Monday, August 27, 2007

Indie Designers - more stylish and affordable

I've been overwhelmed by all the great indie designers I've met lately. That's one of the many great things about fashionCEO. I meet some really cool, creative people. Not all the talent is sitting on the shelves of Nordstroms, that is for sure. There are so many talented designers out there creating bags, jewelry and clothing and operate as a small business. Its a little like finding a diamond in the rough (or is it ruff)? I know its easy to go into Target or Macys and pick up a cute handbag, I've done it myself, but I've decided that I'd rather spend my money on the incredibly stylish indie products that are out there. Here are a few examples:

This cute duffel bag by Eleni Bags is just $68.00

The "Isn't She Lovely" Eleni Evening bag retails for $52.00. What a deal! More money in the bag for the cosmo!

This Custom Name Bracelet by Little Gems is a stylish steal at $38.25.

I love this dress by reddoll. I loved it even more after I saw the price. $45.00! Available at Smashing Darling. This is a steal!

I could go on (and will in future posts) about all the incredible talent out there in the indie fashion world. Next time you are looking for a deal, before running off to Target, find a great indie designer and help support her business! (and don't get me wrong, I'm a huge Target fan, but mostly for DVD's, picture frames, etc).

Have a favorite indie designer? Let me know about them!

Have a fashionable day!


Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Have a Vision for your Brand

When I started down my handbag development journey, I often struggled with the direction I wanted to go. That comes from a lack of focus. I struggle with focus. I tend to get alot of ideas going and then I get overwhelmed. I think the main reason my line has not gone to market is because of just that...focus for my line. What do I want, a luxury brand or middle of the road brand? Do I want to appeal to the massess or to the people who can afford a $500 leather bag (which isn't luxury by the way). Do I want to sell my line direct to the public, strictly through wholesale or both? Do I want to have my bags made in the U.S. or overseas? I often wobbled around these questions, never really defining my brand. Obviously how you define your brand on day 1, isn't necessarily what it ends up being once you officially launch. You have to adapt and change based on costs, feedback, etc. But its good to have a vision for your line when you start down the development path.

I struggled alot with my brand. I started out wanting a line that was affordable and appealing to women between LA and NYC. I wanted a broader range of women to be my target market, not just big city women with money. But as I started buying leather and finding sewing contractors (in the U.S.), I realized I needed to charge alot more for my designs. My line "drifted" towards being a more expensive product and appealing to a different set of women. I have often been drawn to the fancy bags in the stores in New York. I think subconciously that is what I wanted my brand to be, but on the surface I wanted to be different and have a great product for women my age who could afford my price range (closer to the $100 mark - not the $500 mark). Somehow I lost my vision and got confused as to what I wanted. It really shouldn't be this difficult, but because I didn't have a clear focus, my goals became clear as mud. I went forward with samples that were made at a New Jersey factory, but they were too expensive for the crowd I wanted to market them to. So now what?

Define your brand and work from there. My suggestion is to not buy fabric and get samples made and then determine your pricing and target market after the fact. If you have at least an idea of what you want your retail price to be, you can work backwards. You want a bag that retails for $150.00. Okay, then you know you need to buy fabric at a certain price and have cost of production meet a certain price so that you can comfortably wholesale and retail your product and still make money. Who is your target market? Can they afford or will they pay for your $150 bag? Where do you plan to sell your line? On your website or through boutiques? If you are selling wholesale, you need to make sure your costs are low enough for you to do that while still maintaining a reasonable retail price AND making a profit. Its alot to think about, but its just simple math. Do alot of research for materials that meet your cost requirements. If your bags are low priced, then you may have to look to an overseas factory or a small local factory. If you go overseas, can you meet their minimums (visit IBC if you are exploring this route - they help with overseas minumums). If you go with a smaller factory, can they meet YOUR quality and potential minumum requirements. Lots to think about!

Avoid some costly mistakes by creating a vision for your brand. Define your target market. Its okay to stray from this, but stay in control of it. Don't let it control you!

