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Clothes Horse: Fit Technology for Fashion E-Tailers

On StartUp FASHION it is our goal to bring you information and resources on every aspect of the fashion industry; from sourcing and manufacturing to marketing and retail. In light of this, when we hear about a promising new designer or an impressive new technology, we share it with you in hopes that it will inspire, educate, and motivate.   Today, the technology we would like to share is Clothes Horse, a tool that helps to solve the problem of buying clothes online only to find they don’t quite fit. What a pain.

Clothes Horse Fit Technology

Using sophisticated algorithms and a trove of human and brand-garment measurements, Clothes Horse’s focus is on making a product that can be used by online retailers (e-tailers) that is easy to use.

How does it work?
Shoppers simply answer a few brief questions about themselves and their favorite garments (only takes about 30 seconds, and no measuring tapes involved so don’t get all worked up!), and can then experience accurate recommendations at any Clothes Horse enabled retailer on the web.

We’re intrigued. Can this really work?  Well, today Clothes Horse has released a case study with a leading menswear brand, Bonobos, that demonstrates how they brought about a 13% sales increase as well as created a more engaging customer experience.

We’re very encouraged with the initial results we’ve seen from Clothes Horse. The team has been an incredibly responsive and open partner throughout the whole process,” said Craig Elbert, Bonobos VP of Finance + Analytics.

We think this a pretty smart innovation.  Think about it.  As more and more retailers start opening their sites and business to a global audience, this is an extremely valuable tool.

Who Can Benefit:

Designers: Emerging designers, as you work to get your product into the hands and websites of various retailers, understanding the functionality and value of a tool like this is imperative.  While it may seem like right now you would do just about anything to get a buyer to pay attention, it won’t always be like that. As you start to succeed in this industry you will understand the need to be selective about who carries your product. You will have a true brand and a desire to maintain your brand identity.  Recognizing what a tool like Clothes Horse can do for your product helps to define your retailer decision making process.

Online Retailers: Well, we pretty much made the case for you guys in the above paragraphs. Definitely check out that case study we mentioned.

Shoppers: As a (way too often for my own good) shopper of fashion, this tool just makes sense. The idea that I can create my specs and build my buying habits based on them, makes me worry a bit about my bank account.  But in all seriousness, I look forward to Clothes Horse becoming a widespread tool. I think it’s said best by Vik Venkatraman, Co-Founder of Clothes Horse : “We strike the perfect combination of rock-solid data, easy shopper experience, and focus on the retailer — our pricing is built around their ROI. It’s a no-brainer.”  We couldn’t agree more.

thebookr: Direct to Talent Online Model Booking Platform

Creating a fashion collection is a lot of work.  From sourcing and manufacturing to marketing and social media, the process never ends.  One aspect of the industry that designers might not think as much about is booking the right model for their photo shoots.  Contrary to what some may think, it’s not easy.  Recently, we heard about thebookr, a direct-to-talent online booking platform and the first of it’s kind.

thebookr

There is a reason why models are attractive.  Simply put, they make the clothes look better. Consumers aspire to look like these models and therefore will buy your clothes in order to get one step closer. Right? 😉   Anyway, when it comes to emerging designers, who quite often have limited funds, we often see a bit of a cop out when it comes to acquiring models for the photo shoot.  Guess what, you’re best friend might be attractive, but that doesn’t make her a model.  You’ve spent so much time and energy on your collection and more than likely a decent amount of money on the photographer.  Why stop short when it comes to the person who is presenting your work to the world?  It may sound a bit catty and, honestly, it kind of is, but so is fashion.  We have all decided to enter a field where the way you look matters.  In fact, it what the industry is built on.

For those of you who do understand the importance of hiring a professional model, how many of you have done so in the past only to find that he/she was not so professional after all…. getting stood up by your model on the morning of the shoot is not only frustrating, it’s infuriating.

