by Amanda Curtis
Stop calling creatives bad at business. Creative types who are driven and can execute are excellent at business. As a creative who spends a lot of time with business types, I hear all too often the perception that fashion designers are right-brained individuals who are not naturally good at business, which is their view of why so few designers succeed in the business of fashion. This naive and superficial observation needs to be debunked just as the left-brained, right-brained theory was in 2013. No matter what lobe may be more active, ultimately, hustle, drive, and creativity – the highest form of intelligence – are major determinants of success.
The fashion world is ever-changing, and rigorous, and requires designers to operate not just in the present, but to predict and determine the future. Never has a designer created collections of work in obscurity only to become famous postmortem like some fine artists. As the saying goes, “The dream is free, and the hustle is sold separately.” Talent is necessary but talent without drive and execution is valueless, especially in the fashion industry.
Along with creating, fashion designers must have a plan to promote, sell, produce, and scale. TV programs like Project Runway have done a terrific job showing the determination, relentless passion, and sleepless nights behind the glamorous facade of being a fashion designer. These are the real fashion designers, not the mega-funded celebrity designers who sit down with a trained team of designers, marketers, and sales teams a few times a season, to knock off existing trends, and mass manufacture subpar quality products overseas. The side that Project Runway does not show is the less sexy business, manufacturing, and marketing piece. In reality, this is where independent designers should spend most of their time. The problem is that until recently managing each of these pieces was a full-time job. However, with tools such as Model Mayhem, Joor, Modalyst, and Nineteenth Amendment designers can bootstrap in the same way that tech startups have been doing for the past decade. I call this ‘Stiletto Strapping’.
Fashion designers aren’t scared of business, they, until recently, just didn’t have tech products and service providers building the necessary tools to help them efficiently launch and grow successful brands. For example, Nineteenth Amendment gives designers a production management system, a network of vetted partnered US manufacturers, a marketing curriculum, a visual consumer data dashboard, and an online platform to sell their designs without having to hold inventory. Model Mayhem connects designers and models with minimum fees. Joor and Modalyst connect designers directly with retail buyers with low amounts of friction. These new approaches to a traditional business ultimately give designers a way to run lean in a digital age.
Fashion designers are both artists and business people, interpreting the world around them and translating that into visual, functional, and sellable communication. Fashion designers are the ultimate convergences of business meets creative. By giving them the correct tools and platforms, like Nineteenth Amendment, I guarantee we’ll see the independent designers of today become the business IPOs of tomorrow.