NEW BRITISH FASHION BUSINESSES BATTLE FOR AWARD AT EXPORT SHOW

The finalists in the British Fashion Startup Awards will be competing for a coveted title this Friday in London.

The competition will see one of them being crowned the 2016 winner and will receive the title, a trophy and a support package to help them move their business forward.

The competition was created and funded by fashion business mentor and consultant Ben Muis, who believes that the process of going through the rounds brings small businesses together, encourages new entrepreneurs and stimulates a healthy future for these new British fashion brands.

When asked why the awards were established he said that “it is incredibly important to our international future success in this time of change and emerging economies elsewhere in the world that we support and stimulate British creative startups in their business ventures, starting from the ground level.”

He pointed out that in his experience as a mentor to many startups the journey at the early stages is fraught with lonely challenges and insecurities, and that those who work hard to find their way to their first successes “should be encouraged and celebrated”.

The candidates are as diverse as the industry itself. You may prefer the fashion outsider Stacy Chan or the mature Vassi8 brand owner Vassily Skinner’s bag collections. You may be attracted by the footwear from Taylor & Blake or the eclectic mix of cultures represented in the Kites and Bites collections. The 10 finalists have however not been selected on their collections, but rather on their business journey and actions. The one thing they all have in common is how impressive their journey has been sofar and how hard they have worked to get to the point where they are now nominated for the finals of the awards.

The judges who will be questioning the nominees at the show are from different parts of the industry and will be looking at many aspects of each business before voting independently on who the winner should be.

The final and winners presentation are both taking place at Going Global, an event which fittingly supports the export efforts of British companies and which is run in association with the government department of Trade and Industry.

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The fashion technology dilemma: do you need your own ERP or do you actually need a more manageable business?

It can be a scary moment. Do we sign off this ERP* project? How much is it really going to cost? How long will it actually take before it works? Will it save or kill my future business plans?

In reality, these should be concerns for a number of reasons. First of all, an ERP implementation is a big thing. There is a serious impact on a business during an implementation both in financial and human resource terms. Also, you are making a choice that can affect how you are going to have to run your business going forward. The ERP will want to know how you do each bit of your trade. If your market changes, client demands alter or you add brands or processes the system may actually restrict you for quite some time. This is all considered normal by the average ERP provider but as we live in a fast changing world it should not be.

Unfortunately there is a habit in the industry to paint a pretty picture during the sales cycle, and then to go over budget and beyond promised timelines (I am sure there will be some that disagree, especially those who work for ERP vendors or those who are just better than at project management than the average ERP provider). Perhaps several ERP vendors just underestimate the complexity of the fashion industry and the dramatic impact their work can have on the health or even survival of their client’s business.

To ERP or not to ERP?

I have actually seen several companies implode under the weight of their ERP implementation. The costs spiral beyond what the business can cope with and cash flow becomes the stuff of nightmares.

In the fashion industry, where I spend most of my time helping leaders and teams in small and large companies, there are plenty of CEO’s and MD’s sitting on the fence. Holding up the sign off of a new or replacement ERP projects because there is something about it that could seriously damage their business if it does not go to plan.

What if you did not need an ERP but a structure change to win?

But what is the alternative? It seems such a given path…. You start doing business, you live off spreadsheets, you get an accounting system, if you are clever you also get a PLM system, your business grows, your staff can’t cope anymore under the burden the volume of transactions in and out create…. and you take an ERP system. As scary as it seems, it also seems unavoidable.

Fortunately, the world does not stand still. Not even the fashion world stands still, where style seems to change but the technology used to dye, sew and run our business does not appear to change all that much.

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Why Fashion Designers Choose To Have A Business Mentor

Becoming a designer brand is not just about designing. Even an excellent training and great degree are usually not enough to make it. Nor is having the best graduate show. It comes down to just one thing – getting your designs to market. This actually requires that quite allot of things are made to fall into place.

It sounds exciting and dynamic. Getting your image out there. Attracting an audience. Building a fan base and giving them what they want. But that’s just the gilt on the gingerbread.