So if you hear what we’re saying and need a little direction, this platform may be of use to you. The site still seems pretty young so there isn’t a ton of talent currently present.  But we think this is definitely something to keep your eye on. Here are some of the features:

  • Every talent and client must be approved by thebookr.
  • Search talent by city, category and/or other attributes with advanced search tools.
  • See up-to-date polaroids and videos of talent instantly.
  • See a talent’s availability instantly.
  • Follow talent by adding them to your favorites page.
  • Send talent portfolios to nonmembers for their review in the job board feature.
  • Talent sets their own rates.
  • Book multiple models / talent at once.
  • Keeps all your upcoming and past bookings in one place.
  • Bookings are secured and delivered with paypal.

You can also check out an interview with the founder on SF Fashion and Tech

Learn to Create Your Website with Codecademy

One of the most difficult aspects of starting a new business is the inevitable onslaught of tasks and responsibilities that come your way paired with a limited budget for hiring help.  The key is to prioritize and decide which are the tasks that you can handle yourself and which are the tasks that you should hire someone to help with. Normally I would say that anything involving website creation and coding should be left to professionals (based on my complete lack of web design skills) but recently I heard about something called Codecademy, which could possibly make me change my tune.

Codecademy

A website is such an important part of your overall business and brand identity that I’m not sure if I would ever feel comfortable attempting to create one on my own.  However, from what we can tell, this tool seems pretty easy to use. It kind of reminds us of the Rosetta Stone for html language…only it’s free.

Overall, we think Codecademy is worth a try, especially if a small startup budget is something you’re working with.  Let us know how it works out for you.

Fordham Law’s Fashion Law Institute

Fordham Law, based in New York City,  offers a service that you should all know about.  It’s called theFashion Law Institute, the world’s first fashion law center providing legal services for fashion designers. The institute also offers training for future fashion lawyers, and assistance on fashion related legal issues.

Fordham Law Fashion Law Institute

Started with support and advice from the  Council of Fashion Designers of America and its President Diane von Furstenberg, the Fashion Law Institute will focus on  intellectual property, business and finance,international trade and government regulation, and consumer culture and civil rights.

According to the website, “The Law School’s proximity to Manhattan’s Garment District will facilitate frequent interaction between the Fordham Law community and members of the fashion industry, including opportunities for internships at some of the world’s best-known fashion houses. Additionally, now that New York Fashion Week has moved to Lincoln Center’s Damrosch Park, fashion will literally be right outside the Law School’s front door.” Nice.

We were really excited to share this resource with you all because, frankly, this is something that you should without a doubt take advantage of. Reliable legal advice and services is absolutely imperative for any business venture but tend to be expensive and not always easy to come by.  Yes, there are places you can go to find pro brono help, but never have we seen easy access to law professionals who have a deep rooted understanding of the fashion industry and its unique issues an needs.

But don’t just take our word for it.  As a member of The Fashion Center’s Emerging Designer Group, we were treated to a review of the Fashion Law Institute’s services from a fellow member, the founder of FU e=fu8 Underwear, “I had my appointment on March 9th and it was absolutely amazing from beginning to end. [Fashion Law Institute] trys to have this once a month to help anyone in fashion with pro bono legal advice as it relates to the fashion industry…The Fordham attorneys were all very professional, enthusiastic and very helpful. Prior to my session they had already looked up my website; so they came to the meeting informed with some background research (which is half the battle). The attorneys were all exceptionally bright, knew their stuff and gave me very helpful advice. I had a very productive 45 minute session with them and would recommend it to anyone who needs fashion related legal advice.

Well there you have it; a fantastic resource for fashion designers and other fashion industry professionals has launched in New York and, it seems, is everything it claims to be: helpful, useful, necessary, and pro bono!

Contact Fashion Law Institute:
Professor Susan Scafidi
Fordham University School of Law
140 West 62nd Street
New York, NY 10023
fashion@law.fordham.edu

VIRB Makes It Possible to Create Your Own Website

Not too long ago we wrote about Codcademy, a free resource for learning to code your won website.   Prior to that, we talked about the importance Choosing an E-Commerce Platform for Your Emerging Fashion Brand. Obviously, we think having a spot-on web presence is crucial for the success of your fashion business.  So when we received an email from one of our readers, Rachel of Gregory Apparel, telling us about VIRB, we thought we’d share it with you.

