Having a Small Business Strategy to Grow a Fashion Brand

Tina Trevino and models

Breathing Life into a Struggling Fashion Brand part 2. 


Editors note this is part two of a two part article, part one Join Me on a Contemporary Fashion Shoot

Yesterday was one of my most fun days this summer, combining elements of my job, my good friends, young adults just getting their start in the world, and a beautiful feel-good summer day…..

It all starts with the fact that I’ve been working on so many new design projects this summer that are about building new brands and opportunities for my company, but I have one in particular that has really been my favorite challenge. We were given the task of trying to help a very well known jr. label try to revive some life into their struggling brand.

They’ve found the market place very challenging for them, being heavily overshadowed in their own department store by more well known national and international contemporary hi-fashion brands like Ted Baker, Jessica Simpson, Trina Turk, and Michael Kors, etc. as well the mass jr. retailers like H&M and Forever 21 who can provide fast fashion at a great price.

These savvy jr. customers whose money we are all vying for also have amazing on-line retailers like ASOS and Revolve as well as flash sites like Ideel, Rue La La, and Guilt Group to keep them looking on trend at great prices….so how do we fit this struggling brand into the mix?

Identifying Your Customer and Understanding Her Lifestyle

The brand has decided to focus on targeting a slightly younger 18 to 25 year demographic and the dilemna becomes trying to find just the right product for their new customer base and understanding just what these young women will spend their money on. This particular demographic is challenging because on the 18 year old side, they may not have much of their own disposable income, there is still some parental influence in what they can wear, there are their peers and outside social media influences telling them what they should wear—and then you have the flip side of the demo.

You have an older mid 20-ish woman who has just entered the work force and has different ideas of what her wardrobe should look like based on her new environment and co-workers. Many of these mid twenty year olds could also be young mothers trying to be fashionable while raising young children. Life is so different these days—no longer does being a mom mean you have to dress like what a stereotypical “mom” used to wear. This demographic of women probably doesn’t have a lot of disposable income at this point in life, but what they choose to spend it on either needs to be inexpensive fashion (H&M and Forever 21) or the flip side is that it has to be at a slightly higher, yet attainable price but so special that she feels an “emotional” need to purchase it.

That’s where we want to position ourselves. Within this age demographic, there is also a wide array of body shapes as well so we need to make sure we provide something for everyone. This is an interesting time in women’s lives as they go from living with their parents to living on their own or with partners, husbands, and children of their own.

Building a Brand That Caters To Its Demographic and Stands Out in a Crowd

At the end of June, we had our initial meeting with the buyers and management to give them a first glance at what we felt their brand should look like. This was still in the early stages of us trying to feel it out and show a balance of breadth of product to steer them into what their thoughts were for changing the brand but also focused enough to stand for something. After this initial meeting, we still didn’t have a truly clear cut idea of what they necessarily wanted. We just knew that their current selling was not good at all and they were looking for a face-lift to help their brand.

They gave us some indication of “we want to look like this, but we don’t want to be like that”, but their comments, desires, and ideas of what they wanted were a bit vague and contradictory. I have to admit, I left the meeting having a bit of a panic attack that I couldn’t nail down the vision of what they wanted, but on the other hand, very excited that they had the confidence to leave this huge challenge with our team. They wanted to give control to a company who would be able to flesh out the brand concept as well as manufacture it.

They gave us a few key words to draw on, but I knew our design team had a lot of homework to do. Back at the office, I gathered the troops to start working on the demographic, where they shop, what they like. This particular brand is also a southern based store so that brings a few additional factors into the mix—hot zone climates dictate that we design more light-weight items and color/print is usually more important to this customer too.


The beginning stages of putting together a color palette along with great textural fabrics and interesting pattern/prints.

We pulled together our inspiration images, started discussing and brainstorming and we all of a sudden had a vision of what she should look like. I love this part of the design process because it is truly building something from the ground up. We wanted this girl to have a more elevated and sophisticated bohemian feel.

We wanted to have easy outfits to pull together without having to think too much—easy, breezy maxi dresses get her outfitted in a snap, fun printed maxi skirts with lots of options in cropped crochet sleeveless tops also make mixing and matching easy, colorful volume knit tops with fun extra special details, novelty denim shorts . Every style in their collection should have extra special finishes like inner beauty, tassles and bead trims, lace and crochet details, contrast stitching, etc.

Bold and inspiring prints are what we build the collection around

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