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Progress Thread Steps to Building a Fashion BRAND - Beyond Simple Logistics

Discussion in 'Progress/Execution Threads' started by ChapoJR, Apr 10, 2017.

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  1. ChapoJR
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    ChapoJR Contributor

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    INTRODUCTION

    I've lurked here on these forums for a while. Probably the most value I've got is from these Progress Threads.

    The majority don't have much substance. Maybe the odd good idea, and a seemingly determined person starting on a journey which they quickly desert and give up on, never to be heard from here again.

    There are a few, however, that are an absolute abundance of valuable information and keys to success. I've read a lot of books, I've downloaded courses and educational material on business, I've spoken with the CEO's of some of the world's biggest players within my field of business, however none of that compares to the value I've taken from some of the progress threads available for FREE on this forum.

    I believe we learn best from following other people's actions. It's one thing looking up books & textbooks full of technical step guidelines etc, however there's very little which weighs up to actually following someone's footsteps as they outline the steps they took to achieve a specific goal. The 'if they can do that, I can do it too' factor is a big, big deal in instilling
    the self-belief necessary to begin on a journey.

    So, I start this progress thread as a method of doing just that; outlining my journey to the top.

    My approach to this thread is simply to further enhance my focus on my goal. I create it for mostly personal reason. Something for myself to look back on and follow along with, creating a clear source of self-assessment for myself. Tunnel-vision on the goal at hand.

    I will treat this almost like a diary. I will post here as often as I can, pretty much in a flow-of-consciousness type way. I don't intend to post well-thought-out lessons or guidelines, but rather just share as much of my journey as I possibly can. When I have something on my mind which I find valuable, whether something I've done or something I've stumbled upon, I will post it.

    The progress threads I have followed here on this forum which have been the most valuable to me have been in that format, and it is truly what I believe to be the best layout for this style of information.

    WHO AM I?

    Long-story short, this progress thread is based upon my journey towards creating a fashion brand.

    I am 23 years of age, currently living in the UK. I have been on my journey of entrepreneurship since 19 with little snippets of success along the way, but mostly failures.

    I have started one fashion brand previously, in addition to many other shorter-lived projects, which began drop-shipping products from AliExpress. The brand was fairly popular and grossed over £90,000 from the date I launched at 21 until now. However I'm sure as you all know the margins for dropshipping from Ali are fairly slim. Also I've tried and tested that many different things within that business I would say it's probably in the negative by this stage.

    If anyone has ever tried this within the fashion industry, especially men's clothing which was the area I have done it within, they will know that it is a very difficult thing to pull off. The majority of followers of men's clothing have a pretty good knowledge of what's going on within that space. When they see an ad for your product, you are usually inundated with people commenting 'AliExpress fakes' etc, even if the photos are your own. It isn't a sustainable business model, which brings me on to my next venture.

    In the midst of this brand, about a year in I realised it was not sustainable, both due to the lack of authenticity the brand was capable of producing, and also the slim profit margins. I knew I had to try something else, so I did.

    I created a men's watch company. I spent probably 6 months developing the product, developing content, getting influencer's onto a referral scheme, etc. The total amount I invested into it was around £15,000. I had 300 pcs delivered to me, launch was around Sept of 2016, and to this day I've sold 40 watches.

    That venture was probably the biggest learning experience I could have possibly had. I now know the mistakes I made and that is invaluable to me. Long story short, the product was based off of another company's already existent design with only slight changes, but still offered at exactly the same price. I foolishly had the idea in my head that people liked that style so I could sell shitloads of them by simply branding my content in a slightly different way - in this industry of branded consumer goods such as fashion items, it is imperative that you enter the market with a DRASTICALLY different & original product. These industries are a goldmine and are also something almost everyone wants to do (who doesn't want to tell girls they run a clothing company or a watch company - it's an instant cool factor!), so they are hugely over-saturated. Unless your brand is offering something the consumer hasn't seen yet, whether it is from a drastically cheaper pricepoint, better or more original product design, product performance etc, then you will struggle to establish a brand.

    Many people think they have that new product which will turn heads instantly, but that's never the case. It takes something truly special to break into an industry which consumer desire is controlled mostly by the visual appearance of products.

    After the watch company tanked, I went back to selling clothes. During the time of me investing everything into developing the watch brand, I was still earning a steady amount of incoming orders to pass on to my dropshipping suppliers per day. In my head, I figured I should just stick with what works, right?

    So I decided to try something different. I knew I needed larger profit margins so instead of dropshipping I instead made contacts with the manufacturers/wholesalers my AliExpress suppliers were getting their stuff from. I figured if I can get it for cheaper from there and order in bulk, I'd be able to make more profit on my items and the business would then be a success. Right?

    Wrong.

    The remodelling of the company logistics system took well over 6 months to complete. I had to test out Chinese warehouse & handling companies to store & ship all the inventory I had purchased from various suppliers to me, and go back & forth for various samples etc. During this time I had put the company on hold due to getting sick of the dropshipping game; suppliers taking 5 days to even dispatch items, then having them delayed at customs, customer's having them arrive with fake brand labels on them, etc.

    By the time we re-launched the buzz had very much died down and I had to start over. Quickly did I realise that despite the probably only 5-10% increase in profit margins, it still wasn't really worth it. I wasn't enjoying selling these products and the logistics didn't really make much sense. Running a brand/store like this has a limit to how far you can take it. Running a dropshipping business is great as a beginner to learn the basics of business with very little input or risk needed upon entry, but it has an extremely low chance of ever becoming something sustainable.

    Therein lay my problem.

    I had been playing with the concept of a new brand for quite a while. I had a great idea on how to swoop in and create an almost entirely new sub-niche within the men's fashion industry for one product genre that pretty much nobody was/is occupying. It is often extremely difficult to let go of a company you have worked so hard on, a company you may have told friends & family about, they may ask you 'Hey ___, how's the business?' - it's a difficult thing to take a step back and evaluate whether what you are actually doing is making progress or if it is stagnant. In my case, this business, my first and most successful venture so far, was/is indeed stagnant. I have taken it as far as I can, and at this point it is much easier and makes more sense to start over from scratch than try and completely shift a brand into something it isn't.

