So you want to sell your fashion designs


So you want to sell your fashion designs but have no idea how to get them on the market? As a program director at The Learning Annex, I listen to famous designers every week teach what it takes to sell designs and build an empire. I've heard Kenneth Cole, Betsey Johnson, Diane von Furstenberg, Elie Tahari, Kimora Lee Simmons, Scott Morrison, Damon Dash and Sean Combs, just to name a few. Here is a summary of their key points.

Gerard Murray, founder of School Of Hard Knocks, said: "Everyone wants the rainbow, but no one wants the rain." Successful designers work relentlessly to make their own breaks. It doesn't matter what your background is, how many people are behind you or how much money you have. In the end, it comes down to YOUR designs, and YOU have to make and sell them.

Every teacher's first lesson is education. Whether you go to the finest school or learn it on your own, you HAVE to know the industry. Not just the designers, but the stylists, buyers, magazine editors, models and manufacturers. If you interview with a major design house, you're expected to know all of the above, and you'll be asked about it. Read magazines GÇö if you see a celebrity or model wearing something similar to your design, contact the stylist ASAP! Send them samples. There are also specific skills that will save you time and money. Drawing. If you can sketch your design, you'll save a lot of money on your samples. Second is sewing. When you're creating your first pieces, a working knowledge of sewing is your insurance. Otherwise, you won't know whether a dart should cost 30 cents or 30 dollars. Plus, you'll save thousands if you can sew your first collection and do your own alterations!

Once you have your samples, you'll need a line/pricing sheet. List EVERYTHING GÇö fabric, dye, shipping costs, notions, seamstresses, pattern makers and most importantly, YOUR TIME! The standard markup is two and a half times. Your line sheet should have a sketch of a piece, the name or style number, the price, available variation (colors, fabrics, sleeve lengths, trims, etc.) and delivery timeframe (i.e., when the buyer will receive it).

Now you're ready to show your collection. First, get your designs on everyone you know GÇö friends, families, co-workers and for God's sake, wear them yourself! Kimora Lee Simmons launched her company by having everyone she knew wear a baby tee!

You will save time if you have a showroom rep you. They'll charge a commission, but their knowledge and contacts are priceless. The good news is that they work on commission, so they'll try to sell your product quickly.

You need to meet buyers. Everyone thinks it's impossible. It's not. First of all, if your designs are everywhere, then they'll want to see them. Or you can pick up the phone and ask for five minutes of their time. Or you can ask someone who spends a lot of money in their store to get you an appointment. Once you get your chance, be prepared! Have your sheet ready, be organized, know your fashion terms and don't babble. Each week hundreds of students get to ask questions of buyers, store owners and fashion legends, and more than half drop the ball. Practice your pitch, and have it perfected. If your designs look good enough, you won't need a lot of words to sell them.

You'll need to showcase your collection during market week. Spring orders are placed in August, and fall orders are placed in February (give or take a week). When Elie Tahari needed to show his legendary tube top, he was told that there weren't any booths for rent. So he went to the second floor of a well-known fashion market building and tacked them on a wall by the elevator. When security stopped him, he went to the next floor and then the next, and he wrote more than $200,000 of orders that day! When Kenneth Cole couldn't get a booth, he got a city permit to shoot a film called "The Making Of A Shoe Company," and he parked in front of the convention center and showed his designs to every buyer walking by him.

Focus on the sales, and the manufacturing is easy. Most designers recommend using a factor, which is a company that fronts you production money (for a commission) when you get an order. But if you have an order, then someone will make it.

Every designer recommends PR over marketing. An ad costs thousands while a publicist gets your designs on celebrities and in magazines and newspapers. Contact celebrity assistants, from the assistant working on a show to the personal assistant of a major star. They're easy to reach. Go to, and Send them your samples and invite them to your show.

And those are the steps to success. Passion + Hard Work = Success. Every designer has faced the same obstacles, but didn't stop. If you stick with it, you won't dread going to work, and I hope that I buy your clothes next season!

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