Build Your Business Model
This section is kind of getting a little bit more serious in terms of if you're approaching fashion design from a business standpoint, these are things that you don't want to ignore. Budgeting time and money. The nice thing about this that I think people forget is that you don't necessarily need to do everything on a huge scale, which requires tons of funding. So ask yourself, if you can't do a full-fledged collection, could you do one item that starts it off and then add to the menu. I think we all can say we can put a little money aside and say I'm gonna do this piece that really speaks to who I want to attract. And then hopefully that would be something that would take off and sell and help you grow the brand. And even if it doesn't, again this is this little permissions that I think are important, when it doesn't remember that's useful too, because that's gonna inform you as to what your customer is not responding to. And that's why it's almost a really good thing to start very sma...
ll. I have a student, China Pope, who does, well a former student, she graduated, who does these beautiful really cool cutting-edge clothes and she's concentrating on building that side of her business but she had this little side business of bow ties and they were a hit in her circles and she started expanding and she started getting everyone wearing them. A couple of them she would give away to prominent local people and this was a way in to sort of play with the fact that, yes, we have designer in our midst and I have this easy way in and to support her and show off her work, and all these kinds of things. So working very small and a bow tie is a little piece of fabric it's like you can do that, you can make a few of them, it's easy to give as a gift. So think about budgeting within your means. That's really really key. Don't feel like you have to break the bank. I think there's a lot of pressure on that, where you feel you have to impress on a big scale and there is also the option to impress on a really small, personal, intimate level. And I think that story kind of speaks to that. The other thing you don't want to forget about is time. You want to budget your time. And this doesn't mean just for a project, but it just means your everyday investment. I had someone once tell me you shouldn't call yourself something, give yourself a title, unless you're really doing it every day and that doesn't mean actually, for a photographer doesn't mean that you're photographing every day, but you're thinking about photography, you are reading an article, you are researching online, you're going to an exhibit, you're even looking, you're in public, in a crowded city or in the country, and you're just looking at the world through your eye as a designer, I mean as a photographer in that instance. So you as a designer want to be doing that, you want to be living being a designer. Speaking to time, that's how you can kind of figure out how much time to give to things.
One of the hardest things that I found in talking to other artist people who create things and have to bill their time is to really honestly determine what is my time worth. And it's just a constant question when I talk to people, what is my time actually worth, cuz I don't think that we actually value our time appropriately when we're first starting out, I think that we undervalue it. Could you speak to that for a minute?
That's a very common and a very difficult question because I think when it comes to creatives, we enjoy what we do so much that time flies often. So I temper my need for income with my desire to do the actual project, or take on the client. It's kind of sliding scale for me because if it's something that I feel is an investment in my time and resources, this speaks to volunteering, when is it right to volunteer your skills? And this is just a little thing that I recommend you don't use because it's a little pet peeve and anyone in the creative industry knows this, when people say to you "It's great exposure," I hear that all the time, and you hear it in all the creative fields, if you do this for free, it's great exposure. That shouldn't be the sell, I don't think, I think the sell should be: we're gonna do something great. We're gonna have fun, we're going to collaborate, I'm going to learn from you, you're gonna learn from me and it's almost like with interns, I've seen this with interns where some people take on interns and all they do is get coffee, right? And for me, if you take on an intern, it's your responsibility to make their experience a learning experience and I think it's true when you ask someone to volunteer or give you a good rate on what they're doing, there has to be some sort of incentive. When it comes to valuing your time, I would say the one thing you need to think about, just very practically, is what kind of resources is it eating up. Because sometimes you might really want to do it but you really need to pay the rent. Or you really need to pay the electricity, which is going to power your machine. You know just very very basic. So you want to ask yourself how much of that time and your resources is that eating up. And then the valuing you want to think what's the wage, you want to do a little research and see what do people get in different markets and be honest about where you stand and say, "Well, if I'm new, is my strategy to say I'm this hotshot and it's a little bit more, or am I gonna," and this can be a tricky area cuz you're gonna undervalue yourself and say, "I'm gonna do it discounted because I'm new." But to discount it because you are new, or to lower the price because you are new is not a bad thing if you are choosing to learn from that process. So if I haven't worked with clients before I'll have less guilt about messing it up because I haven't tried it before, if I'm either not charging or giving them a really good rate. So it's all this balancing act, and I think that's why it's so hard, there's no cut and dry, but there are guides online, you see a lot of articles about what do fashion designers make or stylists make, so that's a helpful thing. Always remember though that those are meant to be a little sensational sometimes and they also reflect major markets, not often, like in Boston it's not going to be the same as New York.
