This blog is written by our High school Campus Ambassador, Maria, who attends Memorial High School. Maria is a senior, who has had several internships already!
On Monday October 24th, I volunteered to work for the Handbag Designer 101 workshop at Fashion Institute of Technology’s Katie Murphy Amphitheatre. This event featured a very impressive panel of speakers (almost 35 speakers on the panel!) who offered advice to business entrepreneurs who want to start or continue building their fashion brands. They offered amazing advice from how to go about getting investors to how to get in touch with magazine editors. The speakers also answered questions from the audience and shared stories about how they got started. Divided into 10 segments, the Handbag Designer 101 Workshop offered amazing tips on launching your own company while weighing your risks in an industry where trend, style and influences change almost daily. I was interested in volunteering for this event because it was being held at a school that I was interested in seeing. The panel also included Monika Botkier (Founder of Botkier Handbags) and Jessica Kleiman (V.P-Public Relation of Hearst Magazines)
Here are some tips that I thought were very insightful and useful for young students looking to build their brands.
Role of Funding in Fashion: Finding the capital to launch or support your business can be very tricky. Keep in mind that this money can come from anywhere, from friends and family to investors. Whether you’re getting this money from investors, savings or loans, its important to know your risks. Even though your idea is patented, which investors might love, you should always weigh your risks. Patents don’t guarantee success and your brand should always be the headline. Get advice from a lawyer and approach all investors (even if they’re your friends) in a professional way even if they have faith in your product. Know all the information about you brand that you need to know. Remember, don’t become obsessed with money and always put your main focus on your products.
Blogging for your brand: We all know that social media is key in marketing your brand. You can always post about your line on your website and hope to have millions of views. Bloggers should search for ways to increase the traffic of their sites, whether they are with contests or videos and create personal relationships with your viewers. However, social media does not necessarily mean free publicity. You always have to put love, effort and attention to your media sites. Having a blog can be very useful when launching your brand, because you can create personal relationships with customers. Having younger customers is important too, because they can grow up having known about your brand. It’s like having customers for life. The traffic and fans are not going to just happen. I thought it was really interesting because as interns, our duties often include managing Facebook or Twitter pages for the company we work for. Maintaining these social media sites is not as easy as it looks and mistakes can easily be made, and when they are, of course, everyone can see it.
PR and Going Green: Using eco friendly material is a growing trend that many customers now look for. You should use green materials if you want to make a difference as a brand and help make an impact on the environment. Some fashion companies now use cotton, hemp, artisan, suede, vegan and animal free materials in their products. It can be tricky to go green with your products when you are first starting out. You have to keep prices reasonable while using these materials because people may not spend too much money on a brand that isn’t well known. Apply PR tricks to your brand when you are starting out to gain attention and build a reputation for yourself. Media landscape has expanded from tradition media tremendously in the past years. Always use short, sweet messages to describe your brand, as they can be more effective. This will help you gain traffic and get good feedback. When using PR and Going Green tricks, be sure to stay true to yourself and weigh your choices and options.
Tips for Contacting Editors: When you are ready for your products to be featured in a magazine, you should take special steps to getting it done. Do research on the magazines you are going to contact. Make sure they will be interested in what you are offering them and don’t offer them something they will not need. Create a special pitch that is simple and thorough but not overwhelming. Do the work for them! Create a link of celebrities to your products if you can to spark interest. Was someone famous spotted wearing a pair of shoes similar to the ones in your line? Send them a snapshot! You can also emphasis that you are sending them your products exclusively. This will have them interested because they may just have their hands on something that other magazines won’t have. This might also give you a faster response. Remember, they are looking for you just as much as you are reaching out to them.
I love volunteering for fashion events because you often get to be part of the crazy production process. I was very lucky to have learned a lot from the workshop and I got to help the show directors with fun errands like distributing gift bags and helping guest speakers and participants sign in.
I thought it was an incredible experience to be in a room with so many successful, influential business entrepreneurs and designers. I’ve seen many of them on television and in magazines! I loved hearing the panel share their stories about how they accomplished their goals and how others could make it happen.