No doubt times are hard right now for an emerging fashion designer. An economic slowdown, however, can also be an opportunity to steer your business in a new direction. In my case, I’ve had to adjust my business over the years in response to the fluctuating economy.
In 2005, I started Again NYC, a line of handbags made from vintage and deadstock materials. They were one-of-a-kind or some-of-a-kind, depending on the fabrics and leather I would find.
A decrease in wholesale orders prompted me to explore a different direction: opening my own shop.
Within a few years, an increase in interest and wholesale orders pushed me to rethink the product and come up with something more expandable. I switched to using materials that were new (and therefore not limited), high-quality, and sustainable, such as hemp and deerskin. I then renamed the company TEICH, after my maiden name.
My aim was to grow my business and create a more sophisticated line of bags but without compromising the principles on which I had built everything. A decrease in wholesale orders last year, however, prompted me to explore a different direction: opening my own shop.
In June 2009, I opened a small shop in NYC’s East Village to sell my bags, along with a selection of jewelry by local designers. Although my overhead increased, my sales, visibility, and customer base also grew considerably. During times like this, it is an education to be in the trenches of retail and to learn how people spend their money.
Green designers need to be able to tell their brands’ story and the reason why they’re worth investing in.
I have learned through this experience that it’s important that green designers reach their potential customers and be able to tell their brand’s story. In other words, the reason that their line is worth investing in. They may use the most sustainable materials in the world and manufacture at the fairest fair-trade factory in existence, but it is crucial to get that message out to the potential customer.
The customers who come into my shop love to hear about the thought that went into the bags (straight from the designer’s mouth) and the process of producing everything locally.