Fashion businesses come in many forms. Some grow organically out of a home sewing room. They have a both at local markets and an online shop; then they start to sell in a few boutiques, hire on some sewists, and maybe look into manufacturing in a factory. Other fashion businesses work for a year or two behind the scenes to establish production partners, generate buzz, and strategically develop their branding so they can make a big splash when they launch.
If you’re in the latter camp – a business-minded fashion startup – you probably know the importance of good visual branding. You know that starting a business requires an upfront investment and you have been saving/begging to get your inheritance early/planning a crowdfunding campaign/searching for pirate booty.
If your business has been growing more slowly, you probably started out with a basic DIY logo or got one for cheap via crowdsourcing or from your cousin’s boyfriend. Even if your cousin’s boyfriend is a trained graphic designer, your $100 probably didn’t pay for an in-depth look at what’s best for your business. But honestly, that’s fine if you are in that early stage of selling home-sewn garments at your local artisan market. Even I won’t fault you for that.
But perhaps you’re in this slowly growing camp and you’ve reached a stage where what worked for you at the beginning no longer fits. The room you started in is too small and there’s too much for just one person to do. But you still hold off on investing in your visual branding, because it’s so freakin’ expensive. Well, as I discussed last week, there are some moments in your business when doing it right the first time will save you money later.
01. You’re going to bulk order packaging or printed materials.
Any time you are making a bulk order of product or packaging materials, you’re making an investment in your business. Maybe you’re ordering garment tags or customized poly mailers or maybe you’re a sewing pattern designer who started by selling PDF patterns, but now you want to offer printed patterns.
Don’t spend hundreds or thousands of dollars stocking up on products or packaging with the wrong branding. You’ll feel embarrassed using it and may very likely end up with boxes of unused stock because six months later you decided to rebrand. Or you put off rebranding because you have all these mailers to get through.
02. You’re establishing a brick and mortar shop.
Establishing a brick and mortar shop requires lots of decisions and a big investment. As you’re carefully planning every gorgeous detail of your retail space, remember: there’s no use in paying for a sign featuring a logo you don’t like. This also applies if you’re heading to bigger artisan markets like the One of a Kind Show, Renegade Craft Fair or a trade show. You’re putting a lot of thought and time and money into a physical space, and you want it to look as good as possible – and in line with your brand.
This is also a moment where you’re establishing your brand in a whole new way. That might be an indicator that your brand has shifted, or it might just be a moment to make sure that your branding is the right fit. Will your logo attract the right kind of foot traffic into the store or booth? People will be making lots of judgements from the sidewalk, and if your logo makes your business look like it’s not for them, they won’t bother coming inside. (Even if they would totally adore your garments.)
03. You’re reaching out to press or approaching wholesale buyers.
You’re making connections and developing a brand story; or perhaps you’re reaching out to local boutiques that match your aesthetic. So why aren’t you getting any traction? The problem might be your visual branding.
In a conversation with Lorraine from PressDope, she posed the question: “Do you have a press problem or a branding problem?” When a website or shop features your business, it reflects back on them. They are less likely to recommend businesses that don’t immediately “look the part.” Sure, your sustainable activewear might be a perfect fit for that blog’s eco-conscious adventurers, but if your logo is obviously outdated and your website is convoluted, they might be hesitant to associate with you.
So before making a big push for press or wholesalers, consider: will my branding reflect well on them? will it be attractive to their audience? If not, it’s time to consider investing in your visual branding.
04. You’re planning a crowdfunding campaign.
You’re making the switch to manufacturing your garments in a factory and you need a big upfront payment before they will produce your first collection. To raise money, you’ve decided to run a crowdfunding campaign. You’ve seen how successful these have been for other brands and you’re prepared to put in the work and hire professionals to help you when you need it (especially for the important introduction video!).
So why are you still using the logo your cousin’s boyfriend designed for you when you were sewing out of your home? Does it perfectly express your business? Will it tell your target customers “this brand is for you”? If not, take care of your visual branding before you spend six months or more crafting the perfect crowdfunding campaign.
Investing In Your Business’s Future
When you make a big investment of money or time, it shows that you are planning for the future of your business. This isn’t a hobby business anymore. You’re going to have boxes upon boxes of customized packing supplies filling up your closets, so now is the time to invest in your visual branding too. You’ll get more out of your other investments and you’ll feel more confident in your business too. It’s a win-win.
If you’re still having trouble spending the money on your visual branding, how about you start out with a strong foundation. I offer a basic logo and branding package that you can build out on your own or have a pro build in stages so it’s easier on the wallet.