wrong today, but fashion experts do.

Keep reading, and you will find out what these myths are and how to avoid them. No one wants to waste time and money. While it’s highly unpleasant for an individual, when it comes to business, it’s highly dangerous, and therefore it’s crucial for you to avoid them.

This post is the first of a series of in-depth articles, each dedicated to one of those fashion myths, for those of you eager to know more.

No time to read all these articles now? No problem. There is an essential guide listing and decoding these 7 fashion myths so you can avoid them for good.

Quick to read! Free to download!

Ready? Let’s start debunking all these myths one by one.

Myth 1:
You must go to a fashion school to become a fashion designer

Who needs to graduate from Central Saint Martins in London or New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology when a homemade outfit can go viral on YouTube with millions of hits?”
Suzy Menkes

International Vogue Editor, Condé Nast International

This statement from Suzy Menkes, a well-known fashion journalist, is certainly provocative, but it is also meant to make you think.

Fashion schools are one way to try to become successful in the fashion business.

At the same time, statistics reveal that many fashion design graduates will not get any fashion design job and will not even work in the fashion industry at all.

What do most students do immediately after they graduate?
Some people continue to work in the fashion industry, not necessarily as fashion designers but another position related to the field. A few get amazing jobs, go on and make names for themselves and/or win great competitions and awards—you can usually predict who these people will be because they tend to stand out throughout their time at school. However, a lot of people don’t end up working with fashion at all.”
Maria Van Nguyen

Student in her senior year at Parson's in 2015

On the one hand, fashion schools educate too many aspiring fashion designers for too few jobs. They aim to educate young people, but these schools have no obligation to deliver results.

On the other hand, there are many examples of successful designers who started out with no formal training.

As a teen, Michael Kors began to design clothes and sell them out of his parents’ basement. He then went to study at the Fashion Institute of Technology but dropped out after a few months. He never graduated and became a salesperson in a fashion store. Then, he started his own brand at the beginning of the 80s, selling it at Bergdorf Goodman.

Helmut Lang is another fashion autodidact. With no formal training, he started his fashion studio in the late 70s and his first store shortly after.

Hedi Slimane never went to any fashion school either but completed a tailor apprenticeship at a men’s designer house. He acquired all the technical skills needed there and didn’t need any other type of fashion class to be very successful at Dior and Saint Laurent, and then appointed for Céline.

Put simply, there is a huge gap in knowledge between what you learn at school and what you learn while working for a company.

You may assume that having completed a design degree, there are no skill gaps there. However, the design process in a business can often feel very different to that of the design process in school, where you don’t have to worry about things other than the product.”
Imran Amed

Founder and Editor in Chief, The Fashion of Business

In April 2017, Not Just A Label interviewed Joan Arbuckle, the Dean of the School of Art and Design at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York on that very dilemma. In the article “Aspiring Designers: To Degree or Not Degree,” Arbuckle was asked: “Can you be a successful designer and never attend a college?” and her answer was:
Absolutely! Many will graduate with an enviable education, although few will continue towards a successful career.”
Joan Arbuckle

Dean of the School of Art and Design, The Fashion Institute of Technology

While a degree or formal training is not required to succeed, what remains necessary is education.

You need to have talent, and you need to be a lifelong learner.”
Joan Arbuckle

Dean of the School of Art and Design, The Fashion Institute of Technology

Period. Being a lifelong learner is critical in any field – the fashion industry not being an exception to the rule. And this learning can be done in many ways other than in fashion schools, and it can go to much greater depths than a fashion degree will ever provide.

Some fashion investors were recently critical about fashion education.

Designers have been set up to fail. It’s everything from education to mentorship. The rules of the game just don’t work.”
Lawrence Lenihan

Venture capitalist and an investor in early-stage fashion brands

What do Michael Kors, Helmut Lang, and Hedi Slimane have in common apart from the fact that they never graduated from any fashion school and became successful fashion designers?

  • They worked very hard to follow their dream. So do many of you.
  • They have talent, undoubtedly. So do many of you.
  • They did it their own way, not following the prescribed path, and most of all, not wasting any time or money. So did many others, successfully. So can you.