BTW, I think I'm going to scrap my leather line and start fresh with my original vision. I recently came to this conclusion. I still want to do what I wanted to do from the very beginning, but somehow I lost my way. Ugh! I've spent so much getting this far, but its not what I want, so back to the drawing board! Don't tell my husband!!! Learn from my mistake ;).


Monday, August 13, 2007

Calling all Independent Fashion Designers!

Today I'm going to do a little PR for the fashionCEO Showcase Center. The Showcase Center was created to help emerging designers get their feet wet in the wholesale world without spending thousands of dollars on booth and travel fees. It will work much like an online boutique, except fashionCEO isn't selling your goods or taking a percentage of your sales. Instead designers pay a flat monthly fee to have their own page, or "booth", in the Showcase Center. The fee ($85/month) is a tiny fraction of what you'd pay for a 3-day tradeshow booth! fashionCEO will market the Showcase and the designer to boutique buyers across the country. Buyers can view designer's lines, line sheets, press kits, bios and more on fashionCEO. They can even write orders and submit it directly to the designer through the website.

The developers are currently getting the Showcase Center ready, so we are now taking applications for space. Visit the Showcase Center for the designer application! If you're interested, just print out the application and send it in with a few samples from your line for jury review.

Below is the official press release for the Showcase Center. Please email me if you have any questions!

Have a fashionable day!


DENVER, CO: fashionCEO is now accepting applications for space in the
upcoming Showcase Center launching October 1, 2007. The Showcase Center is
an online platform for independent fashion designers to show their product
lines, line sheets and press kits to boutique and store buyers across the

“The goal of the Showcase Center is provide a way for emerging and
established independent fashion designers to get their designs in front of
wholesale buyers without having to invest thousands of dollars in travel
costs and booth fees.” Says fashionCEO President and founder, Susan
Osborne. Osborne says the Showcase Center is not meant to replace the
traditional tradeshow, but rather to help independent designers establish
wholesale exposure without putting all their financial eggs in one basket.
“It’s difficult and risky for most emerging designers to invest
$5,000-$10,000 in a 3-day show that may, or may not, be successful. The
Showcase Center will give them a low-risk way to get that initial exposure
without the heavy investment.” The cost of a page in the Showcase Center
is $85 per month. Discounts are given when multiple months are purchased
up front.

fashionCEO’s Showcase Center allows designers to create their own page, or
“booth” by uploading logos, product photos, line sheets, press kits and
other content. fashionCEO will market the designers and the Showcase
Center as a whole to boutique and store buyers through tailored email
campaigns. Buyers will have a place to go 24/7, anytime of the year, to
find new products for their store.

All designer lines must be approved before acceptance into the Showcase
Center. Designers are required to submit samples with their application.
Samples are critiqued for quality craftsmanship and design integrity.

Please visit to download
application and submit samples.

About fashionCEO: fashionCEO is an online community and resource center
for independent fashion designers. Susan Osborne, an independent handbag
designer, launched fashionCEO in May 2007 after struggling to find
mentors and business information in the often guarded fashion business.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Good tips on Pricing, Marketing & Wholesale from Elsew

I came across a site called Elsewares the other day. Their blog caught my attention. They had a post on the topic of pricing, marketing and getting wholesale accounts (directed at independent fashion designers). I don't normally like to just copy and paste other bloggers content, but I thought this was worth mentioning to you fashionCEO readers. I've copied their post below. Visit Elsewares to read more about them.

from Elsewares:

1) Pricing
The principle rule of pricing is that everybody needs to make money - and that includes you. So know your margins, and be sure to base them on wholesale prices.
A mistake designers often make is setting their prices so low (e.g. on their own web site) that they can’t afford to halve them for stores. And nothing is as good for your business as having a long list of happy and active wholesale customers.
Beyond that, anything goes. Pricing is a black art. People love affordable products. But some expensive things sell well because they cost a lot. (To wit: my weird desire to get one of these.) And theoretically, the same product can be sold at different prices to different people.
The key is to make sure it’s your product’s innovation or sheer awesomeness that customers fall for, not the price. If you’re goods really stop people in their tracks, the price should make them feel like they have discriminating taste.