What underpins the perceived glitz and glamour of the fashion industry is a hard-nosed approach that requires a good business sense so that you can:

• develop and make your designs
• ship and deliver finished garments
• make decisions on how and where to sell
• build and run a viable business

And if that does not sound as enticing as the purely creative aspects of fashion design or if this strikes you as a challenge you could not complete, it’s possibly because you don’t have a Fashion Business Mentor…

The whole point of mentoring for designers is the that your creativity is mixed with the experience needed to give the almost uncanny ability to predict what’s going to happen and give certainty of what is expected. These two key skills allow a fashion designer to see what they need to see, and make decisions based on that accurate vision, so that business success is the outcome.


See how the FASHIONbasecamp Mentoring Programme helps starting and growing fashion entrepreneurs in this short video.

The fashion industry is harsh. Talent is rarely enough. What the biographies of all great fashion designers reveal is a combination of idiosyncratic fashion design talent along with a steely determination to run a successful fashion operation. Controlling fixed costs, maintaining brand integrity, developing new markets, presenting a coherent message to the market, meeting deadlines and ensuring quality control are all variables that a fashion designer needs to master. At the point where design becomes business, this list of responsibilities can become too demanding for many, leading to one of two responses:

• Minimisation – failure to grow a potentially flourishing fashion business because of fears that all the elements of business management will be too much for the founder
• Lack of focus – sacrificing design talent to day-to-day running of a business can kill the business just as fast as not expanding when possible.

So what does a successful fashion business require?

Scope, experience and clear vision are all essential parts of business growth, and they aren’t easy to come by, especially if all your skills and abilities, thus far, have been about designing, not about running organisations. But there is scope to develop the necessary skills without putting your business on the line as you experiment. Fashion business mentoring removes much of the risk, whilst bringing sage advice that helps you explore the possible without losing sight of the long-term aim. Industry specific mentoring is vital to many entrepreneurs, but to those in a high speed and ever changing business like fashion it is crucial. A miss-step can throw out 12 to 18 months of success quite easily.

A fashion mentor gives clients a chance to explore the aspects of running a business that they may never have encountered. He or she ensures that they are equipped to handle a sales department and manage staff so that they don’t lose their creative edge but neither do they have to abdicate business decisions to people who may not share, or even understand, their vision. The whole point about designing what you believe in is that these designs get the chance to be admired and bought. Fashion business mentoring offers scope to develop, explore and hone skills that will make your fashion enterprise successful in the marketplace.

What can you expect from Mentoring for a Fashion Business?

• Access to an invaluable resource – fashion business experience that is relevant to your situation
• Immediate experience – advice drawn on active experience of running fashion enterprises so that you can be exposed to fashion focused thinking that helps you make decisions
• Vision based discussion – knowing which new ideas are viable can be essential to developing your business, so an impartial exploration of your ideas can help you sort out the less than ideal from the viable
• Motivation and support – fashion design is stressful, exciting and often demanding. Being able to speak to somebody who shares your experience, brings calm and perspective to difficult decisions and is on your side can be vital to your own resilience.

For many small to medium sized business owners, mentoring can make the difference between being a start-up that fails and growing a business to become a sustainable enterprise. There’s no way of knowing what topics a mentoring session will cover. For some designers it might be ways to establish the right margin calculations or how to work with factories in remote locations – the nuts and bolts of garment industry negotiations. For others it could be a personality conflict with a member of staff – the unexpected problems of having personnel and needing them to buy into the vision of success that the designer has established. It might be the challenges of success – the need to rapidly increase production, get more funding or supply markets that weren’t in the original plan. Distribution, sales agents and licensing can be daunting, and not only to those who have moved beyond a local distribution structure to something more global.

Whatever the questions, a skilled mentor can ensure that decisions are made based on the long-term success of the enterprise and in line with the vision of the founder. Above all, mentoring for designers brings a clear focus on brand decisions, stripping away the inessential to help you to ensure that each process, decision or commitment moves the brand towards overall success, rather than succumbing to the many pitfalls that take small fashion businesses out of the game before they can make their mark in the long term.

