How To Avoid Unsuccessful Fashion Designs
Do you know how to recognize a successful fashion design?
Successful fashion design is a design that sells.
It’s a design that customers buy because they want to wear it. It doesn’t need to be the one that sells in thousands. It just needs to sell.
This is what successful fashion designers do. They make fashion designs that sell.
Consequently, an unsuccessful fashion design is the one that doesn’t sell, not even a little.
It’s crystal clear. Fashion design is meant to sell because fashion is a business.
Christian Dior was making dresses every woman at that time was dreaming of wearing because he was not an artist. He was a fashion designer. He was making dresses to sell them.
But there is just one problem…
Fashion is made and meant to sell
Many fashion designs showing up in runways are experimental. While they may be interesting as experiments, we are then talking about art using fabric and not about an industry anymore.
Experimenting with fashion is fun, but as long as it stays an experiment, it’s art and not a business.
Experimental fashion designs don’t sell. They are not successful.
If you aim to become a successful fashion designer, you need to find a balance between creativity and business.
Money is the ultimate metric at the end, and the equation is simple.
No sales, no money. No money, no business.
About half my designs are controlled fantasy, 15 percent are total madness, and the rest are bread-and-butter designs.”
What does that mean?
Simply that 35% of the shoes Manolo Blahnik designs are very basic, 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.
A majority of people look for basic things in fashion, just the opposite of “experimental” or even “creative.”
This is also the reason why you don’t see in stores the same designs as on fashion runways or in magazines. These fashion designs would not sell. Even though they could be successful for photos, they would be entirely unsuccessful for business.
For aspiring fashion designers, this may sound disappointing that fashion business is much more about “basic” products than “creative” ones, but it’s the reality of the fashion industry, past, present, and future.
How to define a successful fashion design?
Do you know “The Day Before“?
It’s a series of documentaries about famous fashion designers the last 24 hours before a runway. If not, I highly recommend watching a few of them. You will not learn much about fashion design, but it’s very entertaining and sometimes enlightening too.
In the documentary about Proenza Schouler, the two fashion designers, Lazaro Hernandez and Jack McCullough, work with the Valentino Group, that owns 45% of their business. A scene shows two Vice Presidents of the Italian group checking the new collection. It’s just a few hours before the runway, still before the Press and the Buyers see it.
When looking at every piece of clothing for the first time, the two investors are nervous and scared to discover any fashion “experiment” with no chance to sell. Stress fills up the room.
What do they want to be able to sleep at night?
They want to see fashion designs a majority of women will want to buy without worrying that they may be too “crazy” to wear for them.
To relieve their anxiety, here is what the two designers tell their financial partners while taking the garments one by one from the rack:
The whole collection is wearable
The whole collection is very wearable this season I think…
Hilarious. I promise!
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 fashion customers are afraid that these fashion designs are too crazy to wear.
Fear prevents anyone from taking action. Fear doesn’t sell. Crazy designs cannot sell. Crazy designs cannot be successful fashion designs.
As Eric Ries says in The Lean Startup:
The ultimate waste is making something nobody wants.”
We buy clothes to wear them on our bodies. What we wear express who we are and very few people want to tell everyone else that they are crazy.
It’s really that simple.
Crazy designs can make good photos, “artistic photos” for magazines, and that’s it. When most people look at them, they are not attracted to buy. They look at them the way they would look at the artwork of an exhibition. But this doesn’t pay for any of the designer’s bills.
Fashion designs must be “wearable”
If it’s wearable, it’s sellable.
As an aspiring fashion designer, you will become famous with your fashion designs, not because you are creative, but because you sell more and more of them and because you earn more and more money doing so.
At that moment, people will care, watch you, follow you and buy from you.
Remember that in the fashion business, like in any other business, money is the ultimate metric of your success.
What is expected from fashion designers by the fashion industry and by fashion customers is obvious and straightforward: successful fashion designs.
How do your successful fashion designs look like? Let us know!
This article is about the 2nd fashion myth of our essential guide for aspiring fashion designers called: 7 Fashion Myths – How to avoid wasting time and money. If you would like to know all those misconceptions of the fashion business, you can download that guide for free here.
(Photo from Unsplash: Alexandru Sdrobāu).
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Fanny is the CEO + Co-founder of Fashion Talents, and a passionate and tireless promoter of new fashion eBusiness. She’s on a mission to open fashion business to all talents around the world and drive shoppers, sales, and success to them.