    The good news is, due to my endeavours within this market, I know this industry like the back of my hand. I know where & how to promote products, how to position a brand, I know pretty much every single consultancy agency, influencer, photographer, stylist & designer who is making moves and who I need to get on board to help me bring the vision I have for the brand to life.

    This is a new chapter within my journey and one in which I am very much looking forward to with confidence.

    It is extremely difficult to continue believing in yourself once you have failed so many times. I have worked on-and-off during my entrepreneurial career at various odd-jobs at factories and such, simply to keep supporting myself and having more money to invest in my endeavours. It is a constant psychological battle to maintain the right frame of mind and remain focussed on my goals when surrounded by a workplace of people working 12-hour shifts day in day out.

    When I was 18 I had the chance to go to a top University studying Computer Science, and 2 weeks before starting I withdrew my place and instead chose to pursue my true passion of becoming an entrepreneur. I've lost the girl of my dreams due to focussing too much on my business & goals and not enough on her.

    It is true what they say, it's a long and lonely road to success.

    I have never doubted that I will eventually get to my goal, however I never foreseen the amount of pain and suffering I would have to go through along the way. It's easy to watch young entrepreneurs who make it at their first try at age 21 and see them living lavishly driving Lamborghini's etc., then thinking that you can do that too - they make it look easy and fun - some of them even start YouTube channels & vlogs to persuade you how easy it is. So you start down this road and 1 business goes by, 2 businesses go by, 3 businesses go by, and still no success. At several points along this road it would have been easy for me to give up and go back to school and get a job doing something I'd hate for the rest of my days here on earth. I'd probably get a pretty decent job, too, earning £50k+, marry a nice girl and have some kids, travel around a bit, live life a little. But that's never really crossed my mind. To do this, you have to be a little bit insane. If I wasn't, I'd have gave up after my first business failed and gone back to school, claiming it simply wasn't for me and choosing the safer, 'guaranteed' option as a better fit.

    For some people that makes sense, sure. Not everyone is cut out for this, and I'm not saying they should be. Sometimes I am envious of those who are able to settle for less, those who are out enjoying their early twenties travelling and going out with friends etc., whereas I'm stuck inside at 2am on a Saturday night going back & forth on Whatsapp with manufacturers in China. But then I come back to my senses and realise there's nothing I love more than those 2AM message binges with factories regarding production. There's nothing I love more than browsing Instagram for hours upon hours, searching for A-List players to work with, what trends are catching on, which brands are popping. I guess that's what keeps me going, and the main reason I'll make it.

    With this brand, more than the other's, I feel the timing is perfect.

    I've paid my dues in the form of so many failures & setbacks. I've learnt so much from those failures and I've worked so hard to get to the point I'm at now. I feel like now more than ever my understanding for what it will take to make this a successful venture is clearer than ever - in previous ventures I was mostly going in blindly with no clear execution plan or end-goal in mind. I'm leaving no stone unturned. No second will be wasted.

    THREAD LAYOUT

    My ranting here was mostly to provide some background. I want to refer people to this thread when I'm eventually in a position in which people are coming to me for inspiration and answers as they begin their own endeavours from someone who has 'made it' as the saying goes. As Gary Vaynerchuk always says, he wishes he had documented his journey in his early days of entrepreneurship before his YouTube channel took off. This is my 'early days journey'. It's much easier to write it now as I go along, than to refer back to it from memory further along the line.

    I am treating this Progress Thread from the mentality that every single thing I am writing is being directed towards that 17 year old kid reading this in 2-3 years time, still in high-school and searching for answers and wisdom. I by no means have all the answers, but I do want to share my journey with him/her, in the hope that it can be a reference point that anything is possible with persistence and patience. I have rambled so much by this point that said 17 year old will have probably lost interest by this stage, however I'll keep going anyways in the hope that they can summon the attention span to listen to me.

    Mostly within this thread I will be breaking it down into 2 parts, business development and personal development.

    I feel as much as it is important to hustle on my business venture, it's just as important to improve myself. When you are closely tied to a company like you are in the fashion world, your business almost becomes an extension of yourself. If your energy and vibe is off as a person, you can bet your energy and vibe as a business will be off too. Everything is connected. Not only that, but your own personal mindset will limit how far your company can grow, or if it will even grow at all. I feel this was an important mistake I made with my watch venture which tanked. I had the products in production, which would take 70 days, and during that time I simply did nothing. I kept telling myself that all I have to do is wait, and once the products arrive, they'll be an instant hit. I spent my spare time watching TV, playing video games and other bullshit, simply because I was naive enough to believe that the product would do all the work itself once it arrived. Not a mistake I will make again. There is never a second to waste.

    I have labelled this thread 'Beyond Simple Logistics', because I haven't really seen a progress thread here on building an actual brand before. Most seem to be about importing products and sending them to Amazon, dropshipping, or other similar topics, which are all cool of course, but I feel this thread will go quite a bit beyond that, stepping into brand positioning, product design, working with influencers, social media, working with agencies & consultants, etc.

    I may come back to this at some point and tidy all of this up as it mostly just complete and utter rambles at the moment, which may put most people off. However I'm not really aiming for mass-viewership within the forum here. Like I said this is a diary for myself to keep myself in check, and create a reference for the future.
     
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  2. TheDillon__
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    TheDillon__ Bronze Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane Speedway Pass

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    Great post - read like a cool little exposé.

    Welcome to the forum.
     
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  3. ChapoJR
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    ChapoJR Contributor

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    BRAND PROGRESS SO FAR

    To begin, I'd just like to briefly mention the steps I've taken so far business-wise.

    LOGO

    Using the 99 Designs - Start Up Bros logo blog post, https://startupbros.com/how-to-get-the-perfect-logo-designed/ , I was able to have a multitude of very talented designers submit a logo for me. As it's a fashion brand, the logo is key to branding. It needed to be perfect, and I'm delighted with the concept I've now got. It's clean, but also provides a sense of the message the brand is about.