Only 4 days to go and what a day it has been today in the run-up to the FASHIONbasecamp launch!

The announcement of our launch event in Soho, London during London Fashion Week yesterday has had some great responses. Thank you so much everyone! The guest list is starting to look REALLY nice…

Also, with the line-up of acts and designers that are part of the event and the confirmation of venues for future FASHIONbasecamp events it has already been a day to remember.

Only 4 days to go until Saturday evening, so if you have not got yourself onto the guest list yet make sure you visit www.fashionbasecamp.comnow and click those buttons!

Doing fashion not dreaming fashion – turning British talent into more viable fashion businesses

As SS16 begins to play out and the British Fashion Council initiatives to support emerging talent reached their catwalk culmination many of the designers who have benefited from various forms of assistance over the run up to the event will be starting to wonder what happens next.

How do great fashion designs turn into a business?

Curated shows are fantastic – they present the best collections to buyers and showcase them to the fashion press. But then what? How do you move your designs from concept to production? What are the processes that lead to a successful sourcing exercise? How do you protect your intellectual capital in an intensively competitive environment?

Katie Roberts-Wood on her first steps into the fashion world

Katie Roberts-Wood talks to FASHIONbasecamp about her first steps into running a fashion business following the attention after winning the FASHIONSCOUT Merit Award (see feature image for a snapshot of her collection).

For newly emerging designers – such as those on the NEWGENSS16 initiative sponsored by TOPSHOP – these questions may be career-breakers. Design is not enough. The ability to transfer concept to form is vital, but not sufficient. Most young designers have the drive and desire to complete the journey to success, but can lack the guidance to know where their skills are low or their current business practices ineffective.

As highlighted in a recent intelligence article about the relationship between young designers and retailers by BOF: “Even though a strong stockist can act as a calling card for a fledgling brand — a sign to other retailers that a young designer can manage the business — the logistics, production and business reporting involved in supplying to a big store can be a shock to the system for a young company — something stores don’t always take into account.” It goes on to quote Bernadette Kissane from Euromonitor: “Inexperienced designers sometimes struggle to deliver orders on time or to quality standards, and there’s a risk of the designer not being able to keep up with the demand”.

FASHIONbasecamp, created by experienced fashion business mentor and consultant Ben Muis and fashion media creator Darren Paul, aims to bridge the gap between design skills and business expertise.

By flagging up the landmarks that indicate challenges ahead before ensuring provision of solutions, FASHIONbasecamp will both educate designers about the evolution of a fashion business and develop their core skills in entrepreneurship. As shown by mentees who have already progressed through mentoring programmes run by Ben Muis the process works. By extending the programme into FASHIONbasecamp many more British designers will be able to access this business development process and progress on their journey to success without the roadblocks they may currently experience.

GVYN's Ulrike Seeber was mentored by FASHIONbasecamp Head of Mentoring Ben Muis

Ulrike Seeber, founder of London based leather brand GVYN, talks to FASHIONbasecamp presenter Nimi Mehta about how mentoring helped her to succeed where others failed.

One example of such an event is the “Dealing with Fashion Retailers and Distributors” workshop for emerging fashion brands, which FASHIONbasecamp is organising in November at the Fashion Retail Academy in London.

Looking at fashion ideas as business proposals

Every new fashion line may need funding, but equally important may be the need to understand wholesale, master ecommerce, or having expert support in establishing brand identity – these and other aspects of growing a fashion business are fully explored through a range of FASHIONbasecamp tools and events, including curated videos that anatomise the vision, challenges and successes of emerging fashion brands as a route map for new fashion entrepreneurs through to one-to-one mentoring from industry experts who can lay out a range of potential solutions to support each young fashion business.

Funding a fashion business

The sticking point for many fashion designers is finance. Knowing how to make creative ideas fundable is an art, and being able to translate fashion concept to start-up vocabulary is a craft. FASHIONbasecamp’s mentoring team has been chosen for their variety of skills, while events such as the workshops will allow emerging fashion businesses to develop their abilities to pitch their work and negotiate for their business with confidence and clarity.

