Starting a fashion collection is not an easy task. The world is “flooded” with garments of all sorts. From the cheapest to the most exclusive luxury brands, all strive to be as appealing as possible. But what are the principles upon which one can start and launch successfully a fashion brand? This is the question that Oman Observer reader Priya asked me on LinkedIn.
She was unsure about her distribution strategy. So I suggested that she first worked at market research, figuring out what type of opportunities are available. Oman has a standardized traditional outfit. This could be seen as a limitation for a foreigner wanting to start a new clothing line. Definitely, if we were to look at the mere numbers, the largest majority of the Omani nationals, are less inclined to buy non-traditional clothes, especially now that travel opportunities have severely been limited. However, there is a flip side of the coin. Priya could find a small niche market with a strong demand for non-traditional clothes, due to scarcity of alternatives.
She told me that she had already designed some female garments with floral patterns, and natural prints. So we agreed that the majority of her customers could be a mix of cultures, although the Indian community could be her primary target for the initial distribution in Oman. Moreover, she came up with is a brand name, combining her initials with a Hindi word.
Having cleared the market questions with Priya, here were some generic rule of thumb principles that could be applied to any fashion brand: A good way to address entry level market as well as those clients willing to pay more for a premium feeling, is to launch both a pret-a-porter and a couture collection. These are both French words that refer loosely to “ready to wear” and “bespoken”.
By doing so, fashion brands can be appealing to different segments of the market. For example. ‘D&G’ is the more affordable collection of Dolce e Gabbana. The same goes for ‘Armani Jeans’ and Giorgio Armani, ‘CK’ and Calvin Klein, etc.
The definition of “fashion design” is a bit of an oxymoron. Fashion itself is linked to seasonal styles, thus mutable, while design is not. For example the famous Barcelona Chair, which belongs to Design, was designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Lilly Reich in 1929, and still perfectly palatable for architect in 2022. But clothes produced in 1929 would look awkwardly outdated if wore today.
Thus, fashion stylist (a more appropriate term) should come up with bite size collections in line with current trends. Conceptualizing and producing evergreen accessories and clothes is a goal that only a handful of fashion stylist have ever managed to achieve.
Niches create loyal customers willing to pay more. I speak as a consumer here. There is one particular brand of shoes that I fancy. This month I bought my 5th pair. I find this particular brand, the most comfortable. Similarly petite or plus size women, can find in a niche fashion brand the type of clothes that can hardly be found elsewhere.
To conclude, Priya should aim for a niche to build brand recognition. Perhaps limiting her collection to a handful of colors at first, so that customers will soon identify her style. (The writer is a member of the International Press Association)