    MANUFACTURING

    I'm currently in touch with 2 factories who are working on a second sample for me. Initially, I had started off with around 8 factories for the first sample.

    TIP: In the clothing industry, you can pretty much tell whether a factory has produced a sample of high-quality for you based on the appearance from a picture. To save on sample shipping fees, most factories will produce a free sample for you and only charge shipping, so have them proceed to produce the sample and once they notify you that it is ready and they require payment for the shipping, ask them first to provide a picture of the garment. From this you can examine whether it's something you want to proceed with. If not, don't bother having them ship it to you, and you've just determined whether a factory can produce what you want or not, free of charge.

    I had none of the factories send me their sample. My design concept is so complex I knew not many factories would be able to pull it off. None of them did, but the one's who actually listened to my instructions and put in great effort in communications and quality production are the one's I chose to proceed with. Some of the factories just looked at one picture of what I wanted, or one element of what I mentioned and produced something crap based off of that alone - these are factories you want to avoid.

    In order to get a better idea of which factory I should have producing my product, I needed the second sample. This time, to get my ideas across more clearly, I had to ship references to them in the forms of similar garments, fabrics, design elements, accessories like zippers etc. I also needed to produce detailed technical specifications, PDF presentations explaining why I had sent them certain design references, etc.

    Currently I am awaiting the completion of the second sample from both of my final 2 candidate factories.

    I am also in talks with some UK-based small-chain factories to produce some of the more detailed aspects of the garments. The amount of work needed to go into producing something truly different within the fashion industry is incredibly difficult. There is a monumental attention to detail required, and many simply don't have the patience or understanding to do this. This is a barrier to entry in my eyes, and something I've learnt along the way through trial & error - very important lesson. If it was easy, everybody's brand would take off right away. It's the subtle things which give a brand/product that 'cool' factor, there's really no step-by-step guide.

    DESIGNING

    I've got some ties to a designer from Italy who is helping consult with some of the designs.

    I find that although I do have some great ideas for the designs we need, I'm not the best at getting them across. Much similarly to the way I write this thread, I have a tendency to get a little carried away and ramble on about the ideas I have until the point where a manufacturer or anyone whose head isn't in the clouds won't have a clue what I'm talking about.

    Finding a designer to assist & consult with me has been a game-changer. Not only do they know how to articulate my ideas in a manner I can show to factories through technical spec sheets and technical drawings etc, but they also have a keen eye for design, which in this industry is absolutely key - design is everything.

    They of course do not do this for free - I found them on an outsourcing website so I have to pay them via there. The fees they charge are very low in proportion to the value they provide so I'm happy to shell out.

    CONSULTING/SHOWROOMS/ETC

    In fashion, there's an abundance of ways to get your product in front of your customer's.

    It's important in terms of marketing that I consult with a brand positioning agency. I'm not talking about someone who is going to know how to put the brand in VOGUE or on billboards or whatever, but I do know a very talented individual who has created several similar brands to mine and has now opened a marketing agency to assist emerging fashion brands. They also work as a showroom/gateway to celebrities, in which they can pass on garments to hip-hop artists, models, influencers, etc. This is a big deal. I'm still going back & forth a little trying to get some idea of cost, but it's a work in progress which excites me.

    INFLUENCERS

    I've started drawing up a list of people who fit well with the brand concept.

    This will be a brand which has influencers as the face of the company. I want to get a batch of highly popular influencers with a dedicated & interested following who can basically sell our products for us.

    Rather than arranging my own photographers and models to do street shoots several times a week to produce content, it's a lot easier just to send some free products to influencers who like our stuff and have them produce the content for us. Content is of huge importance, so I will need a steady stream coming in at all times in the form of outfit pictures, etc.

    SOCIAL MEDIA

    I'm currently growing a fashion/style page on Instagram, with the view of simply transitioning this to my own brand page before launch. Sure this will lose a few followers when it switches over, but a lot will stay and will engage because it's similar to the content I'm already posting. I'm currently at around 6000 followers for this. Not putting in much effort at the moment because I don't want to turn it into something the followers are too engaged with, as they'll be disappointed when it transitions into something else and therefore unfollow. If I can have 6000 followers at launch time I'd be happy. Solid platform to build on.

    NEXT STEPS

    In terms of what's next, I'm happy with the progress I'm making thus far. Everything is coming together nicely.

    I feel like early in the business (not sure if anyone else here agrees), at the sampling/development stage, it's a bit of an annoying phase. You're constantly waiting on things, and sometimes there is a limit to how much you can do without it becoming overkill.

    Due to this, I am brought to my next point, which is the personal development stage. As I mentioned previously, with my brand which tanked in the past, I would finish what I needed to do with the business and then watch TV, or something stupid. I told myself that there's only so much I can do, and that once the product is in my hands ready to be sold it will sell itself.

    The problem was that I should have spent that time hustling on myself, a mistake I will never make again.
     
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  4. ChapoJR
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    ChapoJR Contributor

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    PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT PROGRESS & STEPS

    First off, there's not a single second to waste.

    Lately I've had a real wake up call to the amount of time I'm actually wasting and how I can maximise my effectiveness throughout a day.

    Currently I work a job Friday-Sunday, 30 hours a week. That means I have Monday-Thursday to focus COMPLETELY on getting my shit together and bringing this brand to fruition. Then a few hours Friday-Sunday too.

    As a side note: anyone who isn't working either full-time or part-time whilst working on their start-up is a fool. You will always have free time when starting a business from scratch, that's just the way it is. Until your business is fully up & running you do not have a reason to sit around and wait. A mistake I've made was creating a brand with no other form of income, I took out a loan to support it and thought that I was guaranteed success when the product launched, so the loan would be paid back instantly. Long story short, get a job so you can invest your OWN money into your business. Even if it means sacrificing 8-10 hours of your day Monday - Friday, do it. You can work on your start-up when you get home.

    Not only that, but seeing the faces of people who have never chased a dream and made nothing of their lives every day is a constant motivating force.

    MEDITATION

    I'll talk a lot in this progress thread about mentality. Psychology is key to creating a business.

