When it comes to starting your own sustainable fashion line, the idea of going from concept to launch can be very overwhelming. This is because you are focused on the here and now and not over the course of a year. These things take time, which is why this article, as well as my other sustainable fashion business articles, break down these topics into manageable pieces.
Here are the 10 most effective pieces of advice I can give to a budding entrepreneur, trying to make their way into the fashion industry.
Establish Your Own Definition of a Sustainable Fashion Line
So in a broad sense, sustainability is all about the balance between people, the planet, and the economy. When you start a sustainable fashion line, you need to establish what that means for you and your business. Some businesses tend to focus more on the eco side than ethical side while others go for a cheaper product that may not be as eco-friendly as a more expensive product.
In the world of a sustainable fashion line, there is no right answer, especially when we are competing against unsustainable businesses on top of competing with each other. Define what is most important to you and try to stick to it. If you build it, they will come. Just try to do your best.
Always Collect New Ideas
This is advice for not just starting a sustainable fashion business, but for businesses in general, and even life in general. You’re going to have an idea that you want to run with, but it might not work with the rest of the ideas and limitations you have. It’s okay. Pivot, and move on. Keep collecting new ideas and combining them with other ideas you haven’t even thought of before.
Research your System
Entrepreneurs are simply creators of systems. In order to make a better system than the one before, you’re going to have to do your research. I talk a lot about some resources for fashion designers on my other articles. Keep collecting as many resources as possible so you have them even when you don’t need them.
Some helpful resources that helped me along the way:
- US Census Data
- Calling Your Country’s Consultant
- The Lean Startup Book
Connect with Helpful People
Collecting resources, connecting ideas, and interacting with other helpful people are key to success in any field. I have my own network of mentors and support groups to get me through a lot of different projects. It’s always good to have friends that you can bounce ideas off of.
- Local Speaking Groups
- Conferences in your Field
Solve a Problem, Don’t Just Stand Out
Many new business owners make the mistake of creating something just for the sake of creating it… not necessarily to solve a problem. If you don’t solve a problem, you have to rely on making a problem just to fix it or constantly marketing to people to make them feel like they will have a problem if they don’t buy your product. Going into the business mindset with a problem and a solution in mind will allow you to focus on solving real-life problems that will keep rewarding you.
Communicate Clearly and Assertively
You will need to work with a lot of people in order to make your sustainable fashion line successful. You’re not just only going to need to communicate with your audience, but with the manufacturing, supply, and distribution employees. Save yourself from coming off as unprofessional by communicating clearly and assertively.
Set Hard Deadlines
For similar reasons as above, it’s important to set hard deadlines. I, myself, struggle with this one personally because I want to be more optimistic about what can be done in a set amount of time. Unless if you give hard deadlines, they will almost always run over time because other people’s priorities are not always your priorities. Your priorities become more of a priority when you set harder deadlines. However, if they aren’t met, you need to be a balanced mixture of forgiving and assertive so they won’t keep being misses. Virtually everyone struggles with this, so give yourself a break if it takes more than what you anticipated.
Just. Keep. Uploading.
As the wise Casey Neistat would say: Just. Keep. Uploading. In this regard, he is talking about making youtube videos, but it is prime advice for anyone owning a business. There may be some hesitation in making videos of yourself, promoting your image, and selling your products because we are rooted in a society-wide double bind of shame. If you’re successful you shouldn’t have to self-promote, and constantly upload new content, but you need to self-promote and constantly upload new content (and products) in order to be successful.
We hate people who brag and overpromote, yet we feel pity for people who sell themselves short and there doesn’t seem to be an answer. The answer is not a clear-cut one, but to balance between the two extremes. While it may cause a bit of personal uncertainty and hesitation when you’re starting out, it will come in time. Just keep uploading, and creating new things and eventually, something will stick.
Stick to Your Core Values
Speaking of sticking, it’s important to maintain a set of core values over the years that it will take for you to reach your dreams. Whether it is starting a sustainable fashion line or any other kind of business. I can guarantee your vision of success will not pan out exactly as you picture it now. You will need to pivot, and if not, you aren’t dreaming big enough. Through all that, you should identify your core values and stick to them from the beginning.
Never Be Afraid to Ask for Help or Criticism
As Elon Musk would say “Constantly seek criticism. A well thought out critique of whatever you’re doing is as valuable as gold.” Help and criticism are touchy subjects for a lot of people. Instead of feeling less than adequate that you need help, or cringe at any kind of criticism, realize that receiving help and criticisms are the best ways you will grow.
Through all these bits of advice, I know it is not a clear-cut answer on how to start a sustainable fashion line. However, if you keep these principles in mind, you will be able to develop your own sustainable fashion line independent of anything that has been done before. By doing so you will be immune to copycats, and not be stuck following in someone else’s footsteps.
The fashion industry is an ever-changing industry at large, and the next big thing will be a shift towards more sustainable fashion. By being prepared for this shift, and acting accordingly, you will be able to set yourself up for a successful sustainable fashion line. That’s why I put together a free worksheet to help you identify your sustainable fashion niche.