2) Marketing and 3) Landing wholesale accounts
I’ve lumped these together because they’re really two sides of the same coin.
Your chances of interesting a buyer decrease every time you call or email them directly and increase every time they hear someone say your name or see you in print or on the blogs. Go out and make stores come to you. Get exposure, get press, be a known entity. Don’t walk into stores with your products under your arm.
In general, trade shows are a bad place to start. They can be more valuable as your business matures, but not all trade shows are worth the bus fare. Most store buyers don’t take chances on newfangled things - they want you to show them something that’s already hot but that their customers just don’t know about yet. Choose carefully, and invest in a booth when you have a healthy wholesale business you want to augment with new accounts, not when you’re trying to get a foothold in the industry.
Fairs & markets, on the other hand, are usually fun & inexpensive and put you in face-to-face contact with the real people who buy your stuff. And when they have laser-like focus on a particular niche (Renagade Craft Fair. Brooklyn Designs, etc.) they create buzz and get people talking and that can lead to all kinds of good things. If the perfect fair or market doesn’t exists for your niche, you can always start it yourself.

Lastly, remember that context is important. Be wary of putting your products into any milieu that doesn’t set the bar as high you would. Customers, buyers, and journalists will all make judgments about your brand based on the company it keeps. If you’re an indie fashion designer, does appearing on the same web page (or store shelf) as homemade fudge send the right message about your products, your business, or your brand?

I really agree with the last paragraph. Many people told me "you should sell your bags at the craft show at the senior center." My bags are $450 leather satchels. I don't think an arts and crafts fair is going to be the right place to sell them, or to build my brand.

When you are starting out, its tempting to want to sell to any store that will take on your line. But make sure its the right fit your brand. Does the store represent your product properly? What kind of clientele does the store have? I think its important to shop in the store and see what their customer service is like. You should be selective about the stores that carry your line. That's hard in the beginning, but important as you create the "story" around your brand.

Good luck!


Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Top 10 things to waste your money on when starting an indie fashion business

I was going through some old receipts the other day and it reminded me of all the money I spent on unnecessary things when I was starting my handbag business. I immediately broke out in a sweat. I know you have to make mistakes when starting a business, but when its your hard-earned money that has gone down the drain, its sometimes hard to swallow. I'm not sure why hindsight is 20/20, but boy, it really is. Looking back, I think about what poor decisions I made. But at the time, they seemed like necessary actions to launch my handbag business into the stratosphere.

I decided it might be therapeutic to make a list of the top 10 things to waste your money on when starting an indie fashion business. Perhaps it will save you a few bucks if you are just starting out. If you don't care about money, or have it coming out of your ears, then by all means, starting warming up that checkbook on the following items.


10. A dedicated phone and fax line in your house for your business a good long year before you officially launch it. $55 month x 12 months = A big waste of money for a phone/fax that never rang (use email and your cell phone until you need the real thing).

9. Expensive leather/fabric to use as your "scrap" material while you practice sewing, especially if you can't sew and hate it to begin with. Leather at $12/sq ft x alot of feet = really dumb

8. A trademark for your surname (in my case, Denney). Not necessary, don't do it. If you have made up a name for your line that isn't your surname, you might look into getting a trademark, but test the waters first. Make sure you are going to use the name you want to protect before calling the attorney. In my case...$1100 x 1 trademark = a trademark for "Denney Bags". Yea.

7. A web designer that isn't reliable. I ended up doing a website for myself which I liked better. Not everyone wants to spend time doing their own website, and that's probably good. Just make sure you hire someone you trust and who will do a good job for you. $2500 for one web designer who couldn't spell and took a month to fix a typo = one unhappy Susan.

6. A logo you'll never use. And be leary of friends you don't know too well. A "friend" offered to make a logo for me in exchange for a bag for his mom. He then sent me a bill for $400. I gave him $200. $200 for a logo I didn't want = sucker.

