How to target fashion brands for print and embroidery shops

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The fashion market is a great space to inhabit.  It’s a dynamic, creative, industry where decorators can really spread their wings in their craft.  I have had the privilege of not only working in the design teams of highly successful fashion brands, but I’ve also built my own t-shirt label and worked behind the scenes with print shops whose clientele included emerging and established fashion labels.  That’s why I can wholeheartedly recommend working with fashion industry customers.

Some of the benefits of working with fashion labels include:

  • They offer opportunities to experiment with different techniques and specialty finishes. This gives you great samples to showcase when offering these services to other customers.
  • You’ll get to produce some refreshingly original and diverse artwork.
  • There’s bound to be plenty of repeat work as fashion brands regularly release new designs, reprints, and develop new products.
  • Fashion brands are highly likely to refer more designers to you if your work is impressive.  The fashion community is close-knit, collaborative and supportive.
  • Designers are likely to spend more on their garments, decoration, and finishing than traditional decoration customers.  They put a lot of thought into every aspect of their product and strive to set themselves apart, to reinforce their branding, and to add value to their products, and are thus willing to pay well to achieve their goals.
  • They often figure out all the important details for you, from creating mock-ups to choosing Pantone colors, setting print sizes, and positioning, etc.;
  • You’ll get to see your products photographed, presented and marketed beautifully due to the effort they invest in their branding. With the right agreement, you may be able to use this for your own marketing efforts.
  • It is incredibly rewarding to watch a label grow from humble beginnings to a large-volume, successful brand. Playing a part in a startup label’s success is gratifying and can help you grow your business.

Sound good?  Read on as I share some of my top tips for attracting fashion labels to your print and embroidery services!

Strategies to attract fashion brands to your shop

Content

Creating and sharing fashion-related content demonstrates that you understand and support the industry.  For inspirational content, try trend reports, themed boards of styles from your suppliers, merchandising ideas, collections of beautiful packaging, or examples of cleverly executed techniques that you offer such as foiling, suede, embroidered patches or more fashion-forward decoration designs, etc.

Is there a customer that has successfully built a fashion brand or someone you’d love to work with?  Feature designers on your blog or social channels like this example from Uber Prints.  Startup labels love to learn the success secrets of brands they admire.

Educational content is where you can share your expertise and build trust.  Share content around particular processes (e.g. foiling, flocking, applique, relabeling, mixing ink for a Pantone color, etc.), tips for calculating pricing, figuring out quantities, sampling options, copyright, marketing, tips for starting a t-shirt label, or fashion photography tricks.  If you don’t feel confident to produce this content yourself, look to other members of your team, existing content you can share, or hire someone that is an expert on that topic to do a guest post.  Sites like WGSN, Business of Fashion or Apparel News are great resources for fashion-related content.

Experiment with different media such as videos, webinars, workshops, blog posts, eBooks or social media.  Videos are ideal for showing your processes, whereas blog posts can be great for boosting SEO. Platforms like Instagram and Pinterest are ideal for fashionistas due to their highly visual nature. Post photos and short videos using relevant hashtags to boost reach. Consider the platform that is optimum for the content you have produced.

Network

Research local designers, influencers, event organizers and media in fashion that you could form connections with.  Are there events, fashion schools, festivals, magazines, or blogs you could network with?  Try searches via Google and Eventbrite and contact organizers to see if you can collaborate via sponsorship, supplying crew shirts, hosting a workshop, producing their merchandise or offering a live printing experience for event attendees.

Think big and don’t just limit yourself to labels already offering t-shirts.  Often, high fashion brands require quick turnaround orders for a promotion or giveaway and they may be a great referral source.

Search for design and fashion related groups on Facebook and LinkedIn that you could join.  Being a part of this community means you can offer printing or embroidery advice when it is sought or offer your services when someone is seeking a supplier.