    And nothing is more key to developing your mentality than meditation. I use guided meditation once per day for around 10 minutes. It helps to keep my mind clear and get me more in touch with my body.

    It's very easy in the start-up phase to get filled up with doubts, or to lose focus on the end goal. Meditation helps you get out of your head and maintain that tunnel vision.

    BOOKS

    I started getting back into reading in a big way recently. In the past I had a long phase where I stopped reading - I for some reason created the belief in my mind that all books were just re-hashed information and that because I had read the basic 50 business books or whatever I knew everything - MISTAKE.

    It's crucial to be constantly developing your mind and taking in new information. Even if you read a book and get nothing valuable, for every 10 books you read you're likely to receive at least 1 piece of life-changing/business-changing information.

    Some books I've read recently:

    #GIRLBOSS - Sophia Amoruso
    ZAG - Marty Neumeier
    500 Social Media Marketing Tips - Andrew Macarthy
    The Brand Gap - Marty Neumeier
    Ask and it is Given - Esther & Jerry Hicks
    The 7 Spiritual Laws of Success - Deepak Chopra
    The Boron Letters
    Visibility Marketing
    CASHVERTISING
    Tools of Titans - Tim Ferris
    DotCom Secrets - Russell Brunson
    The E-Myth

    I'm aiming to read at least 1 book per week from here on out. Looking for a mixture of spiritual, mental & business books.

    Listening to Audiobooks & podcasts on way to other job, etc. CONSTANTLY learning and re-instilling the focus on personal development and daily improvement.

    EXERCISE & DIET

    I've always been someone who can go to the gym and eat healthy rather easily.

    This is something huge and something I will be stepping up even more as I progress along this journey.

    Gym at least 3-4 times per week, many small meals per day, veggies, fruit, etc. Simple stuff.
     
  5. TheDillon__
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    TheDillon__ Bronze Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane Speedway Pass

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    Oh man this is some tasty content!

    Have some rep to get started off, my friend.

    Keep us updated with your success - hopefully you'll be next up on this list as "The Fashion Guy!"

     
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  6. ChapoJR
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    ChapoJR Contributor

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    UPDATE - SAMPLING LESSONS LEARNT

    So I received back two samples from my final selection of two factories. Both were/are based in China, and based on my previous experience had fairly good communication skills & what seemed like a good organisation in place.

    Most Asian factories & organisations I deal with have fairly simple ways of telling you whether they're the real deal or not. Poor communication is a big tip-off, either by using clearly Google-translated English or by being far too pushy. Some factories I've dealt with in the past have Whatsapp called me 10 times within the hours of 4-5AM and sent messages like '????' constantly when I haven't replied to them. In most cases these factories simply have nobody else to talk to and are pushing you in desperation of your business. Sometimes of course there are exceptions when factories can have large sales teams who have a lot of time on their hands, but most of the time it's because they're throwing shit up against the wall in the hopes you'll notice them. Side note: most of these unprofessional factories are those you'll find on Alibaba. The best & most professional Chinese factories will be found via GlobalSources, HKTDC or simply via rigorous Google searching.

    Back to my update...

    I had a very different set of expectations from Factory 1 & Factory 2 going into receiving the second sample from both. I had been communicating with both for a few weeks so I got to know them decently well.

    Factory 1 had extremely, extremely good communications skills - sometimes I questioned whether it was an actual Chinese factory since the sales agent I dealt with had such outstanding English. Their factory did not seem as large however, they were more of the stereotypical Alibaba factory - the photos they used to showcase their products were clearly taken from a site like ASOS or similar. The quality of the first sample looked OK from the photos, but I was most impressed with the fact they clearly understood everything I had asked of them regarding the details so I gave them a shot in the second sample head-to-head.

    Factory 2 was pretty much the opposite; their communication was constant and quick, yet they would regularly miss out details I had mentioned to them via e-mails and even those outlined in the technical spec-sheets I had sent to them.

    So nevertheless I received both samples back Tuesday. Factory 2 was as expected - the quality was extremely good for a Chinese factory, yet they had missed large chunks of the details I had informed them of repeatedly. However to my surprise, Factory 1 had made the exact same mistakes. Despite being very clear in my communications with my sales agent there of what was required, they had missed large chunks of what was needed. In clothing not only the details & quality need to be perfect, but the fit of the clothes needs to be exactly as asked - they had completely fucked all of this up. Bewildered, I contacted them and the sales agent explained she was just as upset as I was and that it was the fault of the sampling department. Just goes to show that you can never trust first, or even second impressions of a factory - especially in an industry like clothing where so many different variables go into the quality of the end-product.

    Coincidentally, I received an e-mail on Wednesday from one of my early first choice factories - the only European factory I had been in contact with. The story there was that they were supposed to produce a sample for me, however they informed me shortly after the sample was arranged that their sampling department was too busy at that time to produce it - I do have a feeling they have some very large European clients.

    Currently I'm in a bit of a waiting game. I am waiting to see how this sample from the European factory turns out next week before I make my next move. Personally I find the initial sampling process the most frustrating part of a new business. Trying to find a factory is largely a waiting game, and a game of chance. Many people either don't get lucky by finding the perfect factory, or they simply settle for an average factory in a rush to get to market. In a game like the clothing industry where your success is HUGELY dictated by the quality of the garments you produce, it's essential to be extremely patient and take the time to find the PERFECT factory. Yes this is frustrating and the sooner I get to market the better, but once the perfect factory is found a lot of the other things will begin falling into place.
     
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    Very nice thread and tips, added to the watchlist, thanks for sharing tips!
     
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  8. Huracan
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    Huracan Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER

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    Just want to say thanks for this thread and all the great tips. As someone who has always wanted to start a clothing brand, Your posts have been really helpful. Eagerly going to be watching this thread
     
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  9. ChapoJR
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    UPDATE

    Still waiting on the sample from the EU-based factory. They're running late by a few days, but I'm letting it slide as they do seem to be very busy which in my eyes is a good thing. Hoping to receive it next week and be blown away by the quality - then it's all systems go.

