This time around we had the honour to talk to a true fashion industry heavyweight and have some real insights shared with our readers as we ask her what she thinks about the modern face of fashion.
Alison Lewy MBE is a fashion industry expert, author and founder of Fashion Angel , a fashion business support agency offering mentoring, training, networking events and access to start-up funding for fashion industry entrepreneurs.
S: How do you feel about the state of fashion at this moment?
A: The nature of the fashion industry is that it’s always changing but the speed of that changing is getting ever faster. Brands are adopting different business models, other than the traditional seasonal approach. Many now sell direct to the consumer rather than wholesaling to retailers. In the UK, uncertainty with Brexit has damaged consumer confidence, leading to a slowdown in sales, however overall there is optimism and forecasts show industry sales growth to nearly triple between 2016 and 2018, from 1.5 percent to between 3.5 to 4.5 percent. There are still market segments performing well, particularly athleisure, and those in the ‘affordable luxury’ space. Fashion labels that focus on export are also doing well, and ‘Made in UK’ definitely adds value to a brand.
S: May we ask about trends and buzzwords we get to hear a lot from just about anyone: Eco, Recycled, Sustainable. Is this just a fab or are these trends here to stay?
A: I think interest in sustainability and concerns over ethical sourcing, both from designers and consumers, is here to stay. However invariably sustainably sourced products do cost more, and designers often find that consumers are not yet willing to pay the extra cost.
S: A lot people are trying to get into fashion, also people who are not originally from this industry. Why?
A: We have a world class fashion education system in the UK which also attracts a large amount of International students, and with over 4000 designer graduates a year, it’s not surprising many wish to start their own brands. It’s a high profile industry which from the outside looks very glamorous! They don’t necessarily realise how complex it is and how much hard work, passion and finance is needed to succeeded. In addition, as you say, there are many starting up that are not from the industry, but who spot a gap in the market, and have the necessary entrepreneurial skills to get to market.
S: What can you recommend to garment Start-ups reading? What should they focus more/less on?
A: Designers are usually interested in the creative side but not the business side, but you can’t have one without the other. In fact only about 10% of time is often spent on designing – the rest is managing the business. At the start, it’s important thing to do the market research and develop a clear business plan that sets out the strategy and funding required. A lot of the work we do is supporting designers with this. My book Design Create Sell – a guide to starting and running a successful fashion business, is a good starting point. The Business of Fashion is also a useful resource.
S: Might sound as a silly question, but Is there a recipe for success in fashion?
A: If only it were that easy… There are certain elements that need to be in place – you have to start with a good product and understand what your target customers want, create a Unique Selling Point and brand personality, to set you apart from the competition. You then need to have found the right manufacturers that can produce your products at the right price and quality. Alongside this you need a strong marketing strategy, and then the finance has to be in place to make it happen.
S: Let’s talk about the penetration of technology into the modern fashion world. What are your thoughts?
A: Technology has disrupted all aspects of the industry and the speed you can get products to market. This ranges from technical advances in fabrics, the way products are designed, sourced and manufactured, to giving brands the ability to sell direct to the consumer online, without high set up costs. The rise of social media has allowed brands to reach their customers effectively and become global businesses from their kitchen table! Overall I think it’s an exciting time, however the downside of it being easier to start a fashion brand, is there’s so much more competition.
S: What trends should we watch out for in the coming years?
A: There’s a lot of investment & development going in to developing sustainable fabrics and smart performance fabrics.
Consumers are increasingly looking to buy customised or the ability to personalise clothing.
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