Going to a fashion school will not guarantee that you become a fashion designer.
It is one option, not required and not sufficient to become successful.

You can become a fashion designer today, whatever your educational background is.

Myth 2:
You must design creative fashions to become successful

About half my designs are controlled fantasy, 15 percent are total madness, and the rest are bread-and-butter designs.”

Manolo Blahnik

Footwear Designer

A successful fashion design is a design that sells. It’s a fashion design item that customers buy because they want to wear it. This is what successful fashion designers do. They make fashion designs that sell.

Roughly 85% of the shoes Manolo Blahnik designs are basic, with little creativity or fantasy, or even not creative at all, and comparable to traditional shoemakers. They sell very well for two reasons: they are so basic that fashion customers feel they will wear them for a long time as they will not be out of fashion after a season, and they come from a famous luxury brand.

Many people look for basic things in fashion.

However, many fashion designs showing up in runways are close to experiments. It’s true that these designs are interesting as such, but then we are talking about art and not fashion business. Experimental fashion designs don’t sell. They are not successful. This is also the reason why you don’t see in stores the same designs as you do in fashion shows or in magazines.

For aspiring fashion designers, the fact that fashion business is much more about “basic” products than truly “creative” ones may sound disappointing, but it’s the reality of the fashion industry – past, present, and future. If you aim to become a successful fashion designer, you need to find a balance between creativity and business. When in doubt, money is the ultimate metric at the end.

The equation is simple: No sales, no money. No money, no business.

Fashion designs are wearable. Therefore they are sellable.

The documentary “Proenza Schouler: The Day Before” illustrates that concept perfectly. The focus of the film is on two young and successful fashion designers, Lazaro Hernandez and Jack Mc Collough, who have the Valentino Group as investors. This group owns 45% of their business. When looking at the new collection for the first time, and before it was shown to the Press and the Buyers, the two Vice Presidents from Valentino were scared to discover fashion designs that they were sure would not sell, like “crazy experiments.” To relieve their stress and make them feel confident, the designers kept hammering one word to describe each garment on the rack: “wearable!

In the end, it’s a question of fear for everyone. Fashion designers who want to do business, and not art, are scared that their designs are too crazy to attract customers. Their financial partners are scared that their fashion designs are too crazy to sell. And finally, fashion customers are scared that these fashion designs are just too crazy to wear. Fear doesn’t sell. We buy clothes to wear them on our bodies. What we wear expresses who we are, and very few people want to tell everyone else that they are crazy.

As an aspiring fashion designer, you will become successful with your fashion designs, not because they are exceptionally creative, but because they are wearable. Because you sell more and more of them and because you make more and more money doing so. Fashion designers become successful that way.

Experimental fashion designs are a waste of time and money for an aspiring fashion designer.

You can make successful designs today, as long as they are wearable.

Myth 3:
You must make a collection to start your fashion brand

 I wish I had invented blue jeans. They have expression, modesty, sex appeal, simplicity – all I hope for in my clothes.”
Yves Saint Laurent

Late Fashion Designer

Did you know that a majority of fashion designers became financially successful with one single product and not a collection?

Ralph Lauren designed ties only for a while before producing another product.
Diane Von Furstenberg started with just a wrap dress. She was selling 25 000 of them per week.
Vanessa Bruno became very successful with 1 cotton bag that she made available in a variety of colors and materials. She sells 1 of them every 30 minutes.
More recently, Mansur Gavriel became a cultish hit with a single hero bag too. As you can see, these are all very simple fashion products, but they answered customers’ needs or desires.

A full collection requires around a minimum of 30-40 to 50 pieces with matching items and more tops than bottoms. That work takes 6 months to achieve.

Not only…

The entire idea of a collection – a set of clothes that tells a one-off story – is increasingly irrelevant. Instead, what feels modern is product drops.”
Lawrence Lenihan

Venture capitalist and an investor in early-stage fashion brands

But what do you do after spending 6 months or more creating your collection of more than 30 items if you end up finding out that people don’t like it?

You may feel so disappointed that you will have no energy left to try again.

IT startups face the same struggles of any startup, even fashion startups. In the past 20 years, many IT programmers felt they had a brilliant “idea.” They would spend 2 or more years developing software or apps that were supposed to revolutionize the world. Finally releasing their product, they would discover that nobody needed it or was willing to pay for it. After that happened too many times, investors became unadventurous in financing startups.