    At the moment I'm doing a lot of branding research. The difficult thing with entering the fashion market is that for every ounce of territory within every smaller niche, there is already at least 3-4 established leading brands. In my case, I intend on broadening out into all aspects of clothing eventually with this brand, but I am attempting to firstly establish the brand within a much smaller niche which I have only really identified one market leader. They are in an extremely strong position, offering free worldwide shipping etc, but I feel I've identified enough factors of differentiation that I'll be able to position the brand as a separate entity which offers something different within the minds of potential customers.

    The largest mistake I've made in the past is trying to create a brand which is almost identical to a market leader within the niche I was planning to enter - men's watches. I entered this niche convincing myself that the brand would be different in this way and that way and any other justifiable excuse I had, not to mention the fact I had convinced myself that 'if people like and are buying that brands product, well OBVIOUSLY if I make mine just a little bit better in these small ways, then OF COURSE they'll buy mine too, right?' - this is a huge mistake for any new brand to make. To break into an industry you need to have pretty substantial differences between your brand and the market leaders, otherwise you're just another brand which looks the same as all the rest.

    I spend large chunks of my day on Instagram, following fashion/luxury 'shoutout' pages etc, and literally every single brand I see looks exactly the same. To any experienced eye for someone that's been doing this for a while, it's easy to see the brands which were created with very little thought. Generic t-shirt brands with some stupid slogan printed on standard Gildan tee's with inexperienced models posing in an underground carpark. AliExpress resellers using the AliExpress listing photos to sell their shit at a 8% margin when all is said and done. Watch brands with that Daniel Wellington face and their logo printed on using some generic ugly font.

    If you're getting into an industry like fashion, major thought is required on how your brand will position itself within the marketplace. There are literally so many options out there, and to stand out you truly need to be outstanding - both in content and in product.

    This is by no means easy, and once you lock in the concept of your brand (positioning, target audience, 3 word description etc) you really need to have tunnel vision on executing that to perfection. It's all good to identify these things, but to actually execute is then the next level up.

    'Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind' is a great book to read on this subject. Taught me a lot.
     
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    i'm curious about the design process. Do you draw out your ideas on paper using croquis and/or on a digital platform (illustrator) before you consult your designer. Thanks for you posts again, been very hellpful
     
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    Design is probably the easiest thing to get wrong in the industry of fashion & accessories, and has probably been the thing I've worked on improving the most in developing this brand.

    I'm going to expand with a full post regarding my design process soon, because I think a lot of people here relate with me in the fact that we are not necessarily design/artistically-minded, but rather more marketing/business minded. It's all about working to your strengths and delegating your weaknesses to people who are talented in those areas. PEOPLE are the key.

    I've now got quite a few minds (not only designers, but stylists etc) who I am going back & forth with in coming up with ideas (more on this soon). Basically, I am discussing concepts of what the market needs, WGSN trends etc with the stylists & creative minds who I have developed contacts with, then taking whatever resources (websites, pictures, screenshots, sketches) to the designer to turn them into something tangible. The key is being self-aware enough to know what resources will best explain your idea in a clear & cohesive manner to your designer to make their job as easy as possible and the margin for error & misunderstanding as slim as possible.

    Like I said, PEOPLE are key. The success of a design process is entirely predicated on the talent of the people you are working with, and the communication, emotional intelligence & self-awareness you yourself bring to the table. If you hire someone to produce a design or a technical sketch/tech pack for you on Fiverr for $15, send them limited information on what you want and expect something magical & eye-catching back in return, you are sadly mistaken. I pay the stylists, designers & creative minds I have working with me on this for the knowledge & ideas they bring to the table - never be afraid to place your hand in your pocket to get the desired result. Being stingy with design is an extremely costly mistake. Whereas in business & marketing, we can gradually learn these via business books & resources etc, in design it is very difficult to learn. Either you went to school to get an education in design, or you were born with an artistically-inclined brain and have honed your craft throughout your lifetime. I dare you to try and learn how to be a fashion designer via a few Amazon books or some YouTube videos - you will not succeed.

    I look forward to the day where I have a team of talented designers in the room next door to me who can turn my ideas & visions into tangible realities within a matter of minutes, but for now outsourcing is the only option.
     
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    UPDATE

    Received the sample today from the EU-based factory. Their quality is good, but it's only the same as my initially preferred Asian factory. Nevertheless, proceeding with the EU factory due to the fact that my target demographic has this weird phobia of anything Asian in fashion.

    Despite the fact that the majority of the most popular clothing items (Kanye West's Yeezy Boost being the prime example) are made in China, people still draw an instant conclusion that your quality is cheap when you mention a garment is made in China. This is beyond bewildering to me as it's not something I myself would care even slightly about, but your target demographic is your target demographic and your personal taste does not mean shit.

    Chinese knock-offs have really taken their toll on the fashion worlds mindset I guess.

    In other news, I'm growing a mixture of more & more confident, and more & more frustrated every day in this venture. I'm wondering if anyone has been in a similar position to me, where everywhere you look you can see a bewildering gap in the marketplace that is an absolute goldmine and is completely unoccupied, but you do not have the resources to get there, and know that you will need to start slowly and gradually build your way up until you reach that point.

    I simply do not have the resources of talented people, fast-acting factories, start-up capital to place large inventory orders etc. to get there at the moment. So instead of jumping the gun and trying to get to that end destination straight out the gate and subsequently failing because I don't have the manpower to do so, I'm going to have to constantly remind myself of that long-term goal whilst working on short-term goals which will be steps along the path.

    Basically, I can see where I need to get to, but the vehicle I have currently does not have enough engine power to get me there. I'm going to have to gradually work on upgrading my vehicle as I move towards my destination. Never have been quite good at metaphors but that's a pretty decent way of summing it up.

    To quote Will Smith, you don't set out to build a wall, you simply lay one brick at a time, as perfectly as it can be laid, and soon you have a wall.
     
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  13. ChapoJR
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    I went into this with a very strict idea of how I was going to break into the market, who my target customer would be etc. and had absolutely no intention of changing that.

    As time has passed, all my time is spent on social networks and all my thought power is put into this. I do and think about nothing besides this. The more this consumes me, the more I am developing the idea of the brand in my head. It's taken on a completely different form than the one I originally went into this with.

