What’s in a product? Finding your Fashion Niche

Differentiating items: Hussein Chalayan’s Table skirt, and Roland Mouret’s Galaxy Dress

This week I am looking at The Product; firstly, finding your niche in the market place and what makes you sellable, followed by the process of design itself. I am also excited to be interviewing London jewellery designer Davina Combe later in the week, who will share some of her industry tips with us. 

Finding your fashion niche

During my research, one point continues to be reiterated above all else: the importance of filling a market need. Failure to do so can only result in an unsellable first collection and the debt induced ruination of your fashion dream. (Sorry to be morbid). To rub salt in the wound, our very own grand dame of fashion Vivienne Westwood spoke out recently to strongly discourage anyone from joining the fashion ranks as there are simply “enough of us now…. Why on earth would you want to do that?”

However, if the nation’s anarchist darling can’t put you off – here are the key points to consider in order to define your product, and find your fashion niche…

Know your customer:

That means – what is their age, income, job, where do they shop, what do they like, what defines them?

ALICE by Temperley’s ideal customer exudes Brit-girl cool – think Daisy Lowe and Amber le Bon. DKNY designs for women looking for New York street smart style, combining comfort and luxury. The McQ by Alexander McQueen customer looks for a combination of rock‘n’roll with classic craftsmanship, with a rebellious nostalgic flair. Dian Von Furstenberg said of her customer: “The DVG customer still dress dresses very much the way she did when she was 20, and somehow manages not to look absurd doing so.”  Notably, your ideal costumer will often be different from your actual customer, for instance: Alexander Wang’s ideal costumer is said to be a “Model Off Duty”, whereas his actual customer is a young professional in the city who aspires to that image.

Find a unique selling point (the tricky bit):

Why is the customer going to shop with you rather than with your competitors – what differentiating factors does your product have that makes it stand out?

Whilst all providing luxury womenswear, Alice Temperley is treasured as being quintessentially British, Missoni for wild prints, and Stella McCartney for a refusal to use any animal products. Toms Shoes are unique for their business model of donating a pair of shoes to a child in need with every purchase made, and in the furniture retail sector, Made.com are unique in their model of crowdsourcing, in which the customer plays an interactive and decisive role in the end product.

The important thing is to stand out and remain sellable, whether it’s through your brand’s ethical message, use of colour, cut, or product price.

Other Key learnings I’ll consider when planning my product development:

-       Is my collection consistent so that the costumer can identify my brand?

-       Have I factored in current trends?

-       Does my product have commercial appeal AS WELL as standing out?

-       Have I selected the right price point, and ensured quality control over the items?

That’s all for now! If you want to read further about Unique Selling Points in fashion, here are a couple of great resources: 10 Examples of Killer Unique Selling Propositions on the Web Finding a Niche: Make your Business Plans Stand Out

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