Ethical Fashion & Rules A Designer Can Live By

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I attended an event geared toward the aspiring fashion designer. Topics included what every designer starting out should know and the basics behind the business side of fashion. It was organized by Francisca Pineda owner of Fashion Portfolio Academyand creator of the Ethical Fashion Academy. It was hosted by Swati Argade at her store Bhoomki in Park Slope, BK. The event featured ethical fashion designers Natalie Frigo and Francisca Pineda. Swati’s store is all about ethical fashion and bringing you designs that are handmade, unique and of course eco-friendly.

Francisca was one of the panel speakers and she talked about why it was important for her to start a eco-friendly brand. She has designed accessories and apparel for 15yrs, working within successful companies. She currently has her own line and is creative director for luxury accessory brand BHAVA.
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After working for a major fashion company she decided it was not the place for her. Although she made a great salary and the perks to go along with the position, she found she was not happy. The main reason why she made a career change was because she started to see how the clothing being manufactured effected the health of the people working in the various facilities. She saw that the chemicals and dyes in the products made her sick while visiting the manufacturers and how it did the same to the individuals producing the clothing.
When developing her own line of shoes she decided to use eco-friendly materials and utilize fair trade practices. All three of these women believe in ethical fashion.

Ethical Fashion can be a personal choice and can be done in several ways either supporting organic farmers, traditional crafts like hand weaving and/or using recycled goods, or using suppliers that are committed to sustainable manufacturing.
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The three panelists gave a list of ideas designers should keep in mind when selling their brand to retailers:

-Be friendly! Pretty obvious, but perhaps can stand repeating. No one wants to deal with a brat so come correct and come friendly. You catch more with honey!

-Price point. Make sure the store you are approaching fits with the price point of your product. Only makes sense that if you are selling your goods for say $300 on average that you go to a store that sells similar products at similar price points. On that note you should also go to similar stores that carry designers that are similar to your brand.

-Line sheets, photos contact via email. You should have line sheets that include the color hues and your contact information. You can include photos like a look book to show how the clothing actually is worn.

Your Line sheet should include:
White background
Very detailed
All colors
On a model
Style #, price
Deliver date
Name
Drawing
Minimum orders

-Product Margins. Mass retailers use the Keystone Model frequently, which is a pricing method of marking merchandise for resell to an amount that is double the wholesale price. The panelists stated they sometimes multiply by three and evaluate the pricing, multiplying by two may be too low in terms of making a profit and the pricing making sense for the buyer and ultimately the customer.  But be flexible. Note, don’t put wholesale prices on lookbook, you can put it on line sheet. You don’t want your information out there for the masses you can also have the buyers for retail stores request to and give them an online password to access the wholesale pricing information.

The takeaway I received from the panelists is to stay focus, know your brand, know the business. Don’t walk into a store Monday morning with a suitcase of samples to display. First, contact the buyer, store owners via email and send the line sheet and look book and if interested they will schedule a time to meet. Be persistent and follow-up.

The panelists also gave their prospective of the fashion business and felt it was not great due to the crippling economy. But designers can still get their brands placed with retailers that are not so worried about the economy and still want to bring great goods to their customers.

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I hope these key points can assist you in your future fashion business. Here are a few designers I met that are successfully thriving in their businesses. Amy DeCew of Lily of Valley Isle, Kenya K. Smith for Planet Zero Motor Sports check them out!

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