How to Launch a Fashion Business
Video transcript+ Daymond John
Daymond John — "If I were able to tell you as much as I can tell you and give you the best advice I can give you in regards to fashion here is what it would be. It would be, first of all: sewing is not necessarily as important as the ability to find somebody who can sew. When you’re dealing with fashion, you want to create a strategy of who is your customer going to be? What price point is it going to be? Whether you’re making fine tailored clothes or t-shirts, a t-shirt can go as low as $20 or as high as $120, so first of all you want to find out who your customer is.
Second of all, you want to find the cheapest and most effective way to make a sample line. You don’t want to go and cut patterns, and go over to china and create this whole entire line without selling anything. What you want to do is maybe get a custom seamstress to sew a couple pieces, maybe you sew a couple pieces, you get a couple of blank t-shirts and you screen print them, and then you go and try to make a sale. It’s important to make a sale for various reasons. I always tell people ‘do not try to judge how big your company is going to be when you are selling only to your friends’, because naturally, your friends who love you will support you - so if you sell ten t-shirts and you gave ten t-shirts to your friends - if nine of them heard that ‘that’s the worst t’shirt ever’ they’re not gonna tell you but the one who heard that somebody likes that t-shirt is gonna come and tell you how good the t-shirt is. When I started Fubu I had to physically get up in peoples face and show them a shirt and try to sell them a shirt. These were total strangers. I could only judge if I had a viable product if that stranger would buy this shirt. Now until you make a sale you don’t know if your shirt can sell at $20, $40, $60, $90, $100 - you don’t know what the market will bear for your product. And sometimes the report card can be a little depressing because maybe nobody wants your product.
Now, we’re at a good time and age were there is social media. You see, as I said before I had to get in everybody’s face but now with products such as Shopify you can get your product out in to the world and people who don’t know anything about you will either buy your product or not because they like it and that is proof-of-concept as we call it in the market. Do not go and take out the $100 000 loan on this line before you start to sell it. Before selling product you should always educate yourself in the business. How do you do that? Well, if you can’t go to school, you don’t have the luxury of going to school, then go intern someplace. Learn the business from the bottom up. My position as a CEO now, I know every single position in the company - so my employees can’t lie to me. I also sometimes can help my employees because I was there in that area of the business.
So now selling online is probably the first way. Next you have to go out and start going after stores. So how do you go after stores? A lot of people want to go out and sell Macy’s and this guy and that guy - no. Always start off with your local store and become a local hero. That’s how you get attention. You know I always say: look at music artists. Music artists have to become popular in their town first before they go out to be a national or global hit. Billy Joel is from Long Island; Bruce Springsteen is from New Jersey; Biggie Smalls is from Brooklyn; and TuPac is from California. We all know that because they make sure that everybody knows where they’re waving the flag from and then you start to get people who become your local cheerleaders.
I really got discovered by doing local fashion shows with my product, and then a guy who had a video show called Ralph McDaniels highlighted me as one of the people you had to look for. He started telling all the artists in the neighbourhood, and they started telling all the stores, and it started to grow, and I became a local hero. Then what happens is you start to expand out of your local territory and people in your hood basically go out and tell everybody else. So that’s how you start, you get the attention you need. You don’t want to scale too quickly, you don’t want to take out this big loan until you start to sell, see what works, what doesn’t work, sell again. Repeat. And then when you have all the bugs taken out of the line, you know that your XL black with the silver tends to always sell - it’s a classic piece - then you start to look to go further and further and you start to look for distribution.
We’re at a day and age where a lot of people want to go out and raise a million dollars or give away part of their company. ‘Give me a million dollars for 50% of my company!’ Well what happens when you go to ten million dollars in sales and you need another million dollars, or two millions dollars? You’re gonna have to give away the other 50%! What I like to do is find strategic partners in business. J Abraham, one of my mentors, has always said that OPM should never be other peoples money. It should be other people’s mind-power, other people’s manufacturing, other people’s marketing, and a lot of times you can profit of off other people’s mistakes. What you can do instead is - let’s say you’ve got a million dollars in orders of t-shirts. Let’s say your screen-printer is charging you $2 to print a shirt and deliver it. Instead of giving him a percentage of your company pay him three dollars. Let him see that the fact that he will make more money selling your product. Let the money come into him, he’ll take the orders and ship them out and then you make a smaller profit, but guess what? You retain your company until you get to the next level.
So co-branding and working with people, and finding out other ways to work financing with them is a key component. When I brought Fubu over to Samsung, they were only making jackets, outerwear. Their factories? Nothing was happening in the summertime. I said ‘well, I’ve got some t-shirts and jeans. Can I put the t-shirts and jeans in your factories in the summer when you’re not doing much?’ And they said ‘no problem’. Now what happened: their jacket business was about a 40-50 million dollar business, ended up shrinking because of the economy and the Fubu business became a 350 million dollar business. But everybody profited.
So that’s my advice to you in regards to how you go about seeing this idea come to fruition, and then having what we call a proof-of-concept to make sure you are on the right track or at least give you a couple of things to correct, to perfect your brand, your line and your product once you hit the market.”