Entrepreneurship in fashion: advice before you start

Een modebedrijf beginnen: advies voordat je begint

At a time when competition is fierce in the fashion industry, L’Express Franchise has some advice on how to get started.

She’s busy, scissors in her right hand, gesture smooth and sure. In a backroom with decrepit walls, Laurène Miloudi makes fashion pieces. Using fabrics sourced in the Bordeaux region and patterned after the cartoons of her childhood, the 24-year-old makes boxer shorts, shirts and pants. In a ballet of textiles, colorful Teletubby heads rub shoulders with Polly Pocket heads. Once cut, the fabrics are assembled and ironed before being stored in large leather cases. Laurène perfected this know-how two years ago, when she returned to Gironde after completing a BTS in fashion and clothing in Lyon.

The joy of living her dream of becoming an independent fashion designer soon gave way to a bitter taste. To a growing concern about complicated monthly ends and the many obstacles that lie ahead. With sales just shy of a thousand euros, Laurène is even thinking about finding a job to pay her bills and rent. “An admission of failure,” she whispers to her creations. And yet, despite the difficulties, in this field where women are over-represented, more and more of them are giving it a try. Competition is fierce. Although there are no precise figures in this area, Insee nevertheless notes that one million businesses will have been created by 2022, 61% of which will be auto-enterprises, a multitude in the fashion world. This record is due in part to the Covid-19 health crisis, which revealed the passions of successive confinements.

Two is better

This trend has also been amplified by the new generation, for whom having their own local and environmentally-friendly business has become the norm, as Alain Boix, director of ESMOD in Lyon for the past twenty years, has noted. “They’re no longer interested in living with a boss who gives them orders, they want to succeed for themselves, without worrying about making a lot of money,” he asserts. At his school, where hundreds of students flock every year, Alain Boix distills the same advice for budding entrepreneurs. You have to start with two people,” he asserts. One person in charge of creation and another dedicated to marketing, because you have to sell your products”.

Multiplying points of sale, maintaining social networks and managing after-sales service are tasks to which designers in the fashion world must devote themselves actively if they want their brands to grow. And that’s in addition to pure creation. Laurène chose to develop her business on online platforms such as Vinted or Etsy. But with taxes on the order of 15% for business accounts, she can’t get her head around it. “I’ve thought about going to markets, but with the cost of renting a location and labeling all my creations, I have to double the price of my products, even though I want to remain affordable,” she adds.

Don’t “sacrifice your margin

Justine Andriamamory, a 27-year-old milliner and founder of the “JUMO” brand, manages to sell on the markets. But on his stall, his bananas, toiletry bag and shoulder bag face stiff competition. “Four out of ten stands are for designers who have just created their own brand,” she points out. While Justine doesn’t particularly want to set herself apart from other designers, she does hope to be able to “make a decent living” from her business in the future. “The early days were complicated, and I hesitated to change direction,” she says.

For Thomas Delattre, in charge of entrepreneurs at the Institut Français de la Mode in Paris, doubling the number of points of sale is a good thing, but you mustn’t sell off your brand. In the beginning, the typical mistake was to sacrifice margin by lowering prices,” he notes. My advice is to study the target audience to find the right balance. Following the example of Yves Saint-Laurent and Pierre Bergé, who are often cited as role models, Thomas Delattre recommends forming an entrepreneurial couple and not hesitating to test your products. “The advantage of creating your own website or selling direct is that you can gauge your business,” he says. The Paris-based school proposes to support 25 brands a year in an incubator to improve their viability. “For them, the objective is not to implode after a few months,” he says. In fact, the school lends premises and advises entrepreneurs on all aspects of their projects: legal, economic and creative. “It’s a demanding, all-round environment,” concludes Thomas Delattre.

Entrepreneurship in fashion: why not franchise?

For all these reasons, Anne-Laure Arruabarrena launched herself into fashion in 2015 with an innovative concept. While the majority of ready-to-wear brands aim to establish themselves in big cities, with “Les Bohémiennes”, the woman from the Basque country is looking to establish herself in small towns to revitalize the city centers. After Ascain, the woman opens another store under franchise in Saint Jean-Pied de Port.

“I want franchisees to keep their creative side too,” she says. Even if the brand has a very specific style, long casual dress and straw hat, each boutique – of which there are five – has its own style. It’s a good way to get started, while ensuring the aura of a successful brand.

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