Launching a new brand might sound exciting and fun, but trust me, it’s not easy! The true payoff for all your hard work doesn’t manifest itself right away, if ever. It’s the journey and the determination to stay the course that’s meaningful. The journey into yourself to create the brand, to design the product; the journey on which you invite your customers to join you.
What follows: a few things I’ve learned over the past two and a half years while building a premium surf-inspired lifestyle fashion brand (Over Winter) from scratch with no investors, no design studio, no previous retail experience and definitely no experience making clothes. Had I known then what I know now, I would have run like hell. Making clothing is hard. Building a brand, even harder.
You are nothing, your idea is not original, and no one cares.
There is no elevator to success–you have to take the stairs like everyone else does – one design, one customer, one dollar at a time. Your product will not launch to overnight success and you will not be rich and famous unless you already are. Just focus on bringing your idea to life – the people who believe in you will follow but it takes time. If this sounds harsh, it’s not. It’s true. Ask any successful person how long it took them to “make it”. Forever.
Focus on building your product, not building your business.
The first time I started a business, I rushed to incorporate, got a business license, a new computer and business cards. You don’t need any of that because you don’t have a business. You have an idea or a hobby. A business makes money. Until you’re making money, focus on building an amazing product and throw all your resources into that. For me that meant finding a pattern maker (Google), a sewer (referral from pattern maker), fabric (I went to the textile trade shows in New York, scoured the internet and visited a million fabric stores from here to kingdom come), a graphic designer (there’s a good story of how I found mine but I’ll save that for another time), a brand strategist (I am in awe of ours – Jasmine Bina of Concept Bureau), and a web developer (if you’re doing e-commerce, which if you’re not you should be). There’s no particular order but I’d say after you have your idea nailed down, your materials sourced and your prototypes, you should start thinking about the brand. Get the brand strategy down, then the graphic design. I did it the opposite way but it worked out. Note: the brand is not a logo – it’s like an empty cup, the combination of all the things you fill it with.
You need a good product, but more important is a good story– and a reason why people should want to be a part of that story.
For Over Winter, our story is helping customers realize their true potential – especially in moments when they’re alone reaching for a goal or horizon. Notice that I am also reaching for a goal or horizon. Spooky coincidence? No. If we’re going to be real with people and ask them to join us on their journey to becoming the best version of themselves, then we have to do the same. It’s not okay to sell people on slick ad copy to make a sale. That’s what soulless corporations do. No. If you’re going do it, go deep inside yourself and tell others how you did it so they can follow along. Then the why will work itself out. Hint: why they care is because they see a kernel of themselves in you and if you can do it, so can they.
You aren’t building a team, you’re building a family and the family is a part your brand.
I believe that the results of any endeavor are a result of your intention and the people you surround yourself with. You attract people of your own frequency. The energy you put out is always coming back to you. If you’re attracting lame people it’s because you’re being lame in some other area of your life. Straighten up. Be honest with yourself. Don’t cut corners. Work on your inside game and the outside will flourish. If you’re creating clothing or any other type of design, you’re already connecting to your heart space; live with an open heart! I am super picky about the people I do business with. I once had a pattern maker scold me for asking too many questions. Next.
Obsess over the small details.
The color, the feel, the visual texture, the trims, the buttons – everything matters. Our Over Winter denim is highly technical and took many iterations before I came up with the final version. Combining denim with boardshort fabric is a pain in the ass but through trial and error I figured it out and was able to produce a high quality product worthy of a premium pricepoint. In general, it’s expensive to make clothing here in the States so be prepared to hold your ground when it comes to price.
Some final thoughts…
It will hold you back and you’ll never get your product to market or you’ll run out of money trying. It’s more important to get something out in the market and then make adjustments.
Be true to yourself and stick to your vision.
Everyone is going to want to give you advice so it’s easy to get off track. Pick and choose advice based on what feels right to you in your gut.
Once you build your network of vendors, it multiplies.
Ask the people you already know and trust for referrals to get other things done.
Don’t focus on cost of goods, focus on look and feel.
I never once questioned the price of something like fabric because I had no experience to compare it against. If I had it to do over, I would change nothing. I picked the things that built the best product. The cost is what it is. At the end of the day you’re asking someone to put something on their body and represent your brand. I take that very seriously – so do consumers.
I’ll end by sharing something that was said to me early on in creating the brand. Once you create it, it will feel natural and like something that’s been there all along. I know what that means now. For me, Over Winter has become an emotional journey into myself—first for my spiritual growth, then to benefit others. The language of design then becomes the products and the brand. If those things are aligned with your soul, then you can speak to others through them. You’re sharing a part of yourself, your gifts, your talents, who you really are. How cool is that?