I attended a workshop at the Brooklyn Public Library called “Getting Started in the Fashion Business.” Our Meetup group Fashion Drawing Session, hosted by WYRT (Would You Rock This?), had the opportunity of being able to attend this workshop with some pretty amazing speakers. Nellie Partow, a fashion designer, and Christine Helm, FIT’s Enterprise Center Coordinator, both gave very informative insight into the fashion business. There was also Sujatha Sebastian, the director of the Women’s Business Center who talked about their services and upcoming workshops on anything from writing a business plan to learning the difference between an LLC and incorporating your business.
Most of the workshop was from Nellie’s perspective and how she got started into the business. It’s really interesting to note that she started out as a business major and then moved on to pursue fashion design at Parsons. She’s a really inspiring individual and I liked that she talked out some very important things. Here are some of them:
- Relationships and business networks are extremely important and fundamental to any kind of business. Meet as many people as you can, ask a lot of questions to those who always know more than you do. Build a network, it is sometimes about luck and who you know.
- Know what you want to do first before you start a business and be focused. Figure out what you’re good at and what your strongest asset is.
- It is important to intern and work for other people to gain experience into the business you want to go into. She talked about interning for a smaller company and that it could benefit you in the long run because you learn a wider range of experiences and perspectives. Work in the industry you want to be in.
- Know your brand, figure out what your target market is, do the research and see what people are looking for, and also doing research on your competitors.
- Know that as a creative, you are ideally getting into a business and that’s the reality of it. There are so many aspects that go into starting your own business. It’s hard work and preparing ahead of time for the season collections and production takes time to prepare as well. Throughout the year, she is focused solely on the business side and only two weeks out of the year does she ever get to do any real design work.
- Bring a look book and set price points before you meet with a buyer. You have to know how much the manufacturers are costing you and minimums as far getting your products made. It’s all trial and error, testing it and seeing if works. The buyers will want to know if you can make them money.
- You’ll grow through out the process and will find people that want to help and support you. There are good people out there who genuinely want to help you.
- Don’t be afraid to make mistakes or fail the first time.
- As far as products and where to get started, find something you like the quality of and base it on that and use as an example to bring to manufacturers so that they get a better of what you are looking for. Always use visuals and pictures!
- Always, trust your gut and don’t waiver from it. You make the choice whether a piece is good or not, and allowing yourself to go through a process of development.
Christine had a few importnat things to say as well:
- Take classes and workshops related to the type of business you want to get into, skills you want to brush up on, and study.
- You have to really get out of your comfort zone and talk to people. If you really want to take career in fashion design seriously, you have to do the work and just put yourself out there.
- Research and read up on how other brands got started, but remember that everyone has a different experience and how it unfolds to you is unique to you.
Christine teaches a workshop series at FIT called Design Entrepreneurs NYC. It’s free and covers everything to running your own label as well as many other aspects such as marketing, operations, and financial management.
I seem like a very unlikely person to have attended this workshop since I am an illustrator and story artist for animation. Nonetheless, this workshop was useful in that it provided a first hand experience and account from a designer and business owner. Anybody looking to start their own business would have found it very invaluable.
The originial image was created by memyni.