FASHIONbasecamp is a complete platform to support and develop Britain’s fashion designers in the face of global competition for publicity, funding and brand recognition. Using FASHIONbasecamp in conjunction with well-developed initiatives such as London Fashion Week, the UK’s new fashion talent will be superbly supported through the process of becoming viable fashion businesses.

Forever New – Case Study

With an amazing 250 stores in seven countries all over the world, fashion clothing and accessories brand Forever New is one of the fastest growing Australian brands. With the help of WFX Cloud PLM system they recently overcame one of their biggest challenges – merchandise management. You can read their case study here.

Business mentoring – change without pain

Today, new businesses may need mentoring more than ever before. Growth is vital to any enterprise, but managing and mastering the process of growth isn’t always easy. For many organisations, understanding the next right step, moving to the next level or simply increasing the skills base – individually or collectively – is essential to survival.

Many business leaders seek out information from books, DVDS, seminars or television programmes, but while this wisdom is valuable, implementing change cannot be done theoretically – it requires support, hands-on experience and the ability to be guided through the change process.

Richard Branson, “It’s always good to have a helping hand at the start. I wouldn’t have got anywhere in the airline industry without the mentorship of Sir Freddie Laker.”

Business mentoring – the relationship between one business owner and another where one brings experience and the other makes use of it – is not only a highly effective process, it allows for the interplay of ideas and development of networks in a way that almost no other knowledge exchange does.

Here are just three reasons why:

  • Wisdom – anybody can give advice, but wisdom is advice that’s been road-tested. While most people think they know how to run a business, only those who have done the job can speak with experience – and that’s what a business mentor does.
  • Perspective – a mentor knows how things work, but also has a wider perspective of the business world as a whole – as a result they can often see a whole process while the business owner can only see ‘the problem’.
  • Skills – Mentors exist to develop individuals, talents and businesses. As a result, they are as likely to show the business owner a gap in their own skill set as to spot a problem in the cash-flow or production process. This means that organisations with mentors are likely to be more robust, more adaptable and more able to adjust to change and to make use of it to grow.

James Dyson on his mentor, Jeremy Fry, “After we finished the prototype, I said, “Now what?” He said, “We make it.” And then? “We sell it.” It was simple as that. Soon, we were selling 200 boats a year.”

In addition, good business mentors also provide a sounding board, bring networking skills and allow entrepreneurs to develop their own teams – mentoring cascades down so that everybody involved in the process benefits – it’s not a selfish interchange between two business leaders but a wide transmission of excellence that cascades through the organisation, allied to an ability to recognise potential problems before they become actual road-blocks to business growth.

Specialist understanding of a business area is a rare and valued commodity and business mentors should be bringing deep experience of their field to those they mentor. Ben Muis, an IOEE Certified mentor, has over two decades of grounding in the fashion industry and serves as a fashion industry specialist mentor for the StartupLoans programme. He offers specific mentoring sessions that draw on his background in international corporate environments to support start-up organisations in the fashion, sports and luxury industries through their challenging early days.

Photo Credit: www.shuttershock.com

Process change in fashion – The need to bring departments together

Many fashion companies suffer from a disjointed structure. The need for process change is apparent but who will take the lead?

Entire departments or divisions have gone on to lead their own lives and the single view a business needs is no longer present.

Changing a scenario like this does not only require a holistic view of the brand or business requirements. It also calls for an approach to process change that can show a win-win scenario to those who participate in the journey to a better future.

Sometimes significant shifts in structure or responsibilities are needed to ensure that the business will show a single face. Not only to the outside world but also to itself. Other times it requires a delicate approach, which shows those involved in the process change the light This can achieve buy-in from those who can make the difference within each team.

Whichever process change approach suits your business, it is paramount that shifts or improvements are planned well and that there is discipline in how these are implemented.

Experience in both change management and the intricacies across a fashion and apparel business are key if the outcome is going to benefit the brand, the people and the company as a whole.