It is risky and dangerous to start with a complete collection. It is as risky as a shot in the dark. And it’s dangerous because the consequences can be financially devastating.

An MVP is the only solution to start quick and cheap at no risk.

MVP stands for Minimum Viable Product. This is the only thing you need at first. You need a fashion piece, be it a garment or an accessory, to start with. You produce, start selling, improve and perfect along the way. No need to create a whole collection of dresses, coats, skirts, blouses, etc., to fill up a store. You can start selling online only one product. As long as you offer one good product and some people like it, you will sell and grow.

A Minimum Viable Product is a product with just enough features to satisfy early customers and to provide feedback for future product development. Gathering insights from an MVP is often less expensive than developing a product with more features, which increase the costs and risk if the product fails, for example, due to incorrect assumptions.”
Eric Ries

Author and entrepreneur

The term was coined and defined by Frank Robinson about 2001 and popularized by Steve Blank and Eric Ries.

The most important thing is to get started while spending very little money.

When you start with one or two products, you can test your market, find your customers, get to know them better. After, you improve and add new products, one after the other. You grow your business slowly but with a base of customers and cash coming in.

Isn’t that a much better solution?

But if you really want to start with more than one product… Donna Karan launched her brand with a “collection” of only 7 pieces, still not 30, 40 or 50.

Creating a whole collection to launch your fashion label is a waste of time and money.

You can get your fashion business started today, even with one single product.

Myth 4:
You must embrace the fashion trends to sell your designs

Don’t be into trends. Don’t make fashion own you, but you decide what you are, what you want to express by the way you dress and the way to live.”

Gianni Versace

Late Fashion Designer

Gianni Versace created a luxury brand and a fashion empire without following any fashion trend other than his own. However, the whole fashion industry is talking about trends and following them.

Who decides the trends of tomorrow?

Trend agencies do business out of trying to forecast the fashion trends for the following seasons, selling their consulting services and publishing trend books for fashion designers and brands. Do you know how much a trend book costs? On average, it’s between 1 000 and 2 000 dollars or euros per season and book type. It’s a  lucrative business.

The trends business is mainly based on fear. Fashion brands fear they could be missing any trend and, as a consequence, missing out on sales. So, they follow the forecast of agencies ahead of every season to design their products accordingly. If people stopped feeling scared, trend agencies would be out of business.

Are fashion trends really beneficial to the fashion business?

You can directly see in stores the consequence of every fashion brand following the same fashion trends. The fashion industry makes the same types of products and offers look-alike collections to customers. If this is the recipe for success, why do we see a clear decline in sales for fashion businesses?

The report “The State of Fashion 2017” from The Business of Fashion and MacKinsey presents an analysis that is irrevocable. Lack of creativity and plagiarism are amongst the 10 major problems for the future of fashion brands.

And even a well-established brand with a network of stores can die today by following the fashion trends.

Did you know Hakei?

It was a Spanish fashion brand with 23 stores in Spain. Hakei started in the fashion business in 2003 and was making 20 million euros in revenue in 2010. They faced bankruptcy in December 2016 and closed all their stores in May 2017. What happened?

According to fashion experts, they did a few things wrong, and amongst them, they followed the fashion “trends” but never succeeded in differentiating themselves from the rest of established fashion brands around with unique products or distinctive styles fashion lovers would have loved.

They followed the trends, hoping to release “sellable” products but they had no unique identity doing so.

Fashion trends are not fostering new ideas and new styles in anyone.

By the way, not everyone wants the same products, in the same colors, of the same shapes and from the same materials. And the ones who do are not customers for new fashion designers anyway.

More and more fashion customers are looking for something different because they use fashion to differentiate themselves.

Who needs fashion trends then?

Fashion designers who are scared and need some comfort in their creative process. Not the other ones. Hopefully not you.

It’s false comfort by the way. People think that if everyone follows the same trends, it’s less probable that everyone is wrong. And in case it happens, they will not be facing the blame alone and will feel less accountable for the failure of their collections and products.

