BFC names seven key steps to fashion success

Wednesday, 14 May 2014
The British Fashion Council is urging designers to close the gap between creativity and business in its new report, ‘Commercialising Creativity’ as it lists the seven key commercial secrets to making a fashion business successful. The report, commissioned in collaboration with London Business School and Land Securities, states that young British designers should look to successful designers such as Stella McCartney, have a “hunger and entrepreneurial spirit” to drive their businesses forward, as well as view the launch of a fashion brand as a an entrepreneurial venture, not solely a creative endeavour.

‘Commercialising Creativity – Creating a Model for Success for British Fashion Designers’ claims that there is a shortage of guidance available to fashion designers starting their own businesses, which is an anomaly in an industry that employs almost 800,000 people and makes 26 billion pounds annually. The aim of the report is to address that fact, to analyse the key factors that lie behind the commercial success of British designers fashion businesses, and to identify the biggest challenges that they face at different stages of their businesses and suggest the best practices for tackling them.

It does so by including the expertise of designers, retailers, advisors, PRs, media representatives and investors through interviews with the likes of Sian Westerman, senior advisor at Rothschild, Helen David and Jason Broderick from Harrods, Daniel Marks, director and partner at The Communications Store, and Marigay McKee, president of Saks Fifth Avenue. As well as case studies on the success behind British designers Nicholas Kirkwood and Mary Katrantzou to inspire designers, as well as including the authors’ view on how British global brands Jimmy Choo and Stella McCartney found their unique selling points.

Caroline Rush, CEO of the BFC said: “We commissioned this report as a guide for designers who are thinking about or have recently decided to set up their own designer fashion business. It provides a check list for young designers and will help them evaluate the kind of business they want to be and the questions they should be addressing from the start.

“Our ambition is that future generations of designers will understand how to create a business plan and source investment in the same way the tech industry does.”

BFC launches report to target the gap between creativity and business

Top of the seven key recommendations for fashion success is to “behave as a business”, recognising that business and creativity needs to work hand-in-hand for success and that designers who have a “trusted business partner” tend to be more commercially successful, but adding that designers themselves also need to develop basic commercial skills to succeed.

Other factors that drive commercial success includes: recognising the importance of product development – the report claims that successful designers have a clear brand position, point-of-view and a unique selling proposition; to succeed you need to develop a brand identity and support it with a marketing and communications plan – adding that social media can be a powerful part of the strategy; and that all designers need to understand the manufacturing process and the challenges of production.

In addition, the free report emphasises the importance of financing, recommending that all designers develop a focused sales and distribution strategy that is consistence with the brand’s positioning, as well as understanding the significance of cashflow, funding and financing. The report notes that there is a “large gap between the funding of production and the recovery of the revenue from sales” and that is a challenge that has to be carefully managed. The final recommendation is to “secure specialist business partners”, who can focus on the day-today operations of the business, allowing the designer to concentrate on the product and creation process.

As well as advising designers, the report also makes recommendations for the BFC and the Government, arguing that more could be done to help nurture the business side of fashion by creating a bridge between creativity and business, by considering tax incentives for fashion design businesses as well as offering more access to funding to help designers grow.

The authors of the report, Alessandra Basso and Alejandra Caro, MBA students from London Business School, added: “The aim of this report is to share the knowledge and experience that exists within the fashion industry with young designers who are starting their own businesses.

“The enormous support we have received from the British Fashion Council and the industry’s stakeholders further affirms the importance for young creative talents to think about fashion with a business perspective. We hope that our findings will support our creative peers in achieving commercial success.”

Image: BFC - Mary Katrantzou AW14

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