5. Press kit before you are ready. I hired a PR company to make a press kit and distribute it for me. I thought having a real PR firm was going to take my business up a notch. I wasn't even ready for any real press because I didn't have my manufacturing in place. $2600 x press kit that my 14 year old niece could have done better = more interest on my credit card.

4. Industrial sewing machine. I will say I got a good deal on it by buying a refurbished one, but I don't like to sew and I'm not very good at it anyway. If you don't plan to sew your designs, don't invest in machinery. $800.00 = my mom suggesting I start making my own curtains. Need I say more?

3. A large quantity of anything before you finalize your logo. I bought 1000 "Denney" labels to sew on my bags. A couple months later I changed my logo. Now I like to see if the labels will stick to my dogs. I think I still have 980 of them. $300 x 1000 labels with an old logo = well, a bunch of labels with my old logo.

2. A merchant account before you need it. I spent $40 a month for about 18 months so I could except credit cards. I never used it because I wasn't selling my bags yet. But I wanted to be "prepared". Use Paypal if you sell through your website! Or at the very least, wait until you are ready to sell before getting a merchant account. $40/month x 18 months = a richer merchant account company thanks to me.

1. A whole lot of supplies you'll never use. I bought a truck full of sewing supplies from a woman who used to work at Samsonite. She was cleaning out her basement and selling it all for one price. I thought because it was sewing supplies, such as rolls of plastic zippers, vinyl and other miscellaneous stuff, I'd be able to use it somehow. Now instead of it taking up room in her basement, its taking up room in mine. $400 x tons of supplies I'll never use = tons of supplies I'll never use.

In all honesty, I got excited at the idea of being a fashion designer, and I thought somehow these things would make it more real. If you need these things to help you feel like a real designer, then stop what you are doing, put the checkbook down and get a reality check. Save yourself alot of money by being patient and focusing on the core things you need to be successful. Don't mistake this to mean you can skimp on quality by using cheap stuff. Definitely not!! Quality is key. If you are going to invest in anything, invest in the quality of your product. The rest will fall into place.

Have a fashionable day!


Thursday, August 2, 2007

What a great time to be an indie fashion designer

It's never been a better time to be an independent fashion designer. I feel like every time I surf the internet I find another online store dedicated to selling "indie" designer goods. Its so great to see so many places for designers to get their products out in front of consumers. And there are a number of different ways to sell your goods through these sites. Some are straight up retailers like, Circle Circle Dot Dot , and Unsung Designers.

Some sites don't call themselves a "retailer", but more of a "platform". The platform site does not necessary handle the transaction of the sale, but they do provide a way for you to list your products on their site, and then they market the site to consumers. An example of this format is a site I recently came across called Smashing Darling . Smashing Darling does not charge for you to list your products, but there is an 18% consignment fee.

Another interesting looking site gearing up to launch is What Designers. I can't tell if its going to be an online retailer or more of a "platform" type deal, but its worth checking out.

Then of course you have all the wonderful fashion blogs out there that talk about indie designer goods. I could list a ton of those (and probably should, but not sure I have the energy tonight). Google fashion blogs and you'll see what I mean.

But what about the independent designer that wants to sell wholesale to boutiques and stores? Well, the choices have been 1) pound the payment or 2)tradeshows or 3)sales reps. Choice 1 is very time consuming, choice 2 is very expensive (although necessary depending on your business model), and choice 3 can be tough if you don't know where to find a sales rep. That is where fashionCEO is planning to help. We are in development mode on an online store (excuse me, its probably more of a "platform") for all you indie designers wanting to jump into or broaden your wholesale business. fashionCEO is going to make wholesale selling more accessible to those of us who can't afford to spend $10,000 a year on tradeshows! I'll keep you posted on the blog (sorry, bad pun). :)

With all the opportunities out there, you have no excuse. If you haven't already, start showing the world your fabulous work!

Have a fashionable Friday!