As a new brand, it can be hard to know where to invest your money. Chances are, you're working on a budget, so you want to make sure you make the most out of every £ you spend. If you're starting a fashion line and aren't sure where the best places to invest are, this post is for you! I'll be covering things I consider essential to spend your money on, vs those things that can wait (or, might not be needed at all).
What expenses are necessary when starting a fashion business?
We'll start with the bad news, the expenses that I think are required and will make a difference to your brand. I'm not going to include expenses for the actual stock here, because that's a given, but what other things should we consider as a startup?
- Tech packs (if you don't know what they are, you can read about them here). True, this is an expense and something you have to pay for. But, if you don't have much (or any) experience in clothing production, these can save you a fortune in sampling costs (if that sounds a bit dramatic, you can read what happens when you skip the tech pack, in this article). Not only that, when used properly in conjunction with a contract, you can also use them to hold the factory accountable for their quality.
- Samples. Always have samples made before you commit to anything! Never go straight to production, there's always something to change. Plus, as with the tech packs, you want to link your contract with the sample approval to help to hold the factory accountable for what they produce.
- Lawyer. You're going to want to have a contract with your factory and possibly for other situations, like an agreement with your shipping provider or an employment contract. It's always useful to have a lawyer on hand for these.
- Accountant. If you're not familiar with completing a tax return, or your unsure as what you can claim as expenses, you'll want to work with an accountant. The fines for improper tax returns can be huge and there's a lot to learn. For example, in the UK, you should be filing a tax return even if you haven't sold any product yet. If you've spent even just a few pence on the business, or set up an Instagram account for the brand but haven't even registered the business, you're required to do this.
- Consulting help. Because 'you don't know, what you don't know'. Sure, you could wing it. You could make mistakes and learn from them. Or, you could just invest in a session with an industry expert, who can help you avoid the common pitfalls new brands make and help you to understand the process and what you're letting yourself in for.
- Models. No-one wants to see a picture of your friend in your back garden. Sorry if that sounds harsh, but it's true! Not only does bad photography affect sales, but it'll also ruin your chances of being featured by editors and influencers, so make sure that you invest in professional models who know how to work a camera.
- Photographer - as above!
What can you save on?
On the plus side, there's also a lot of expenses that aren't really necessary. A lot of brands seem to think that the following are essential for success, but in my opinion, you can save on these things as a startup and in fact, you might find that you never need them;
- A web designer. There's a lot of website platforms that are super easy to use and only cost a minimal amount each month. I have zero coding experience and am pretty technically challenged but I still created this website myself. I've never had help from a tech expert. Are there things I could do better? Sure. But does the website work and bring business to my company. Yes. As a startup, there's really no need to invest in custom code or website design.
- Design software like Photoshop or Illustrator. These are costly, but even more than that, they come with a HUGE learning curve. They're not user friendly if you're trying to learn it on your own. Also, you're unlikely to need these. There's a lot of free apps that allow you to edit photos and create graphics and illustrator is only really helpful if you're creating technical drawings. But, if you don't have manufacture experience, you'll be getting someone else to do these (otherwise, you won't know what stitching to use, what fastening, where the seams go, etc) alongside the tech pack.
- A fashion show or expensive launch party. Fashion shows are expensive. Very expensive. So unless you have a massive budget, don't even consider this. There's a lot of ways of generating attention for your brand (many of which are free) so a launch party isn't really necessary either. But, if you're convinced you want one, be sure to keep costs to a minimum. You don't need to match the opening of the Met, just a simple event with some snacks and drinks will be enough.
- Trend publications. I hear a lot of startups wanting to get WGSN access (the leading fashion trend prediction agency). Don't. It's £10,000 a year and you can do a lot more with that money. You can even get a free trend board each month, here.
- Fashion illustrations. These are totally useless when it comes to production and a customer isn't going to buy a garment based off a drawing, they'll want to see photos of the real thing. Illustrations confuse factories, as they can't see the correct proportions, or construction details, so always use a technical drawing in a tech pack for production, rather than a fashion illustration.
If you'd like to learn more about the cost of starting a fashion brand there's a related post here; 'Costs to consider when starting a fashion business'. This will explain some of the costs that fashion brands have and there's also a template download to accompany the post.
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