The Five Stages of launching a fashion accessories brand…

Over the last few years I have worked with many people on the early stages of conceiving, developing and launching a fashion accessories brand. There is no right way to do this - but there are some common threads and some key decisions along the way which I thought I would share with you.

Boxer Bags by Paradise Row

Boxer Bags by Paradise Row

As our recent case study about exciting new fashion handbag brand Paradise Row makes clear, there are so many roles involved in launching a brand, it is good to know which bits you don’t want to do, and practice the art of delegating as soon as you can!

  1. Design: It all starts here. Whether you are a stylist, have a ‘concept’ or are a maker at heart, the first stage is always to really invest in your designs. Map them, develop them, take them further. Test them out. Not everyone is a natural three-dimensional pattern cutter, and not everyone can draw professionally - what matters is not where you fall on this spectrum, but recognising your strengths and weaknesses and finding strategies to effectively communicate your ideas.
  2. Market research: This never stops! Look, look and look again. Analyse, compare, ask cheeky questions. How do other people do it, how does the market break down? Who, really are your competitors? Are you sure? What are your outlets likely to be? The same goes for materials sourcing and costing (beware the ‘fantasy cashflow' forecast…) This part can be addictive and fun, as you gather more inside knowledge and your confidence grows.

  3. Business model: We all want to be stocked in Liberty, but what are the steps to get there? Actually - with niche marketing and online presence all-important these days - some people find that the wholesale route is not for them after all, a direct sales model fits their needs much better. Work out how you want to spend your time, and money, so that your creative and entrepreneurial needs are fulfilled over time. Do you love or hate Trade Fairs? How much time of your time do you want to spend in creative development? What is your idea of success? Mapping these things before you start can help you achieve longevity, once the initial, seductive ‘learning curve’ is over…
  4. Timing: Accessories brands have different rhythms depending on whether they are high fashion, ‘lifestyle’ or classic/iconic, but you must be in tune with the seasonal cycles in order to maximise sales.  Prototyping and sampling are not the same thing!  Once a design has been developed and tested - both ‘market’ tested and ‘stress’ tested - tweaked, adjusted, (hurled around the room…) you will need to co-ordinate samples, photoshoots, manufacture and delivery deadlines so that they dovetail in time for your launch. 
  5. Manufacture: Ah, yes! If only there were a simple way to describe this process, in the U.K at any rate. Preparation is key - be ready. A manufacturer wants a client who is in a position to supply repeat steady business. If you have done your homework, developed your ideas and your business plan in tandem, and are ready to hit the ground running, then…a whole other journey begins!

Whatever stage you are at, if you would like to chat through some ideas or get some specific technical help, do get in touch for a one-to-one consultation.

LFW Accessories edit 2016

In a rainy and cold week, London seemed to have a case of the blues with strong turquoise, cobalt and aqua prominent among the off-stage accessories sported by the fashionistas and blogging wannabes posing outside venues.

Rubik's Cubism: Anya Hindmarch

Rubik's Cubism: Anya Hindmarch

Colour blocking is still a big story, with our very own Anya Hindmarch giving it a new flick of the wrist with a clever, Rubik’s cube inspired collection featuring panels of coloured squares in homage to the retro puzzle. The humorous, statement bag was further mined at Sophia Webster with speech-bubble shaped clutches sporting wise-cracks such as “To die for” and “Talk is cheap”.

Structured bags and boxy over-sized totes continue to dominate some collections, opening the show in blush and black at Christopher Kane.

We warmed to the home-spun, punky feel of newcomer Carianne Moore’s bowlers and backpacks with crackle-paint and over-stitched edges - a DIY aesthetic that chimes well with the Designer Course ethos (see the Leather Fashion Accessories weekend).

The showcase from the latest clutch of MA graduates at LCF Fashion Artefact is usually a strong showing of artisan ingenuity and leather-love. Our favourites this year were Thais Cipoletta with her articulated spine-like strap structures and immaculate hand-stitching, and the delicate copper and artex colour story by Gaia Marcattilj - check out the whole crop at Showtime

Poignantly, there was a dusting of appliqueéd and cut-out stars through a number of collections - Eddie Harrop, Agnelle perhaps in honour of the passing of the Starman earlier this year...