Episode 13: 8 unexpected but meaningful lessons I learnt from 20 years in the fashion industry - Part 1
Fashion Design, Research, Negotiating, Fashion, Sourcing,
Welcome to the Fashion Unearthed podcast. If you need help navigating the fashion industry sustainably, you have come to the right place. I'm your host Belinda Humphrey and my hope is to simplify the fashion industry so that businesses can make the best decisions for people, planet and product.
Hello, and welcome to Episode 13 of the Fashion Unearthed podcast. Today's episode is part two of eight unexpected but meaningful lessons I learned from 20 years in the fashion industry. But before I get into it, I wanted to remind everyone that I'll be doing that summer series for the Podcast, where each week I answer a question from the audience. So if you're struggling with something in particular in your business, get your questions in and I'll address the most popular ones each week and you can send them into firstname.lastname@example.org. and if you're into inspiring articles, or you want to know the latest developments in fashion or sustainability, there's a monthly newsletter that I send out and you can sign up for that as well at belinda humphrey.com.
So onto today's topic 8 unexpected, but meaningful lessons I learned from 20 years in the fashion industry, it's a long title. On Episode 12 I went through a brief history on my background, so if you missed that one, go back to Episode 12.
So for today's episode, I'll move straight into lesson number five, which is what you leave out is just as important as what you put in. Often you'll see a few brands doing something or a particular topic or process getting a lot of headlines, or even just a fabric or shape trend that you've noticed in your research and often it is tempting to try and think you need to incorporate every new thing. Cut outs are big on the runways, we need to be doing that or everyone is using linen we need to as well. But when you're confident in knowing your customer and your brand values, you become more confident in saying that's not for us, or how do we incorporate this in a way that will appeal to our customer. The truth is that there are limits to ranges, you can only fit so many styles into a hanging b at one time, you only have the budget for so many new styles a season, you might need to hit a certain margin for profitability, so you can only afford to spend a bit more on one or two styles. Definitely allow yourself the time to explore ideas that seemingly don't fit. But at the end of the day, the pieces that make it into your final range need to be the best most aligned ideas to your customer or version of product.
The sixth lesson is to test before going big, sometimes called prototyping or trialling this looks like doing a small amount of styles or quantity to see what the response is before you book a huge amount or trialling a new process in one area of the business before rolling it out to everything. Or maybe you're just working with a new supplier and it's about doing one to two styles before placing the whole program with them. This one is all about minimising risk and gaining confidence before going all in. In Episode 12 I mentioned that retailer that said we couldn't sell denim to our customer and I explained how it ended up being built up to quite a large and significant part of their business still to this day. It didn't start out that way. It started out with a prototype or a trial run of one style in the fabric that we wanted and we put it in the right stores and we marketed it with the store managers. But that was just basically prototyping, it was minimising the risk to test the idea before rolling it out to a whole program.
The seventh lesson is fashion is a business, get to know the numbers. Firstly, because it can tell you a lot about your customers behaviour and secondly, if you aren't making money, you're limited to your impact that you can have. Money allows you to give back to communities or charities, pay employees and people throughout your whole supply chain well and be able to use better materials.
The eighth lesson is that you are rarely ever your customer. When I was working at a fast fashion youth brand, I was in that age group, but I wasn't that customer. It's easier if it's obvious such as if you identify as a woman and you're designing menswear you might feel like it's more obvious and pay more attention to understand the customer. But it's a really crucial point to I guess, be aware of some of your own biases, things that you always gravitate, to colours that you always like, or just maybe even just some preconceived ideas of what you think that customer likes or wants. And this is where it can loop back around to lesson seven and getting to know the numbers. If you're looking at sales reports and looking at what people are buying that will give you a really great picture of who your customer is and will, I guess, help you stay on track and aware of what you think they might like and what they're actually liking.
So that was number eight. But I always just want to give that little bit more. I want to add a bonus lesson actually, which is something to remember just a final note, and that is that you won't ever get to a point where you know everything. You might know more than you did a year ago but things are always changing so it pays to keep up with what's happening in the industry. Personally, I feel like we're in a period of massive change, so it's even more at the moment, but I feel like it's a collective relearning of the industry of a large scale. So I think more people are willing to admit they're just trying to relearn, too.
So in summary, the lessons were what you leave out is just as important as what you put in, test before going big. Get to know the numbers. You're rarely your customer, and you're always learning.
I've really been loving hearing from listeners to know what they found interesting or relevant and if today's one resonated with you, you can get in touch as well by dming me on Instagram @belindahumphrey_, or send me an email at email@example.com. Again, a reminder that I'm collecting questions for the Summer Series. So send them through to firstname.lastname@example.org and you can sign up to my monthly newsletter as well on the website belindahumphrey.com if you're interested in the latest fashion and sustainability news, and as always, you'll find the links and show notes on the website to in the podcast section. Thanks so much for listening. See you next time.
Disclaimer: Whilst every effort is made to ensure that information is accurate at the time of recording, much like the fashion industry itself, this information may change.