Gregory Apparel e-commerce website

VIRB makes it possible to create your own website without having to know much code at all and charges a very reasonable $10/month.  Not bad.  However, we will say that it seems that VIRB does not support e-commerce but is more for building a presence online and that’s ok if you’re not yet ready to launch you’re own e-commerce just yet. Though we do recommend that you move into that realm at some point.

While we don’t personally have experience with VIRB, Rachel had nothing but great things to say about it.

I just read your article about Codeacademy and I’m very interested in giving this a try but I also wanted to mention that there is another company that makes website building a snap with very little code involved. In fact they have set a user friendly customizable format to help the not so savvy build their own site.  It’s called Virb.com, they are only about $10 month and I use it. It is so easy to set up. I highly recommend it to any start up company.

I was nervous about my branding when I first started and wanted to have flexibility of changing the site or uploading new pictures of garment as I made them. This lets me make changes easily when ever I need it. I’m not sure if you’ve heard of it before but I think it’s worth a look. I’m just figuring out now how to incorporate Google Apps with VIRB so I can have more professional email address for free.  With all of the things I need to worry about in my small business, this is not one of them.  Virb has put my mind at ease. 

So, if you’re looking to create your own site but don’t have time to learn the language of code, this might be something worth exploring.   We saw on their homepage that they offer a free 10 day trial so it seems like there’s not much to lose.

Does anyone else use it? What are you thoughts?

Let us know how it works out for you, if you decide to give VIRB a go.

Trend Forecasting Services for Emerging Designers

If a designer can get a good handle on what is going to sell in the coming season, they have gotten one step closer to building their brand. But with an emerging designer’s slim budget, it certainly may mean that using trend forecasting services is completely out of the question. However, it’s time to think again ladies and gents because there are so many ways to use trend forecasting services while staying in or under budget.

As many of you read in mylast article, I interviewed forecasting queen Wendy Bendoni of StyleLens and Design-Options. As Wendy  works for two of the biggest fashion forecasting companies, she had some great insight on the variety of resources that beginning designers can use to build and sell their brand. These resources includedtradeshows, lecturesbooks and stalking style blogs and different social media outlets.

To start, it is important to attend as many tradeshows and lectures as possible. Although we know that these tickets and attendance fees can get pretty pricey, many places such as the Cal Mart and Javits Center offer free lectures, festivals and shows. For example, this month the Javits has all kinds of events from the New York Green Festival to the Int’l Apparel Sourcing Show. These events are right on their website for you to check ticket fees, RSVP or just learn about what is going on next. The significance of networking is such a necessity in the fashion industry, making attending events for free even more essential.

In addition to popping up at all kinds of events, reading books is and educating yourself about all aspects of business is absolutely essential. When it comes to trend forecasting,  starting with books is a good way to go because it can help you learn the outlets you should target depending on what area of fashion you are working in. It will also give you the basic knowledge on what to look for when approaching blogs, street style, what is sellable or what to watch out for.

One of my personal favorites when it comes to keeping on top of trends is stalking your favorite social media outlets and blogs. Whether it’s Pinterest, your go-to style blogs, Instagram or LOOKBOOK, it is important that you stay up to date with what everyone is wearing and follow style icons or bloggers so you can learn their interests, lifestyle, hobbies, etc.

As each designer is different and has a different type of consumer, it is best to focus on maybe 3 or 4 different style bloggers that you feel would be the perfect customer. For example, some of my favorite style bloggers are Steffys Pros and Cons, Karlas Closet, Flashes of Style and Orchid Grey.

Also, when focusing on bloggers, once you’ve built your relationships,  consider doing things like product giveaways to see what the reaction of their followers is like because the bloggers followers are most likely your potential customers. do a little rowd sourcing.

With the dominance of Internet resources today, many trend forecasting companies have started public blogs where they post some of their latest projects and reports. Some companies who offer free information are StyleLens which has a 30 minute free pass to their entire website,WeConnectFashion which has opportunities to see past reports, trendstop which has a free trend blog andPolimoda which offers student services that are usually free or discounted.

