Thriving in the fashion industry as an entrepreneur is no joke. What more when you’re attempting to kill the industry’s notorious money-making machines: sweatshops, cheap materials that pollute our planet, and mindless consumption? There are lots of things to consider when going the sustainable route, especially that you are trying to go against the grain of how a traditional fashion brand makes the dough.
How do you even sell when you don’t want people to buy new clothes all the time? How do you make a profit when you want to pay your laborers right? How do you set a price that the market will respond to but also allow you to source eco-friendly materials? How do you take a fraction of your market that is already too niche and is gaining more players with heightened interest in the sustainable space?
It is overwhelming at the upfront but of course, you won’t be derailed because you’re an entrepreneur with a mission. The fashion industry, amid the pandemic, has become even more heartless to its laborers and to the planet. Fast fashion brands have withdrawn and refused to pay for their large orders that have already been made. A lot of existing non-moving inventory had to be discarded because the taste of the market had changed. You want to put an end to exploitation and overproduction, but where do you even start? Breathe and let us help you tackle the problem, one step at a time.
1. Narrow down the niche even more.
Let’s face it. While you mean well, you can’t solve all the problems of the fashion industry by yourself. What you can do is zoom in on a particular problem you want to primarily address, and be the best at it.
There are many ways to practice sustainable fashion. Green Strategy listed seven forms of you may be interested to delve into: (1) On-Demand & Custom Made, (2) Green and Clean (from scratch to distribution), (3) High Quality and Timeless Design, Fair & Ethical (laborers and animal rights), (4) Repair, Redesign & Upcycle, (5) Rent, Lease & Swap.
You may opt to create luxury items in slow movement or use eco-friendly materials and processes. You may choose to focus on giving your laborers’ the right compensation or upcycling clothes yourself. You may also offer a rental or a swap service.
Although execution won't be flawless, the possibilities to go sustainable are endless.
2. Create a sound business plan.
According to Investopedia, a good business plan has an executive summary, a list of products and services, marketing strategy and analysis, financial planning, and a budget. You’ve identified your problem, now it’s time to layout the most detailed plan on how to address it.
Research your target market and understand their wants, needs, and purchasing habits. You have to plan how to earn profit and stay cash positive all while paying right from sourcing materials to distributing the product. Going sustainable may require more capital upfront so you have to be prepared with your own money or an investor who’s going to look at your business plan and ask you how much money you need and how you plan to make it grow. Make sure you highlight your company’s ethos, value proposition, and the impact they would be making if they choose to invest in you.
3. Look for ethical suppliers and manufacturers.
As a sustainable fashion brand, looking for a supplier or manufacturer will take more time and extra effort. You already have a longer list of considerations and questions when assessing a possible partner for your business so you’ll definitely have to put in the work. Attend online trade shows, scour the Internet, and look for like-minded companies.
Common Objective is an ethical fashion group that has resources you could use on how to track a company’s carbon footprint, check labor conditions, and assess its social audit.
You could also take a look at the company’s certifications such as Better Cotton Initiative (BCI), Certified B Corporation, Fairtrade, Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), and Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS). Understand the core of these certificates in order to make a sound decision.
There’s also that option of making the clothes yourself or starting your own community of weavers and seamstresses. Making things at a minimum will help curb overproduction and would offer your clients one-of-a-kind items. You may also offer schooling and financial literacy programs for your garment makers.
4. Set a price.
Once you’ve studied your market and worked out your supply chain, you have to find the balance between the two and compute a price that people are willing to pay for, which will keep the company afloat and compensate laborers right. It may sound like simple Mathematics but it’s hard to come up with a price point that would compete with fast-fashion prices. Often, people find sustainable clothing expensive because the “true cost” of clothing would now cover living wages and ethically sourced materials. Cost per wear is now accounted for that takes into consideration how many “wears” an item of clothing would warrant. The more times an item of clothing gets worn means it’s the better investment.
Setting Up a Home Work Area
With many things to consider, the early phases of starting a sustainable fashion brand can take a toll on your mental health. To mitigate that, creating a workspace at home that allows you to be creative and stay motivated is an important part of the equation.
While doing your research, consider using a height-adjustable standing desk. Flexispot has its own climate-positive products such as the Comhar All-in-One Standing Desk Bamboo Texture. It’s made of sturdy bamboo, has an all-in-one advanced keypad for height adjustments, a pull-out desk drawer, and a spacious desk countertop that has a weight capacity of up to 110 lbs.
Flexispot also carries a height-adjustable sewing table, the new ES9W. It has an electric height-adjustable frame that may give you the most comfortable sewing experience, whether you’re sitting or standing. It comes with an adjustable sewing platform that can hold a weight of up to 26 lbs and a detachable side table to make your work area even more spacious.
Storage is also very important in the clothing business. When testing out fabric and creating designs, you need to have storage units to help you organize and declutter your workspace. Flexispot has a mesh desk organizer, file cabinets, metal steel cabinets, and floating shelves that could secure your files, product samples, and test designs.
Once the plan is set and the designs are made, the next step is for you to create your brand and grow it online.