When starting a fashion brand, who is more important? Fashion designer or customer?
19/01/17 13:53 Filed in: Fashion Start Up Tips
I am reading Fashion for Profit by Frances Harder to decide if I am up to starting a fashion brand. Today's topic is Getting Started - chapter 2. The most important point I got from chapter 2 was asking the question, "who is more important, the designer or the customer?" Do I follow my own fashion tastes to create my brand or do I follow my target customer fashion tastes. Is the customer king or am I, the fashion designer, king? This is a dilemma common to those starting a fashion brand. I think it is important to decide who will drive your fashion design decisions. You, the designer, or the customer? What do you think?
In chapter 2 Frances encourages us to research our customers before launch into starting a fashion brand. She suggests that we ask ourselves, "What does the customer want? What can the customer afford? What does the customer think of our product?" The first two questions assume that we design for the customer. The last question assumes that we design according to our own wants and then ask for the customers opinion. So, who's "wants" are more important? The fashion designers' or the customers'?
To put it another way, when a brand designs new collections, what drives their design decisions? The customers' wants or the designers' wants? If we give a black and white answer, then the brand owner either puts the customers wants first OR puts the designers wants first. Before starting a fashion brand I believe it's important to figure out what drives design decisions.
Frances does not expand on this point in the Getting Started chapter of her book; I think it is critical to think about this choice before getting started. A friend of mine has a fashion brand that she started many years ago; I see her struggling and I believe that one reason she struggles is because she flip flops between following what she thinks the customers want and what her design team wants. So, which way is better? Or, is it ok to be in the grey area and allow both the customer and the design team to drive design decisions when starting a fashion brand?
If my point is not clear, consider this example. Let's say pink is the trendy color. If pink is trendy then it means pink is what the customer wants. Problem is that design team members hate pink. If the customers' wants, drive design decisions, then the design team must design a pink collection whether they like it or not. Is this what a fashion designer is supposed to do? Can fashion designers design against their will and be effective? Can a brand blossom when the designers are following customer's wants instead of their wants?
If you put the customers wants first and produce at their price point, then isn't it a guarantee that they will like your brand and buy? If your brand follows the customers needs, wants, tastes and price level then can we be sure the brand will be successful? I think this is a good strategy if starting a fashion brand.
The hard part to this customer-first strategy is to ignore the fashion designers tastes and design according to the customers tastes. Fashion designers by definition are artists that create based on their inspirations, creative ideas - not someone else's - right? So is Frances suggesting to design according to the customers' wants or design according to your wants? Does she clearly recommend one strategy over the other?
I think she leaves it open because the reality is that the fashion business is not black and white. If I were starting a fashion brand, then I would first decide who is more important, you the designer or the customer. I would choose the customers' wants over my fashion design ideas. If I am starting a fashion brand and hiring more fashion designers then I would tell them of my decision and make sure they are willing to disregard their wants and put the customers first.