Trend books are not an investment in your emerging fashion brand. They are just a waste of money for absolutely no Return On Investment (ROI). So, remove that unnecessary cost from your small budget.

Simply follow your ideas, your style. You will get all the customers not wanting to wear the same clothes as everyone else. This is quite a big niche already, that is growing every day, while established fashion brands and stores are losing sales.

Following the fashion trends dictated by the market is a waste of time and money for a fashion startup.

You can become a successful fashion designer with your own fashion style, and even more today when everyone else is following the mainstream trends.

Myth 5:
You must organize a fashion runway to get noticed

I see people who are paying hundreds of thousands of dollars for fashion shows, which I simply don’t think is necessary. A presentation gives us all an opportunity to meet you, rather than to go and sit in some dark room somewhere and wait for you to start, then (have) no time to say ‘hello,’ and rush off to the next one.”
Anna Wintour

Editor-in-chief of American Vogue and the artistic director of Condé Nast

Convinced that a fashion runway may be a waste of time and money?

Not yet? Let’s do some maths then!

If you are considering spending the money needed for a runway, what could be your ROI?

Fashion shows are advertising/marketing costs just as Formula 1 is for the automobile industry. The people watching shows are fashion magazine editors and fashion buyers. So, how many clothes do you think a fashion show can make you sell to fashion retail buyers? Can you make at least enough sales to cover the cost of your runway? Likely not.

But every car producer does though.

Geoffrey B. Small. is an American fashion designer who started his career in 1976. He is considered as a pioneer in the avant-garde design, making clothes by hand, and designing recycling collections.

Here is what he can tell you about how retail buyers use their budget during the Fashion weeks:

In Paris alone during the womenswear week, over 1,500 designer collections and brands will be competing to be seen and bought by only about 4,000 buyers. These buyers will come from all over the world to view what they can and order what their budgets allow them to spend, for the upcoming retail season in their stores. When they arrive in Paris, many will have already been bombarded by a thousand collections in the New York, London, and Milan fashion weeks. Bored, numbed-out, jet-lagged, they will have seen it all – and are now just trying to finish and get their priority Paris collection orders done (be they Dior, Comme des Garçons, Lanvin, or whatever) and get back to home and store.
On average, a buyer with a real store on the global circuit will spend 3-4 days in Paris and seriously see 10-20 collections that involve a real purchase commitment – if possible they might also glance at a trade show or two that involve another few hundred. That leaves at least over a thousand other collections that will never be seen by that buyer at all. And so, failure rates for collections are enormous. 95 percent close after three seasons or less, simply because they never sold a thing. More importantly, the average amount of total store budgets allocated for new, small or unknown collections is less than three percent. The pie is small, and for the new guy, it’s the crumbs.”
Geoffrey B. Small.

Fashion Designer

Do you think it’s a wise financial decision to pay tens (minimum) or hundreds (on average) of thousands of dollars or euros to organize a runway that likely will not be seen by the right people and will not result in any ROI?

Chanel is doing a considerable business selling fragrances and makeup because women dream about their Haute Couture collection and luxury bags. The only affordable way for many to be within reach of that dream is to buy a lipstick. As an aspiring designer, you don’t play the same game yet so you can simply forget the ludicrous and vanity expense of organizing a runway.

Young fashion designers don’t need any debt at the beginning of their career, and fashion runways are not only an unnecessary expense but even worse, a wrong business decision for a fashion startup.

Organizing a fashion runway is a colossal waste of time and money for a newly started fashion label.

You can get your fashion designs noticed today in a much smarter and cheaper way, without the help of any fashion editor or retail buyer.

Myth 6:
You must follow the fashion calendar to market on time

It’s always felt a little alien, inviting people from around the world to tune in and to watch, to Instagram, share and like and all of those things, but then not be able to buy it, or look at it, until four to six months [later]. I found [the shift to fashion immediacy] great — a natural thing.”
Christopher Bailey

Outgoing President and Chief Creative Officer, Burberry

The big seasonal collections Spring/Summer and Autumn/Winter are showcased to buyers and editors at the major fashion weeks, in New York, London, Milan and Paris, six months prior to when they appear in stores. Brands need that time to produce these pre-sales for retail buyers.