These resources are for the most part what trend forecasting company’s focus on. So if you make the effort to utilize all of the amazing opportunities out there, you can become your own independent trend forecaster.

Social Discovery Meets Social Commerce on Fancy

Today’s world of e-commerce, social commerce and social discovery platforms has become blurred. There are many sites popping up every single day offering unique features that cater to a specific niche. As I always mention, we love this because it shows that there’s an increasing amount of opportunity to get exposure, market learnings, feedback and of course, sales from these start-ups.

Fancy

Our latest discovery is called Fancy. Simply put, it allows users to catalog items that they fancy. In the spirit of social discovery, you can peruse fashion, home, gadgets, art and many other categories. Fancy has piqued the interest of many well-known brands: Alexander McQueen, Anthropologie and J.Crew are listed on the site and drive consumers to theirs to make a purchase. Popular websites like Apartment Therapy and Cool Hunting have their own page too.

How it Works

When you register for Fancy, you get to choose people, brands and retailers that you would like to follow. My suggestion is to follow the people that are in your circle so you are on their radar and because you may eventually be able to connect with them.

Similar to Pinterest, instead of pinning, you get to “Fancy” an image that is shown in the shape of a popsicle and assign it to a board that you name. From here, you have the option to buy it from a retailer, sell it, or share it along with several other features.

If you’re a designer, brand, retailer or a consumer you can sign up for your own store and build your inventory accordingly. Transactions can be made within the site or through your own site as well.

How We See Fancy Helping Emerging Designers

Like many social sites, we see this as another avenue to promote your business and put yourself out there. Even if you haven’t launched your brand, you can still start to show people your brand voice and aesthetic. Whether you have your own store within Fancy or register as a user and upload photos, you can see the popularity of your own products. Perhaps you want to get feedback on a new style or color, Fancy acts as a way to get that consumer research.

At the same time, you get a chance to see what’s going on in the marketplace. You can see how many people Fancy an item and also see the origin, which can lead you to a retailer, fan or a person of interest.

Fancy seems to offer several different types of features that accommodate a variety of users. We think it’s worth checking out to see how Fancy can be an opportunity for your business.

Learn more at TheFancy.com

 

3 Resources to Help Optimize Your Email Signature

I’m guessing that most of your communication is done via email. Now, there may be some of you that decide to contact a buyer, editor or resource the old fashioned way by picking up the phone, and I applaud you for doing that, but chances are, email still reigns supreme.

I decided to write this article because I receive a lot of email with signatures that don’t tell me enough information about the brand. When you’re communicating with your network, especially if it’s a pitch or a first time inquiry, most people will want to learn a little more about your brand.

Think about how often we use Google or Facebook to investigate a person or a company. Giving your contact all the information they need to learn more about your business so they won’t have to search for it is key. For example, I like to look at a website to see a designer’s product line, but I also understand that a website may not be updated as frequently as social media sites and I’d like to get a complete understanding of the brand.

With that said, I check Twitter to understand a brand’s outward personality and Facebook to see what you are communicating to your followers, and of course, for photos.

If you make your recipient do additional work by searching for more details, they may get distracted by a call, email, text or stumble on to another website which could prevent them from making it to yours. Providing as much information as you can (without listing too much) is important because you want your reader to fully engage with your brand.

Adding your title, phone number, website and social media links to your signature is key. The most common way to do this is through a hyperlink that can be found in just about any email service such as Outlook, Gmail or through Apple’s mail service. If you decide to link your company’s information, you may want to consider using your colors to drive home branding and to also make your information pop on screen.

Here are 3 resources you can use to bring out your brand’s signature:

1. Wise Stamp allows you to bring “your online personality” to life. You can add your social media activity, quotes and social icons such as LinkedIn, which can be a valuable tool when connecting on a professional level. They have free and paid options depending on your needs.

2. Email Signature Pro is an iPhone app that provides your reader with a comprehensive signature which includes: a photo, two fields of text, a footnote, a customer banner for your logo and links to your social media accounts.

3. Sig Buzz is a free service that provides various signature templates, social media integration andanalytics to see click-thorough rates.

No matter which route you choose take, make sure your signature is concise, yet comprehensive and takes your reader through a journey through your brand.

