What’s In The Head Of A Successful Fashion Designer?

by Jan 22, 2018


Sounds obvious, right?

But guess what?

There is much more to that single word.

As a new, aspiring or emerging fashion designer, you may think that you need to have the most creative ideas to stand out from the crowd.

Fashion design, like any type of design, is all about ideas. Ideas make products.

Your ideas about textures, colors, and fabrics will turn materials into beautiful products. Your eye for detail, as fashion is a lot about details, will make your products look unique.

This is all true. But, it’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Your fashion business needs ideas that work at any stage and at any level. Ideas don’t need to be exceptionally “creative.” They need to be “relevant” to your business.

What do relevant ideas mean for a fashion business?

The fashion business is not only about designing fashions for customers.

The design part is one level, but the production is another one, as well as the sales channel, the pricing, and the marketing for instance.

All of these areas of your business need relevant ideas for your brand to be successful, and these ideas are not the same for every fashion designer.

The design level is just a piece of your fashion business puzzle.

A fashion label selling simple tee-shirts in just a few primary colors with no logo or pattern can be much more successful than a very creative fashion brand.

How come?

Very likely because they provide more value to the customer.

If your product is a simple design and the same as one of many other fashion businesses, your ideas need to be innovative somewhere else than in the design of the product.

You can be innovative through a fast lightning shipping, cost transparency, the highest quality of material at a reasonable price, a new size chart, etc. This is where you can provide value to customers.

There are plenty of areas and ways to explore new ideas to make a fashion business thrive. Too many young fashion designers focus only on the design area, where the competition is definitely the strongest and where the value for the customer may also be the weakest.

What do fashion customers want from your ideas?

They want clothes that make them look good and they also want you to make the process easy for them, the process of finding the right clothes at the right price and at the right moment.

Christopher Bailey, the chief creative of Burberry, had an innovative idea in 2016 and it was not at all about new fashion design.

Do you know what he did?

He changed the moment he would make clothes available for customers, and he called that idea: “See Now, Buy Now.” Quite simple, right?

Isn’t it what we would like, as customers? When we see a fashion piece we love and would like to have, either online or in a store, often we would want to buy it right away.

But the fashion industry was not functioning like that at all.

As everyone knows, when fashion runways unveil to the fashion editors and the retail buyers the new fashion collections of every brand, customers see them everywhere in online and paper magazines but still need to wait for a few months to be able to buy them.

That timing fits the fashion industry constraints but doesn’t meet the fashion customer’s desire.

Christopher Bailey was innovative in the way he started to provide clothes to customers at the right moment for them, which is as soon as they see them in the Press and might want them. Doing so, he increased the sales of Burberry significantly.

Often, creative ideas that make a business grow are not about the product itself.

Let’s look at another example.

Asket is an online fashion store selling essential clothes for men like tee-shirts, polo shirts, sweaters, underwear, etc. As you know, a tremendous amount of fashion brands offer those type of products, online and offline.

So, aside from their products, how do they do to offer value to customers and make them buy from them instead of the competition?

They have relevant ideas at any level of their business:

  • Cost: The products are very well made essentials with high-quality materials at a more reasonable price than the competition.
  • Size chart: They help customers find the right size quickly through a smart and straightforward chart with 18 different sizes.
  • Transparency: They have a transparent business, letting customers know exactly where the clothes are produced and the cost of everything.
  • Shipping: And last, but not least, they have a fast lightning shipping service at an average price, and they keep their customers informed precisely when their purchase is going to be delivered.

They make buying online easy, fast and affordable, and their clothes make guys look good. This is a lot of value for customers, and fashion design has very little to do with that value perceived by the customer. That is the way Asket builds trust and get loyal customers.

Marketing research shows that customer retention is not only undervalued but also that, especially in a social media environment, it can deliver a higher ROI than acquisition marketing. On average, loyal customers are worth up to 10 times more than their first purchase.

80% of your future profits will likely come from 20% of your existing customers.”

What about following the ideas from the fashion trends?

For a fashion startup, it’s irrelevant for two reasons.

First, it’s a waste of money.

Knowing what’s on trend will let you know what a part of the public is buying and what most designers are creating at the moment.

As an aspiring fashion designer, do you want to compete with all these established fashion brands? Do you think you can outsmart these brands, selling similar products to the same fashion customers? Do you think this is the right strategy for your new fashion business to grow?

Second, it’s a waste of time because it doesn’t serve your purpose.

You want to do fashion business to make your ideas become products, not to follow everyone else’s ideas, right? Your ideas will make you stand out from the crowd and find your customers.

If you are just starting in fashion and doing the same as any other fashion designer, what is the value of buying from you for fashion customers?

To know more about it, you can check the article: “Who needs to follow the fashion trends?

And how about following customers’ ideas?

Customer’s ideas come to brands from the sales. The sales indicate what customers buy, and as a consequence, what they like and what they want.

The report called “The State of Fashion 2017” from the collaboration of McKinsey and The Business Of Fashion clearly stated that in 2016, there was a creativity crisis coming from:

Fashion designers are being encouraged to take more input from the buying and merchandising teams to react to what is selling rather than defining what will sell through forward-looking design risks.”

The State of Fashion 2017

Report by McKinsey and The Business of Fashion

Fashion is about newness. Often, fashion customers don’t know what they want. They know when they see it. Fashion designers must keep coming with new ideas to keep fashion customers surprised and interested.

If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”

Henry Ford

Founder of the Ford Motor Company

Does that mean that a fashion business shouldn’t listen to customers?

Of course not. Metrics are useful pieces of information and should be looked at often and carefully.

However, a clear rule in business is that if you stop innovating, you die because the competition will overtake you.

So, don’t waste your time and energy on market research and customer profiles before even starting to make any product and trying to sell it.


Simply because you don’t choose your customers. They choose you.

Everly is not a fashion business but like in any business, you can find relevant ideas in completely different sectors of activity. They have been producing natural, sugar-free energetic drinks for young male millennials since 2013.

After the first two years of quite good sales, they were not growing that much anymore and decided to interview their customers to understand them better and maybe offer better products to them. They found out they had been wrong about their customers from the beginning on.

While they were branding Everly for the active weekend adventurer, their real customer was an adult woman taking control of her health and kicking soda, added sugar, and artificial ingredients out of her life.

That discovery made them change their whole business, and they started to grow from there on.

Customers choose you, not the opposite. That is why fashion designers need to offer valuable products, and the right customers will find them instead of wasting their time trying to put labels on customers and getting it all wrong.

When your fashion business has a fair quantity of sales, you will have ample time to get to know better your customers and, hopefully, this will inspire you new ideas to serve them better in the future.

So, what’s in the head of fashion designers?

Ideas about everything related to their business and this goes far beyond fashion design.

This article is about the 2nd step of our essential guide for aspiring fashion designers called: 10 Steps To Success – How to start and grow your fashion business. If you would like to know the 10 steps to make it in the fashion business, you can download that guide for free here.

(Photos from Unsplash: Fleur Treurniet, Andre Hunter).

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

Or contact us to get a demo.

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