The struggle to launch your own fashion label

Adorn Clothing founders Rishi Patel, left, and Eugene Heemi.
Kirk Hargreaves

Adorn Clothing founders Rishi Patel, left, and Eugene Heemi.

Fashion is a business that can break entrepreneurs like no other.

Those wanting to start their own label face intense competition in a world saturated with talent. Creating something new and then convincing people to buy it is just the first step. 

As big brand clothing lines churn out more and more affordable and fashionable items, the challenge for those selling boutique labels at higher prices increases. Consumers increasingly want more for less. 

Christchurch founders of fashion label BlackEyePeach Natalia Baird and Lucille Ness.
BlackEyePeach

Christchurch founders of fashion label BlackEyePeach Natalia Baird and Lucille Ness.

Even if the product can lure buyers away from shopping malls and discount websites, start-ups must also front start-up cash to create their first line, find manufacturers overseas and then ensure they deliver. 

Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology fashion tutor Nathan Ingram says fashion is hyper-competitive and classes are always full with the next wave of hopefuls. 

It has the cool factor and is an industry many want to make their name in. 

Students are taught not only the basics of design and construction, but also how to get their business off the ground. 

"You have to be aware of the business side of it," he says. "You're not just coming up with innovative ideas."

Ingram says in today's technology-driven world, it is possible to create an internationally successful fashion brand using Christchurch as a base. 

"The world's only getting smaller."

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His advice to aspiring designers? Spend some time working with a successful brand to learn how they operate. Have a proper business plan. 

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BlackEyePeach designs for the professional woman who wants a classic wardrobe with a streetwear edge. 

In the two years since they started the label, founders Lucille Ness and Natalia Baird have released four collections. They have a strong regular customer base and are i now finalising their Spring/Summer 2015 line. 

This winter they will fly to Vietnam to work alongside their ethically handpicked team of tailors and manufacturers. 

Baird says starting BlackEyePeach wasn't easy. The idea formed when they both approached the end of their university degrees and decided they wanted to create something for themselves rather than finding 9-5 jobs. They had no fashion education beyond choosing their own - albeit stylish - clothes.

They spent a year planning, finding manufacturers and perfecting their first collection. By visiting the people they work with in Vietnam, they can ensure all products turn out to the standard they expect. 

Start-up cash came from savings and investment from people they already knew. They sell mostly online to reduce overheads.

But they often run pop-up shops around Christchurch for a real-world presence. 

Working from Christchurch has its challenges - mostly when it comes to developing a customer base - and advantages. Ness and Baird found the support in Canterbury  xcellent. They have regular business mentors and say Cantabrians have "taken a leap" in fashion recently. 

In the next year, they hope to leave part-time employment and earn a full-time living from the label. 

"It doesn't seem far away now," Ness says. "It's now a realistic next step."

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It all started at a friend's 21st birthday party. Rishi Patel was working as a social media brand promoter and Eugene Heemi had done about six months at fashion school. 

The pair talked fashion all night, eventually deciding to collaborate and start their own label some time down the track. 

Patel had $200. They spent it on some baseball caps, sold them, and upped their slush fund to $400. A cash injection from a childhood savings account boosted their funds to $1000 and allowed them to create their first collection under the label Adorn Clothing

It sold out. 

Price-wise, their clothing is pitched somewhere between Hallensteins and high-end and has a strong streetwear vibe. 

Patel manages the business side of things and is studying marketing, and Heemi does a lot of the design. 

They outsource production to Pakistan and China and mostly communicate their ideas to manufacturers via Skype - a system which does have its pitfalls. They have had some product disasters, mostly as a result of the language barrier, and this year Patel will visit companies overseas to establish a better relationship. 

But their online sales are strong and they are now planning their next line. In the end, all it took was $200 and determination. 

 - Stuff

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