This is how the fashion calendar had been working for decades, based on the fashion industry buying cycle. It works backward. Fashion design items for the fall need to be in stores in August. In February that same year, they are shown at the Fashion week to buyers and magazine editors, so brands have maximum 6 months to produce and deliver what they have sold. In August, they start designing the collection for the next year’s fall as they often need to have new fabrics created and printed.

The truth is that the fashion calendar was only made for the fashion industry from the beginning on, not for the fashion customers.

Christopher Bailey was unhappy with that concept and changed the game on February 5, 2016, with his “See Now, Buy Now” collection. He disrupted the established fashion calendar, followed right away by Tommy Hilfiger. They both did cut the calendar 6 months short to offer fashion products to the editors, the retail buyers, and the end customers at exactly the same time. From the fashion customer point of view, it sounds completely right. When they see something they like in a fashion magazine, these products should be available to them too.

With the traditional six-month lead time on the delivery of international show content, designer collections can be outpaced by the so-called fast fashion chains. H&M, Topshop, and Zara, or even Target and J. Crew, would have their versions for sale before the designer looks to hit the stores.”

Suzy Menkes

International Vogue Editor, Condé Nast International

Everyone knows that fast fashion brands never followed any fashion calendar and don’t go by seasonal collections planned one year before. From the fashion sketch to the production and delivery, it takes only 1 or 2 weeks maximum. New fashions designs hit the stores all around the world every single week. And fashion customers love that.

What do fashion customers want today?

Fashion immediacy. Like it or not. This is where the fashion industry needs to go because this is where fashion customers are already. The fashion calendar we used to know is not reactive enough for fashion customers and will definitely need to evolve into something new, more customer-centric, which is a good thing. Don’t miss the train!

Following the fashion calendar is a waste of time and money, simply because it has no point for a new fashion brand.

You can release your fashion design products as soon as they are ready, whatever the fashion calendar says.

Myth 7:
You must get influencers promote your fashion label

It’s Not About Who You Know, It’s About Who Knows You.”

Social media has changed the way we do networking today. Instead of you reaching directly to people like before, it’s people reaching directly to you. You don’t contact them. They contact you.

How to make that happen today in a world of more than 7 billion people?

You need to shine in what you do and want to become the best. If you get recognition from people for your work, you will become the “designer to know and follow”, like Jaquemus.

Who is going to know you? No everyone, but the right people, the people who are genuinely interested in your talent and your fashion design products.

Through the right social media strategy, you will get the right traffic and reach your target customers. When you start getting the right people to know you, it becomes viral, just like word of mouth, and your network of right people grows. More and more people get to know you, and more and more customers come to you.

Knowing people doesn’t scale, but being known to people scales infinitely.

The right people for your business are anonymous. They don’t know you before they come across your profile and your work. They find you on the Internet. They get to know you, start to like you, and trust you. Then, they become your evangelists and customers. They can do a lot for you and your business, repeatedly.

Now, what about fashion influencers? They can definitely help your business get known by their followers, but not at the beginning. You need to prove first that you are worth talking about. When plenty of anonymous people trust you, like you and buy from you, it will be easy to get fashion influencers to tell their readers all the great things about you and boost the number of people getting to know you.

In the end, influential people will not make you succeed. They will just recognize the success you already have.

Trying to get fashion influencers to promote your new fashion label is a waste of time and money. They are not the right people to attract first.

From scratch, you can start today getting people to know, like and trust you enough to buy your fashion design items, without any fashion influencer promoting you.

Don’t let these 7 fashion myths set you up for failure. The world is changing at high speed, and the fashion industry will have to adjust to the world’s changes. The good news is that it can be much faster, easier and cheaper to start a fashion business today.

Focus on what can make you succeed today. Our second essential guide tells you everything you need to do to start your fashion business without wasting any time and money.

Quick to read! Free to download!

You can start your fashion success today!

Open up to the new fashion world and follow your own path!

(Photos from Unsplash: Kris Atomic, Caleb Woods, Hannah Morgan, Søren Astrup Jørgensen, Charisse Kenion, Igor Ovsyannykov, Alexander Andrews).

P.S. Fashion Talents is an open marketplace where you create your fashion eBusiness in minutes.

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