When launching your own company, writing a business plan is a critical part of the process. But for many emerging designers, this process is often pushed to the back of the garment pile as their energies are focused on creating their debut collection.
So how do start-ups manage all aspects of a brand and ensure its ready for show time?
Krystel Davis, head designer at IXIAH, believes a business plan is integral to starting a business, but it’s all about the team.
“I have a business partner who does a lot of the business logistics while I handle the creative side so together this plan was derived,” she said.” It was put together firstly by planning out exactly where we saw IXIAH fit in the market place.”
For IXIAH this meant a lot of research, analysis and planning was done beforehand about how to move forward and what direction the business should take. T
“This has helped as we have a very clear vision of the brand and where it sits in the market place,” she said. “The team is all under the same idea as to where we are looking to grow, improve and move in the future, our goals are clear and it is really good to go back and see whether we reached our goals within the timeframe or not.”
With extensive experience in design, illustration, and creative direction at high-end advertising firms, Krystel was well equipped with the business nous and vision to drive the IXIAH brand.
Krystel’s designs and unique philosophy continue to refresh the course of her collections. Her designs have been featured on an impressive client list incl- uding celebrity Nicole Richie, model ambassador Megan Gale, actress Isabel Lucas, pop singer Zoe Badwi, and fashion model Jess Hart.
We are thrilled to have her expertise along with Australian designers Christina Exie and Bronx & Banco at the Fashion Exposed Business Breakfast sharing their insights and secrets for success.
We take five with Krystel to chat further on the lack of support available to emerging designers; how she got the IXIAH name out there; perfecting the juggle; and her advice to start-ups.
What kind of support is available to emerging designers? And what did you receive in the beginning, if any?
There really isn’t a lot of support for emerging designers at all. I didn’t have any help (as a self-taught designer). I feel the notion to be taken really seriously is a lot harder although it also does have its benefits.
There are companies that have helped me along the way one being Fashion Future. Pam Trantailles runs this program and arranges designers to be either set up to network or arranged to have a mentor. She is connected to a lot of industry people and has really helped me to meet a few of the right people in the business.
There will be some emerging designers at the Fashion Exposed Business Breakfast who are trying to get their brand in front of the right retailers, what advice do you have for them? How should they approach retailers, both independent and major?
Really understand your retailers before you approach them. Know your target market and what your point of difference is.
For selling I use agents and I feel this is a strong way to have your brand represented. If you are with the right agency then they have the connections with the stores and retailers and they understand the customers they have, their budgets and whether they are good payers or not. As a new label starting out this information is crucial and hard to determine without the advise and guidance of an agent.
In terms of getting to a major, I think this takes time. You really need to have capital behind you and have your back end of the business, primarily your production all set up, tested and completely ready to go. You cannot afford any mistakes.
What helped you to get your name out there? How long did it take before you saw your brand get momentum? What worked? What didn’t?
I have a marketing/advertising and graphics background so I understand the need to create a brand and to keep the image consistent to your audience. The best way to get your name out there is through media, social media, bloggers and through the retailers as they are the ones who are selling to your audience. It is important to educate your retailers on your brand, really make sure they understand how to wear it, style it and merchandise it.
It took a while for me to get IXIAH out there although I had the following from my previous label Uscari, which was a huge advantage. I also had a PR agent that educated the media about the brand and really pushed it through. I had agents ready to sell the brand and introduce it to our targeted stockists. Having a good website also is key to getting your brand known as everyone these days wants to view more online.
How do you juggle the management of each of your channels? From in-store to online including ecommerce, mobile, and social. How do you make them work together as a whole?
WE are continually searching for and creating new content. We shoot four lookbooks a year, one for each season and we also shoot a campaign for each one. We also work with a handful of strong bloggers that wear and style the product to the IXIAH expectation.
We have now started to do capsule shoots where we feature a model/blogger/celebrity for a styled IXIAH shoot. We create a story about this person and style the shoot to their personality. This gives us enough content to constantly be promoting and showcasing the brand through all of our channels.
Do you use social as a selling tool or more for branding? Why?
Social Media for IXIAH is used more for branding and showing people the detailing and the world within IXIAH. This does sell the product although we do not push this aspect too hard. Our EDM Newsletters are a product building and selling tool that people have signed up to and we know that they are interested in buying new products as they come to market so we focus on that to be more of our selling tool.
How important is content to marketing your brand? Can you explain what you do at IXIAH?
Content is really important. You always need to be new and innovative with marketing as people are always on the search for that. You need to be constantly sourcing and creating new content that is true to your brand. At IXIAH we do particular shoots as explained in the previous question but we also do simple shots that really focus on the detail with the IXIAH brand as this is really how we stand out in the market.
What considerations do you make about the consumer when designing your collection? Do you make alterations for how it will appeal locally, globally or both? Ie. seasonality, different cultural tastes.
When designing I always create based on a story I want to tell through the collection. This gives a high end designer feel and a purpose to the collection. I explore cultures or colour or recently used light as a form of inspiration for a collection. The customer/retailer etc all do come into through when shortlisting and finalising the designs (at the end of the day the product needs to retail well) and this can sometimes be a very difficult part of the design process. I often pre-line with my agent to get in touch with what is really working for them or they will spot if the collection is missing something crucial for the season but with IXIAH we are a designer label so it is a strong look that does come from my personal design style and its important not to lose this. Seasons absolutely play a part as certain styles are needed or required based on the season and the colour palette always changes season to season.
Yes. As above I mentioned the collection does need to retail well and you need the retailers to buy the collection so absolutely you need to keep them in mind. As I said I do pre-line with my agent to really make sure the collection does have the commercial feel that is wearable yet still striking – keeping with my aesthetic.
If you could offer one piece of advice for both a fashion retailer and a designer about how to run a successful fashion business, what would it be?
Work hard. Understand your business and all the elements of it. Really know your market and work to appeal to them. If you can do that then the rest should become a lot easier. Don’t underestimate the effort/ knowledge that is required.
BOOK NOW to see IXIAH, Christina Exie and Bronx & Banco reveal their experiences at the Fashion Exposed Business Breakfast on Monday 18 August at 10am. Limited tickets still available.
For more information or to purchase tickets, visit fashionexposed.com/sydney