Process change is something that can often get easy backing from a board. It can however be very different within the teams at execution level. I would advise that careful coordination is not a luxury.

Benefit from experience, especially when it comes to departments that cross creative, operational and commercial responsibilities. Process change is serious, but if handled well it can be seriously good for business.

If you think that the separation of your departments or processes has cost the business enough in time and money this might be the right time to call us.

Cloud based software and the fashion industry – PLM breaks new ground

Software isn’t the first thing people consider when they look at a fashion brand – but it might be the secret to success.

Progressive businesses are using product lifecycle management systems based in the Cloud to create simplified information, streamlined processes and errorless collaborations. PLM itself has been a step change for the fashion industry: reducing the endless administration involved in designing, sourcing, producing, costing, testing and delivering fashion items.

Few industries are as merciless as fashion – a mistake at any point in the process can result in financial failure and public loss of confidence. Designs that don’t meet consumer needs, poor sourcing leading to garment failure, supply chain issues … from scathing press reviews, to highly public complaints, to empty shelves, these product lifecycle management issues are damaging to organisations.

Staying on top of the product lifecycle via traditional means can be complex and exhausting. Monitoring the process can soak up almost all available management time.  Constant shuffling of files, versions and communications leaves creatives sapped of their energy for doing what they do best – creating exciting products. Worst of all, costly errors creep into the system and can proliferate through the lifecycle of the product, reducing the profit margin.

Using Cloud based software has numerous advantages

  • Low subscription costs
  • 24/7 technical support
  • Ability to bring on board collaborators for specific projects.

So who is benefitting from the flexible, functional power of Cloud-based PLM?

Fashion focus – fast facts from the Wild West

MCS is a brand based in the lifestyle of the American West. Iconic, long-lasting (dating back to the 1970s) and hybridising US styling and Italian design, it occupies a niche of independence, style and attitude which brings together classic ruggedness and sophisticated styling. As a result, the brand has an international appeal which it maintains through linking its iconic history to fashion-forward refinement.

Cloud-based PLM enables MCS to work across national boundaries, sourcing and maintaining a highly individual brand identity whilst constantly refreshing inventory to give it a highly responsive relationship to its international marketplace. Cost management ensures that every garment transcends the ‘casual’ to offer a higher level experience to consumers – a key function of maintaining market share.

Fashion focus – niche to international icon

When Maggie Yan set up Corset Story in 2008, it was the result of her love affair with corsetry. now, with business partner Chris Rawlings, she heads up an international brand with a £7 million turnover. Challenges for Corset Story include the need to harmonise an online profile that generates 20,000 hits a day with manufacturing based on craftsmanship requiring time management of specialist tailoring. In addition, the personalisation of corsetry requires superb customer service across forty countries.

Cloud based PLM gives Corset Story minute control of the manufacturing process, ensuring that the complex design and build process of corsetry is streamlined and detailing is properly integrated in production. Above all, process improvements resulting from the marriage of ultra-modern materials with traditional corset design have been simplified so that form and function are completely integrated through better product development.

Fashion focus – from Kings of Pain to Tour de France Champions

The rise of Rapha has been astonishing. In a single decade this road cycling brand has risen from grassroots support to be the clothing sponsor of Team Sky, twice the Tour de France Champions. Road racing is tough on riders, and their apparel, and Rapha has a strong focus on quality, style and performance.

Rapha manages complex demands through cloud-based PLM. From the competitors engaged in the Rapha Continental to those subscribing to Rouleur, Rapha’s own publication base, a pre-eminent focus is to maintain brand identity across platforms. Calendar tracking is also vital for a brand that hosts events and organises international sporting fixtures. At the performance level, outfitting Team Sky requires world class garment engineering, whilst Rapha clothing has to function effectively as social wear too. Cloud PLM allows signature styling to be transferred across sectors through the design and development process, ensuring that brand integrity is honoured, and a vast customer base satisfied, without unwieldy paper trails.