    An important point, I think, on flexibility. The more rigidly you go into a venture, saying how you think things should be, rather than how they actually are, the more chance your idea has of failing. Be willing to change certain things, or even everything about your brand based on what the market is demanding at your time of entry. The more time you spend enveloping yourself amongst your target audience, the more you will learn about what they need. If you already have a strict plan, have made commitments to certain factories etc, and have limited flexibility, the more chance you have of having selective perception and blurring your vision of what the market is calling out for.

    Obviously don't take it to the point where you are swept around like a piece of paper in the wind by the marketplace, but if you have a skewed perception on the reality of your marketplace you will always be 20 steps behind and end up as the guy who likes what he makes, but nobody else does.
     
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    Been a while since my last update.

    Things are finally starting to move at a quick speed. The start-up phase is the most frustrating part of starting a new brand for me. Constantly waiting around for factories, designers etc. to get back to you is tirelessly aggravating.

    Nevertheless, I've found my factory. As I had mentioned previously, I had been planning on entering the market with one niche product made in Europe.

    I've since realised that entering that smaller niche in which there was already an established leader who had a similar business model to our own, was idiotic. It would only lead to a competition we would inevitably not win as the leader always wins vs the newbies - never try to justify to yourself that because your product is X or Y small difference in comparison to the leader that you will win, you need to be DRASTICALLY + MONUMENTALLY different.

    As confusing as it sounds, entering the market in a much broader way with a range of products is much better for my business model. Basically, whereas there is an industry leader within the smaller niche whose offer and business concept is similar to my own, there is none in the industry as a whole. There is an absolutely fucking massive gap, believe it or not. It will take a while to fill it as the company will need to grow slowly to build up to the point where it encompasses and fills that gap, so of course I am taking baby steps and not trying to enter with a massive investment.

    The EU-based factory I mentioned previously are still going to be our provider for that smaller niche product when we decide to start producing those TOO, however that smaller niche product is not really on trend right now within the industry so we will wait it out on that.

    I've found the perfect Asian factory. Believe it or not, the quality of their products is better than almost any EU-based factory I've seen.

    I always say getting lucky with a good factory is key to any brand/business, most especially in clothing production. I intend to visit the factory after the first range of products drops and the brand is up and running properly, which is something to look forward to.

    On the last point of factories, I would thoroughly recommend everyone reading this to check out @WalterHay and his thread on the topic: GOLD - Sharing my lifetime experience in export/import. Product sourcing specialist.

    Walter's help via messages is nothing short of amazing. If you're stuck on anything, make sure to read his thread twice over to make sure the answer isn't there, then read his book, then if you still can't find what you're looking for hit him up with a PM and I'm sure you'll find your answer.

    Last point in this update I guess. I'm now in full production prep flow. Tech packs are being produced for the designs, measurements being taken etc. I'm also in touch with label manufacturers, zippers/buttons manufacturers, accessories manufacturers, etc.

    There is nothing better in this game than being busy. I love it. I dream of the day where my inbox is overflowing and I am up to my fucking eyeballs in work. If anything, the more the work, the less stressed I am. Can't say I understand anyone who says that work is wearing them down etc. I'll take busy over sitting around waiting on factories, designers etc to hurry their asses up like I have been for the past few months.

    Fully go-time now. Aiming for launch the first week of July. Lots of moving parts to line up for that but I'm confident.
     
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    Bit of an update on this, can't believe it's been over a month since I made my last post.

    Also can't believe I had my heart set on a first week of July release, too.

    To be honest, when writing that last post I was rushing things far too much. Had I continued on that route and not taken a step back to evaluate what I was about to fully commit to, I would not be in a good place. A weakness in myself I've noticed throughout the past 2 or so years is that I tend to get super hyped up on one particular thing, and move into action & commitment far too quickly. Thankfully I've made that mistake so many times I've now developed the self-awareness to kind of have a sense of when it's in full motion within me.

    To explain: I was planning on developing a first order of around 600 pcs, 6 different items, from my factory. Of them, only 1 was actually decent. Took me a while to convince myself to step back and re-evaluate, rather than rush in full guns blazing just so I could get started.

    I've now placed my first order with the factory, 2 items at 100 pcs each. I would far rather have gotten the factory down to 50 pcs per item, 100 pcs total first order, but it wasn't to be. They wouldn't budge below 100, as their normal MOQ's are 500 per style PER COLOUR.

    The factory I think is getting a little pissed at my constant demands, as I think they view me as a small time customer due to the lower quantities. This is just something I'm going to have to accept until I build things to a point where I'm able to place larger orders, even though I've tried to portray to them the sense that I'm part of a much larger chain of operations throughout communications. I'm a perfectionist and I worry about them messing up the finer details, so I'm having to go over things a few times with them about details needed to improve on samples etc. In my experience, Asian factories prefer an industrialised approach of 'give us the tech pack, the money, and wait until you get it' type of negotiation.

    Moving slightly aside, I want to talk a bit about how fucking difficult this industry is.

    Starting off, you basically have 3 options:

    1) Start off by selling samples and/or producing extremely small quantities locally, but having to jack the fuck out of the price due to production prices for domestic manufacturing + low quantities. In this case, what you're selling had better be pretty fucking special to fly off the shelf at the prices you're selling at - definitely not my favoured approach

    2) Dropship via AliExpress and build a customer base until you have a large enough audience to produce yourself - a good approach if you're in womenswear or are selling to complete idiots who don't know what AliExpress/TaoBao are (not that women are idiots, but there's just such a ton of product in the entire womenswear scope of Ali/Tao etc that they all look different). 99% of the IG ads you see that are selling clothes are dropshipping Ali products, everyone knows what's up, and they'll comment on the ad or your IG posts saying 'AliExpress' 'Fake' 'Scam' etc. Yes you'll get a few customers and it's an extremely convenient & safe beginner method, but it will never go anywhere, you'll always have that reputation following you around. Plus you're always at the whim of somebody else controlling your operations.

