Dreaming of opening up your own fashion label is every creative designer’s ultimate goal but the reality is, it comes with a price and a lot of hard work. For business woman Alina Anwar, establishing her own homegrown fashion couture label Alina Anwar Couture is like giving birth to a kid, nourishing it and raising it like a real daughter. “It is one of the most thrilling rides of my life so far. It always keeps me on my toes and I love every bit of it.”
Alina Anwar Couture’s 2-year existence in the market proves that the brand has been making successful progress. In just below two years in UAE’s highly competitive couture fashion business, the brand has gained a tremendous amount of worldwide attention and even getting a nod with high profile figures including the music legend Mariah Carey (she wore the dress during her ‘All I want for Christmas is You’ remake video last December 2019) and Bollywood Superstar Kareena Kapoor (she wore the dress during her red carpet appearance at the Brands Impact Awards last March 2019), and several more local and regional celebrities in different red carpets globally including in Italy, Los Angeles, Dubai and India.
It proves that time does not solely define the success of fashion labels, here, Alina Anwar shares some of the most important lessons she has learned during this first phase of building her own fashion business:
- Act and behave like a business
To build a successful label, you’ll have to think like an entrepreneur from the start. That means understanding how a business works and putting together a plan that lays out short-term, medium-term and long-term goals. Once your company is up and running, build solid relationships with manufacturers, buyers and investors by being consistently reliable and honest about what you’re doing.
- Product development is key
Start small with one product line – then develop the brand from there, in a way that feels consistent and carries forward the same design DNA.
Setting the right price for your product is crucial in finding success. Work it out by starting with the amount that a customer would be willing to pay, and working backwards to calculate how much you can spend on materials and manufacturing while still turning a profit.
- Build your DNA and communicate
It’s important to have a strong vision of your brand’s identity from the beginning. Young designers need to understand what they are and why they are starting their own businesses. Once you set your brand apart from other brands then start to create your brand story. This is the backbone of your brand.
Start with a marketing plan that sets out which customers you’re targeting, and how you’re going to approach them. You may want to look at hiring a PR company – as PR and communications are useful tools to support a designer and bring their work to the attention of a wider audience only when their business can support this attention.
- Understand and address the challenges of production
New businesses can often struggle with production – you’ll be ordering small quantities at first, which leaves you in a poor bargaining position with manufacturers. They may ask you for a deposit long before you’re going to receive payment from a retailer. This can be difficult, but it’s essential to pay promptly so that production is not delayed – otherwise you could end up late to deliver to retailers, damaging your relationships.
- Find the key to sales and distribution
To be successful, you’ll need to get the attention of buyers. They’ll want to know what’s unique about your product, how it fits with their other brands, whether it’s at the right price point, and whether your business is well-structured.
They need to know how they compare to the competition. Who is going to buy the product? Where you would like to be sold, realistically? Will it be the right price? These questions have to be answered before picking up a pen to design.
- Understand the importance of cash flow, funding and ﬁnancing
One of the biggest challenges you’ll face as a new business is that cash flows out – for product development and manufacturing – long before it comes back in from retailers or customers. From the very beginning, you’ll need to know where your funding is coming from and keep your finances under control. Taking investment can mean losing some of your control over the business, so think carefully and don’t give away too much too cheaply.