Fashion Focus – Celebrity styling and sophisticated retailing

Critical path management is an essential component of gemstone work, and Monica Vinader utilises cloud plm to ensure that project management is straightforward. Uniting individualism with a pared back sensibility, Monica Vinader (MV) is easy to wear but distinctive. As a result, it’s won fans such as Kate Winslet and Kylie Minogue.

International success requires superb inventory management and a keen focus on cost management; fashion plm delivers oversight of the MV design process from initial concept to gemstone cutting in India, and distribution through specialist boutique outlets around the world.

Cloud Technology: rescuing your fashion business from drowning in spreadsheets

Every fashion business depends on one key factor – product. Without excellent products no business can succeed, but fashion businesses, above all, fail if their products are ill-designed, badly-constructed or don’t arrive at market on time. These are not the only risks. Margins are shrinking so errors become more costly, and costs themselves must be reduced in an increasingly competitive marketplace.

For any fashion business these competing demands can create headaches and lead to the feeling that you are submerged in an endless round of priority setting and deadline chasing. For creative entrepreneurs this is the ultimate nightmare – unable to do the work they founded their organisation on, they become administrative drones chasing the ever swifter and ever more demanding regime of the fashion world which has seen development seasons increase from four to twelve, and turnaround times halved on the process of getting a garment from original idea to the customer’s hands.

Why fashion businesses struggle

Cloud technology might not seem like the solution to such a varied set of problems, but the one common denominator in many of the problems experienced by small to medium sized fashion businesses is administrative drag. Whilst the first reaction is often to reduce the big costs, perhaps by laying off individuals or by moving them to part time work, this is generally counterproductive. Not only will your best talent move on, aware that you’re not able to service your workforce in the way they’d wish, but you’ll demoralise the rest of your team who will become aware of the exodus of highly talented individuals and will find themselves trying to create more product with fewer people and less intrinsic support. This can have a reputational effect on the organisation which persists long after it may have recovered from the original difficulties.

Time-wasting and overhead reduction are also ways to reduce your costs, and this is where fashion, in particular, has tough lessons to learn. Unlike other creative industries which have moved rapidly to new technologies – music for example – the fashion world has largely stuck to its traditional administrative processes. This means that some of the fastest-moving and most demanding product areas are being created and managed using cumbersome and outdated mechanisms.

This can be defined as ‘spreadsheet tyranny’ it leaves creatives pushing paper rather than using their talents to grow their businesses. It deprives excellent administrators of the chance to cut costs and streamline systems because they must work at the rate of the slowest. It offers increasing opportunities for error and failure as the proliferation of spreadsheets increases the risk of divergence in versions used for production.

PLM offers a revolution in managing fashion enterprises

Product lifecycle management software is one way to cut through the ever increasing turmoil of spreadsheet management. PLM systems based in the Cloud give fashion businesses the opportunity to streamline processes and cut costs, as well as helping them develop more robust administration. Here’s how:

  • Lower costs – Cloud based PLM offers an online subscription payment process; no upfront fees, no capital investment, and no in-house IT team to keep on top of the process
  • Swifter processes – a shared central infrastructure is quicker than a cumbersome spreadsheet process, it gets refined and updated regularly based on customer feedback so it’s ever faster and increasingly responsive and intuitive to use.
  • Centralised information – PLM unites calendars and spreadsheets, costings, orders, approval forms and deadlines to name just a few. All this information is held in the Cloud and updated across your business as soon as changes are made, so there are no information lags and no failed communications
  • Risk reduction – as PLM integrates the whole process of creation, production and distribution, and updates each area almost instantaneously, there is much less scope for one part of the organisation to fail to recognise changes or to be working on an outdated concept, deadline or production schedule. Errors are naturally reduced and questions about process are easily asked and answered so the whole system does not get suspended whilst clarification is sought.

Next steps in finding the best Cloud-based PLM for your fashion business

If moving to Cloud-based PLM is starting to look like the best way to get your head above water, we agree!

But not all PLM systems are the same, and identifying the best tools for your business and finding the most effective Cloud-based PLM for you should not be a gamble. Why not contact us today to explore how our fashion-focused PLM has been specifically designed to support fashion enterprises to meet their goals?