    3) Go bulk - get yourself to China, Turkey, Taiwan, wherever the fuck, and find a good factory and produce in bulk. The difficulty here is that if you're not being handed £50,000 loans from mummy & daddy, you're going to struggle. This is the easiest way to lose money. Fashion is such a hit-and-miss industry, that even if you do everything right, it's still hugely possible that people won't buy your shit for whatever reason. It's very hard to judge what will be successful and what won't. And also, the pressure is on you from the start to come out with a first product or collection which is a huge hit. If you don't, you're then struggling to afford a second order, and by the time your first is sold out, you're behind the times and lapsing in trends.

    I have lots more to share, and the strategies I'm going to be using, and have already started using in terms of marketing have not been touched upon so far in this thread. This has simply been all about logistics up to this point, and will continue to be that way for a while. Not to sound like a cunt, but I just don't want to start sharing the marketing aspect and general selling point of the brand just yet. That will be covered when it's ready. To be honest, I don't want to give any of it away because I'm that pissed off I had to lose thousands of pounds and years of my life learning from mistakes to figure it out. Unlike other industries, there is literally no clear-cut guide or anything remotely of value which tells you how to succeed in the fashion industry. Just generic shit like 'be different', 'find a good factory', 'do your research' etc, it's mindnumbingly frustrating for anyone trying to learn. I'll write the book some day.

    Again, lastly, sorry if any of this comes off as rambling, I don't really proof read any of this and just projectile vomit a shit-ton of words into this reply box.
     
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  16. ChapoJR
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    I was listening to Gary Vaynerchuk's podcast tonight where he had some of the guys from K-SWISS on.

    They basically discussed how K-SWISS were trying to re-invent themselves within the sneaker niche by becoming seen as the 'Entrepreneur sneaker' partnering with Gary and other entrepreneurs to carve out a section of the sneaker industry different from athletic/athleisurewear etc.

    It's something I think they could be mildly successful in (more than they have been in previous years), but from an overall sneaker buyer perspective is irrelevant due to the fact their shoes still look like $10 Walmart trash.

    Nevertheless, a point Gary mentioned was how K-SWISS were correct in their thinking to switch niche and that the niche of entrepreneurs seeking a signature shoe was a fairly large one, but how their execution would be everything. For example, choosing the wrong designer, or the wrong timing, or the wrong distribution networks, or a marketing strategy that is even slightly off the mark would be detrimental and make the entire thing not work.

    It got me thinking about my own brand, and the huge wide open fucking door of opportunity I see in this industry.

    If I fuck up, there will always be someone else who will come along to seize the opportunity. If my timing is even a slight bit off, I'm fucked. If the factory I've decided upon becomes inconsistent and forces me to make a factory change, I'm fucked. If even the slightest piece of my execution is thrown off, it could go to shit entirely.

    That's what is scary about this industry. So much of it is luck and timing.

    Just a reminder to myself to remain laser focussed, basically.

    No margin for error.
     
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  17. Extratus
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    Would you recommend buying from UK wholesalers like Catwalk Wholesale through their dropshipping program? Or is buying from China the only option for a decent profit margin?
     
  18. ChapoJR
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    Depends on what type of brand you're trying to start, really.

    If I were starting a girly brand like PrettyLittleThing or MISSGUIDED wannabe, it's definitely worth considering. However you'll then run into 10000 other women's brands who are selling things which look exactly the same and will have to distinguish on marketing, branding & hustle, which is difficult without differential product design to back it up.

    Clothing is an incredibly complex market. Lots of different things to take into account context-wise before I could give a solid answer.
     
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    Ok, so been ages since I've updated this.

    A lot has happened since then. Mainly, we launched. Secondly, we're almost completely sold out.

    I'm not sure if I mentioned my first order and how much it was before in this thread, but I decided to start with a small-ish 200 pcs order. 100 pcs of one garment, 100 pcs of another. Anyone dealing with Chinese factories will know that an order like this is basically the bare minimum with any decent factory.

    Nevertheless, my order arrived around 1 month ago. I arranged air freight without really having any idea what I was doing. Got my manufacturer to refer me to their 'guy' for handling that stuff. He shipped it to me in pretty good time and at a pretty good cost (around 350USD for 125kg) China to UK. Once it reached my local airport, I had to arrange customs clearance with a broker in my local airport city and then went to collect the parcels myself in my car. The customs clearance was probably the most confusing and costly part of all of this - I was charged a hell of a lot in customs charges due to my freight forwarder in China putting the shipping price extremely high on the invoice for some reason, which I will learn from next time.

    However, I now have a good basis for the logistical aspects of getting the stuff to me from China, which I believe will be absolutely essential in being able to keep my costs low.

    Once I got the stuff, I arranged some shots with a local photographer who had very low fees. For the price of just £40, I met her and modelled the stuff myself in my local city against wall backgrounds and came out with shots just good enough to use on my website. Next time around I'll be investing in full studio photography and even videos of the clothes on real models, however for this first drop I really just wanted a cheap method of getting the stuff online and for sale as quickly as possible. A major lesson I've learned with past failed companies is that you can do all the professional, pretty looking build-up marketing and promotion, have a beautiful website, landing page, social media content, whatever, and it could simply turn out that nobody gives a fuck about what you're selling and who you are. You are much better off testing the waters with the bare minimums and seeing what bites.

    My profit margins aren't great at the moment. With the first drop, to be honest I just wanted to get the stuff moved as quickly as possible. I've spent money on marketing where I shouldn't have and priced things like shipping etc a little lower than what they should be. I honestly just wanted people to get their hands on the stuff before I start giving a shit about margins and everything else. Now that I know there's a big demand for the stuff (people constantly sending DM's about restocks etc now) I can start honing in on areas to improve margins without jeopardising the pricepoints my customers will now be expecting.

    Anyways, I launched Sunday night (4/10/17) with my 200 pcs and I now only have something like 20 pcs left 3 days later. I've been blown away with the support and can honestly say now this is beginning to materialise there's nothing I'd rather be doing with my time. The reviews I've received from people saying they love the stuff, the quality is good etc. makes me happier than probably anything else in the world.

