Fashion Business Basics is a 6-part series by fashion entrepreneur with Isoken Ogiemwonyi, which will feature on BellaNaija. You may recall BN featured Isoken and her partner in the BN Making It series, back in 2011. Since then, she has gone on to achieve even greater feats, making her mark firmly in the fashion industry in Nigeria. We hope that aspiring fashion entrepreneurs will benefit from this series. Click here to read the first part, , the second part and the third part.
As a retailer of primarily Made in Nigeria fashion, lifestyle and beauty brands – one of my key issues is replenishment, which is tied to easily the most problematic part of the value chain in the fashion industry on the continent today – Production.
It is far from the glitz and glam of the runway, and requires more than a fair amount of detail (not to mention grit, patience and willpower). However, it is by far the most important part of your route to market. Without product, there is nothing to sell and nothing to create awareness around. Especially in this market, where most designers manage their own sampling, production and sales.
Producing commercial quantities in a country riddled with infrastructural problems, production goes from difficult to near impossible. Getting physical product in a saleable condition, from skilled artisans is a herculean task and our peculiar lack of quality control and line production personnel can make it seem even more insurmountable – and as an independent designer probably working on supply to one or more independent retailers or directly to your end consumer. How do you make the important merchandising decisions on what sizes, colours and prints to make?
Production is key for a ready wear brand. It is the make or break factor for any consumer facing brand. Too little and you don’t maximise profit; too much and you lose money and face deep discounting that can have repercussions fro your brand e.g. teaching your end consumer to always expect deep discounting, affecting your brand’s value perception. It is essential to streamline your production process before you invest time and money in the design, sales and marketing costs.
While there are endless overseas options for production – major limitations for small brands can be high MOQs (minimum order quantities) and the pervasive forex issues – for brands looking abroad. Finding quality suppliers can be challenging and as a result, many brands are very secretive and protective of their manufacturing sources.
Let’s look at some major keys!
Buy Wide, Not Deep
Unless you’re a more established brand with reams of data on what sells and perhaps even a bestsellers or basics line – its i likely that you will have to take some time to test to find what works, especially as you grow your product line. Make a few styles in a few sizes as opposed to over investing in commercial quantities that you may be unable to move.
Value Feedback and Make Data Driven Decisions
Speak to your retailers and ask end consumers for feedback as often as you can. This will help yo if you have a website, use your analytics to make decisions about how much to produce based on what your clientele is actually buying. Forecasting isn’t an exact science but it’s a useful tool to predict what you need to keep making each season .
Identify Key Partners – For Retail. Merchandising and Production
Retailers – For ready to wear designers – each retail point of sale is a valuable opportunity to learn what your consumer wants , not only from your brand but from brands across the board. Developing relationships can help you glean hard to access data about what works and what doesn’t. Leveraging relationships, from other companies you have worked with in any complimentary industry is a good start – someone always knows someone and can help you make useful introductions to retailers and distributors across the continent and in the diaspora.
For more Partner Resources please look here, there’s a list of all sorts of companies and experts who can help you on your journey!
I hope this has been helpful! And if anyone has any questions or ideas feel free to email me!