Sustainable Fashion: From Fiber to Fabulous!

F.I.T. puts on some great events.  I spent all day yesterday at theFrom Fiber to Fabulous!  Sustainable Fashion Seminarand what a treat it was. I met amazing sustainable designers,ethical fashion activists, writers,marketers, entrepreneurs,students, industry pros….all with a desire to educate and share what they know in the world of sustainability while at the same time being open to learn about and consider new ideas, techniques, and perspectives.  Yes, it was exactly as inspiring as it sounds, if not more so.

I don’t mean to disappoint, but this article isn’t going to highlight any of what I experienced.  Not because I’m not bubbling over with amazing tid bits, thoughts, ideas, resources, and inspiration but because I am bubbling over with amazing tid bits, thoughts, ideas, resources, and inspiration.  So much so that I can’t share any of it yet. Give a girl a minute to organize her thoughts.

I can tell you this though.  Yesterday’s event has inspired me, as editor-in-chief of StartUp FASHION, to give more “air time” to sustainable design and resources.  Don’t get me wrong, I have always had a passion for sustainable practices in design; having taken Ethical Design classes at FIT, created my own eco-conscious accessories, and worked to open others up to the concepts and ideas through my writing.  However, here on StartUp FASHION I didn’t want to alienate those designers who are not implementing sustainable practices, and therefore tried not to “over do it” or be too preachy.

Here’s the thing, three years ago someone told me that designers who do not embrace sustainable practices will left behind, and I’ve always believed that to be true.

As a brand you need to stand for something and it sure as hell better be something that makes the world a better place. 

I was so inspired by the passion and commitment of the people I met, so many of whom I’ve been connected to virtually but never had the pleasure of an actual meeting, that I am making it a rule to focus more on sustainable practices in our articles.  I don’t see this as any kind of shift, I just keep going back to the “being left behind” comment and realized that if StartUp FASHION is truly going to act as an in-depth and business-building resource, we must stress the importance of sustainability when building a fashion business.  So expect all kinds of great articles next week on aspects of this event and a continuing education for our readers, there after.

I’ll leave you with this quote from Nick Hahn of Hahn International, “Anything you can do to bring sustainability into the [fashion] industry, is a home run.”

Happy weekend!

Do You Design Fashion Based on Trends?

As many trends come and go t like seems like the speed of light, it is important for you, as designers, to know which trends are vital to keep in mind and which ones can be tossed away. In my previous articles, I’ve discussed theimportance of understanding current trends and iftrending tools are always a must. And from these it is apparent that designers should at least know and understand what trends are and how much of an impact they can have on the success of a fashion label.

On one hand, sticking to trends can be a bit of a risk especially when just starting out.  The definition of a fashion trend is a fad, meme or craze that develops among a large population and is collectively followed with enthusiasm for some period of time. This period of time could last anywhere from 1 month to 10 years, making trends extremely chancy and at times unreliable. It makes one think that perhaps sticking to basic and classic designs are a smarter bet.

However, when we look at what is now considered a “classic and timeless style“, we need to remember thatthese seemingly safe concepts were once trends too; trends that were so successful they managed to stand the test of time.  For example, the simple shirtdress was the considered a hot fad in the 1950’s  and women were going crazy to add a piece to their wardrobe. Yet today you can still find women of all ages rocking a variation of this timeless fashion silhouette.

What does this mean?  Well, ultimately it’s up to you as the designer to decide which way you’d would like to go. Designing with trends in mind can assist you in creating pieces that will sell at that very moment that the trend is in demand; marketability and sale-ability are important aspects to successful business and in fashion sometimes risks are necessary in order is see growth.

With that said, if you are more interested in making pieces that will always be desired and therefore live as staples in consumers’ closets, then steering clear of trends would probably be the smarter choice.  Many sustainable designers think this way, as wasteful disposal of perfectly good clothing is something they cringe to see.

In my opinion, it is important for designers to look to where they want to be in so many years. In learning who your customer is, you will be better prepared to make the right decision.

So, what’s the consensus?  How many of you think about and incorporate trends into your work?  We’d love to know.