    My main issues going forwards are funding.

    The 200 pcs I launched with was pretty much all that I could afford, which is a difficult thing to run a business like this on. With a clothing company, you do want some variety in your store so that when traffic is coming to your site, people aren't just forced to decide on whether they like 1 of the 2 things you're selling. There needs to be a variety of items on display.

    I want to actually have a constant stream of products in my store, instead of having the situation I'm now placed in, where I would have to spend another month or so developing another 200-300 pcs of product to come in, basically taking a month off from the business which is shit.

    So I'm now in talks with a business loans company who will hopefully provide me with a 5-digit loan so I can begin a much bigger order and at least then have a bulk of stuff in my store.

    Now that I know I can move the stuff fairly quickly, a loan doesn't scare me at all and rather just seems like a wise decision here. Normally I'm against the idea of a loan, but I think for a clothing company and the points I mentioned above in my own circumstances it's something which is essential for me to make steps forward. Otherwise it would just be one-step forward, two-steps backward 5 or 6 times per year which would get me nowhere.

    I have a few more points I want to make and talk a bit about - I've left a chunk of stuff out which is important to my story so far. I'll try and get back to this whenever I have some more time to ramble on. I never check through these posts so I can't really remember what I've written throughout this thread, but hopefully it's helping someone out at least a little. If it isn't, then at least I have a log of my journey to creating one of the biggest clothing brands in the world.
     
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  20. ChapoJR
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    Ok so I said in my previous post I'd add a little more so here goes...

    The things I've learnt from this venture, which so far has been successful, in comparison to my past failed ventures, have been infinitely more valuable. The old phrase 'you learn more from a loss than from a win' is complete BS in my opinion. The world is littered with brands that were the first venture of their owner and became an instant hit and just kept on rolling. Look no further than Gymshark, and a host of other brands.

    First of all, I think having a full-time job has been a big plus for me so far. Whereas in the past I was often in-between work when starting my previous 2 companies, I had too much time and too little financing in my hands. I know having a 9-5 can be a burden in some cases, but for me it's been a blessing. In the past I had very little going on outside of my businesses, meaning that if they were to fail I'd be pretty much fucked. They did fail, and I was fucked in the end. Having a job, either full-time or part-time, provides that sense of detachment from a venture which I feel is essential. Even if you hate your job, you know that if your idea completely flunks, you've still at least got some sort of funding to keep you afloat. You can't be sweating when people don't like your very first Instagram post, or the second, or the third. You need to find ways of detaching yourself, especially in the beginning.

    Secondly, I think probably the most important thing is visualisation. Not in some airy-fairy gold dust 'The Secret' type of way, but in a realistic way. If you can't visualise what your brand will look like down the line, then where the fuck is it even going? I spend an hour before I go to bed every night visualising my own store, visualising having my own factories in China, visualising the stores website filled with new products being added every day. The clearer you are with your intention and vision for the brand, the clearer you will be in the actions you take. The worst thing a brand can do is fail to establish an identity. Be as clear as possible with what you want your brand to become, the steps to getting there will be much easier to establish.

    That's all I've got in my head for now. Will add more as it comes to me.
     
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    Things are now at the stage where celebrities are sending me DM's asking to get their hands on some stuff, however it's sold out.

    I've had messages from customer's saying they'll pay double for the items.

    Clearly I've established a strong brand image and demand for our products early on, it's just frustrating that now I'm going to have to wait 30-50 days until I can get more products in, meaning all this momentum is going to go a little stale.

    Also, I don't think I've mentioned this, but I've decided I'm not going to restock any items for the first 6 months or so. This is simply a decision based on the fact that I want to be investing the limited funds I have in bringing out new designs, instead of just being a one trick pony which restocks the same shit over & over and doesn't release anything new. I feel this too will create a bit more of a mentally amongst my customer's that once it's gone, it really is gone, so there's that impulse to buy or miss out forever.

    Another thing I forgot to mention, which I think is important, is that for the first 5 months or so whilst I was beginning to source factories etc for the business, I built a niche fashion Instagram page just reposting images of outfits from influencers etc. I racked up a following of around 11k doing this and follow/unfollow via FollowLiker bot, mainly of potential customers within my niche. It's fairly easy to then just simply change the @ username for the IG page to your brand and go from there. This provides you with an element of a trust factor so that when someone visits your IG they don't see you as an amateur, potentially scammy brand, instead they see you as a brand which already has 11,000 people following them, so you can't be a threat to them. Compare this to the majority of people that start a clothing brand and think that just because they made some clothes and posted them on Instagram they should automatically acquire thousands of followers and hundreds of customers out of thin air 'just because'. I spent 5 months of posting every single day, configuring my follow/unfollow bot daily, all for the delayed objective of having that initial following when my brand launched.

    Think that's it for now. I'm pissed that I'm going to have to wait so long to get more stuff in. I feel like if I had investment the level to which I could quickly grow & scale the brand could be limitless. But I guess the slow & patient way it is instead. I'm still waiting to hear back on my loan application - if that gets approval I'll hopefully be able to jump a few gears ahead.
     
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  22. Paul Howard
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    Excited to read your journey. I'm actually in the fashion industry. I work for a large ecommerce as the head of SEO.
     
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  23. ChapoJR
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    ChapoJR Contributor

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    Thanks Paul. Not many fashion related threads on here so hopefully this can be a gateway for people looking to break into the industry.
     
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  24. AlessioLC
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    AlessioLC Bronze Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED Speedway Pass

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    I'm trying to do something on the clothing industry too, via a shopify store and everything, but i prefer to get thinner margins and have a constant stock (my supplier is in my city and got a software which allow me to order from home any product i want to be build) than having the same problem as yours, waiting for weeks to get your order.

    That's the problem that @Walter Hay was talking about.
     
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  25. CPisHere
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    CPisHere Bronze Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass

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    I'm interested in starting a Fashion Brand one day. I have a great market picked out, solid marketing plan, but the process of getting designs and factories is where I fall off - don't know anything about this other than "use alibaba" so I appreciate what you are willing to share on this.
     
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2017