So I find in my work that the sewing part of the work is very devalued. People really have no regard, they have no concept of the work itself, how much time it takes, what's involved with that, so I try to emphasize, de-emphasize the sewing part and emphasize other skills that I bring to the work that I do; the designing, the experience, and that kind of thing. I feel sort of bad because, really, the sewing part is essential, it's the hardest, but it is the least valued component part of what I do.
There's a reason for that.
I know what the reason is. (laughs)
I mean for me the reason is most people don't know it, haven't done it themselves. And if you do the social media that we were talking about earlier, about the process, people can get more invested, and for me it's like Art Appreciation 101. You can look at a painting and, yeah, you like it, you don't like it but once you know more about it and what the inspiration or what the process or what their theory was, all of a sudden that world gets a lot more you can appreciate why something cost so much. There's this great book that no, your kindergarten kid cannot do this, like for modern paintings. You can't just slap paint on there and it's art. There's a reason why, so you have to almost educate your customer and find fun ways of doing that, and sometimes social media.
How do you do that?
Well, social media like little videos of the process, something as simple as an Instagram series. And you say to yourself, "I'm working on this project, every morning I'm going to do a picture."
Right, and take them through the process. It's not gonna work for everyone but it will start to cultivate the fact that you value it and you're showing them why it's valuable, and then you're showing them what the result is, because we kind of take it for granted that oh, yeah, it's beautiful, and it's great, but we're so used to discounted prices and all these kinds of things that devalue the fashion so it's kind of our job to educate our customer. Alright. Investments, not always the easiest thing to attain. Know that it's not always gonna be this big chunk of money landing in your lap but it is a route. Crowdfunding, we spoke to that with Indiegogo and Kickstarter, and those are great places, they're almost like Etsy for businesses. Before you get to Etsy it's like this building your business and because of the questions that a lot of those websites ask you, and the information you need to provide, it almost becomes like your business model, you learn how to structure your business, when you do. And you can do them project-based. You don't have to do it for your whole business because that's probably not gonna fly, but do it for a special project that you wanna do and see if you get a response and be also realistic in what you're asking for in terms of funding. I think a lot of people overprice themselves and then don't get any funding, so the way to manage that is to think about your project and if it's a real big project, break it down into phases. And do the Kickstarter program for the first phase, for the second phase, that kind of thing. Yes?
I have a question about those crowdfunding in this industry since I'm not that familiar with it personally, is there a ton of crowdfunding going on right now, and what are some of the successful things that you've seen funded?
Well, I think, I don't know if it's changed, if there's someone who's taken over, but in Boston actually, we had I think the most successful, the first most successful fashion crowdfunding for Ministry of Supply. And it was menswear shirts, I think they did one at a time, I think it may have been a shirt where it's performance fabric, and it's all about the tech. And so the great thing about it is that they brought in the fashion world and they also brought in the tech world. So when we were talking about collaborations, it may be project based, that maybe you're doing something with a theater company or with a group, maybe you're doing something special with a particular group like a convention, maybe you're doing a special thing that will be seen at the convention and that gives people a little bit more buy-in. Collaborations, I always bring this up because it's my life. I think this is the heart of everything. We want to have our time where we're alone and we're letting this all sort of sink in, like when we're researching and doing mood boards, and become who we are, like that full version of who we are creatively. But then we want to bring it to the table. Because we can come up with some great ideas but more often than not if you're really solid in what you're specializing in, you will get so inspired by people who are doing the same thing in other areas. Entry level products, we talked about this with the bow ties, like this special thing, what can you do to catch their attention and make it really affordable. And then reverse engineering timelines. People are often very intimidated by timelines and I always like to say how much working with the actual product and say, how much time do you need to sew it, or, actually, how much do you need to finish it, to sew it, to make the pattern, to spend time researching it, and work backwards because sometimes going forward you can just keep going and things kept stretching out, but if you work backwards and give yourself realistic blocks of time it makes it a little easier.
Alright, well fantastic Jay, that was a fantastic lesson. So many things to think about, in that so many things that I think everyone will want to review and revisit as well as those things change over time. Can you talk a little bit now about what we are going to be covering in our next lesson?
Alright, so this next phase is all about storytelling. And we've had a little introduction to that now but we're gonna go one on one with some of our students in the class. And kind of doing what I've been doing in a big way but doing it in a more personal way. About your experience, or your projects, or whatever's pertinent. And that's the key here to remember throughout this whole class is that it is not there's no test, there's no grading, it's a matter of, well I'll try that. I'm thinking about that right now, I'm gonna explore through this filter, cuz everything we're talking about today is kind of a filter for your ideas and for your creativity. And you're not gonna necessarily use all of them right away but you want to always have this framework as a place to go when it's not coming naturally. That's why I think it's really important to have that baseline.