Reach out to influencers with an established following in the fashion and design space.  Follow their social accounts and show your support by liking, commenting, or sharing posts that resonate with you.  Entice them with a design project or by supplying a small run of shirts in return for a shout-out on their social channels or blog.

Service

Fashion labels love decorators that are a one-stop shop for their products.  So if you offer relabeling, swing-tagging, individual bagging, fulfillment services or e-commerce stores (like DecoNetwork’s affiliate stores), promote your suite of services on your website and on social media.  Likewise, if you offer special effects like foiling, water-based inks, or embroidered patches, make those part of your promotions and show unique examples of your craft.  This shows a designer that you are willing to push the boundaries and that they can add texture, value, and interest to their designs.

Designers will be more particular about how their artwork is reproduced than your average customer.  Make sure you have processes and systems in place to maintain accuracy when it comes to color matching, positioning, sizing, maintaining consistency across each run, and ensuring a uniform texture and feel for each decoration.  Fashion products need to be retail-quality; ensure that mock-ups are approved by the designer, that all instructions are relayed to production, and that there is an eagle-eyed employee tasked with quality control.  If ever in doubt, contact the customer to clarify any issues, but be sure share your expertise when offering advice or alternatives.

Some fashion brands will require pre-production samples; you’ll have to decide whether you can offer this service and how it must be priced for your profitability.  Some shops mail initial samples, some invite the designer into the factory to approve samples, some send photographs, and some steer clear of direct sample approvals all together!  How you choose to handle sampling depends on the staff, equipment, and time that you have available.  Do what works for your shop and be sure to relay this to your team.

Branding

When it comes to targeting designers, appearances matter.  If you show that you have a great eye for design through your own website and social media presence, they’ll be confident that their artwork will be in good hands when ordering from your shop.

Review your website to ensure that your bio reflects your desire to work with the fashion industry. Share testimonials and sample work that you’ve done for fashion brands, and display photos that look professional.

 

Products

Designers are ahead of the game with styles, manufacturing, and colors; You’ll need to keep your finger on the pulse of the latest apparel and accessories trends. Take note of the fashion-forward, new release products being offered by your suppliers, and better still, share new developments in email campaigns and on your social channels.

Consider specific fashion segments that you can target with your product offerings, such as ethical fashion or eco-friendly brands.  For ethical fashion, promote the certified fair-trade brands that you stock. For the eco-conscious, display products in organic cotton, bamboo, modal, recycled polyesters, etc.

It is not uncommon for designers to take an interest in the processes behind the making of their products.  They might request sequence shots of their work on-press, or may like to meet you in-person for a tour of your shop.  Consider how you might handle these requests.

Prior to a designer committing to an order, they will likely want to try on a range of samples for fit and fabric feel.  A well-presented showroom is ideal for local customers, but for those further afield, communicate your returns policy clearly and make sure your team is well-versed in the way they are handled.

Promotion

Get creative! Other than the options mentioned above, if you can dedicate a marketing budget to advertising, there are a number of avenues that you can explore:

  • Place a feature or display ad in popular design/fashion blogs and magazines;
  • Sponsor design conferences, fashion festivals, or art shows;  
  • Employ Google AdWords for targeted search terms relevant to you and your target market.  Some examples might be, “ethical garment production (your town/city)” “fashion screen printer (your town/city)”.
  • Try Facebook or Instagram advertising. These platforms allow you to target by location, occupation, age, gender, interests, etc. 
  • Host a design competition where the winner gets a run of shirts featuring their designs.
  • Promote a fashion label startup package deal featuring a discount for a complete set of goods needed for self-promotion and sampling.
  • Offer an eBook on starting a fashion label to spark interest from budding designers.

I hope these tips have inspired you to explore servicing the fashion industry.  It can be demanding, competitive, and fast-paced, but it is also great fun to work with talented designers who are bold enough to pursue their dream. After all, who doesn’t want jobs that offer the opportunity to perfect your craft, stretch your creativity, and pump up your profit at the same time?

 

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