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Starting A Business In The Fashion Industry Can Be Tricky At Best

It is almost impossible to convince the people who for years have recognised only international brands to buy into yours.

14/07/2017 03:56 SAST | Updated 14/07/2017 10:25 SAST
Mariana Bazo/ Reuters
Sewing threads are seen at a family-owned factory at a house in Lima, Peru, July 12, 2017.

Starting, growing and running a business requires a lot of work, effort and an infinite dedication. Most of the strength you put in to make your business successful is never rewarded. The only fruits of your labour are the ones that come with the success of your business. When starting a business people usually target an industry in which they are much familiar and/or passionate about.

I wish to discuss the hindrances that you may meet upon the way when starting a business in the fashion industry. First things first - very few people will take you seriously. In a country where people only recognise and consume foreign brands more than any other brands, getting your business seen or heard can be a rather daunting task. It is almost impossible to convince the people who for years have recognised only international brands as the only brands worth their cash to buy into yours.

Only a few South Africans have made it big in this industry. Those notable are David Tlale, Gert Johann Coetzee, Thula Sindi, Quiteria and George and House of Ole. All of these individuals and conglomerates could tell you exactly the same thing if not worse. Succeeding in the fashion industry isn't child's play.

The existence of chain stores that manufacture their own clothes and have a very strict procedure for selecting partners that will design for them or procurement partners. This criterion then eliminates most businesses with potential, thus denying them a piece of the cake. One chain store group that has tried by all means to include locally designed merchandise is the TFG Group. The TFG Group owns a number of stores and brands and stores in SA and internationally. These include Markham's, SportScene, G-Star/G-Star Raw, TotalSports and much much more.

Other chain store groups don't even give you their time of day to pitch to them about your clothing/fashion business. A 2012 GIBBS Business School survey revealed that in 25,000 business funding applications received, only 800 are from fashion/fashion related business. In that 300, only 17 percent are successful.

The Fashion industry is for savages, lions and lionesses. Working your way to the top is similar to surviving in a jungle.

My advice for start-ups is to approach agencies that have funded other fashion businesses before. They may have a little understanding of your business. In a funding application, try explaining the unique selling point of your product. Nobody knows your business more than you do. When being called to pitch your business idea, try to look as fashionable as possible without crossing the formal line and sound convinced that what you are pitching to them is something that has never been seen before.

Smile from time to time, it helps display a level of confidence in yourself and your business. Your pitch should include financials for a functioning business and projected financials for a startup company. The projected financials should be as realistic as possible and may be backed by verifiable and reliable sources. I am no expert at this, but I have done it and it works most of the time.

The Fashion industry is for savages, lions and lionesses. Working your way to the top is similar to surviving in a jungle. It's either you eat or get eaten. That little bit more time on the overlocker may payback in the long run. You could be the next Coco Chanel, Gianni Versace, Luis Vuitton or even Gucci.