3 Tips for Standing Out as an “Eco-Fashion” Designer

This is a guest post by Beth Stewart, Strategic Director of Redress Raleigh.

For over five years, I have been on the search for real eco-fashion — for garments and accessories that make me look good, and feel good, because they are made with ethics and sustainability in mind. From both personal experience greening my closet and from selecting designers for the annual Redress Raleigh Eco-Fashion Show, I have learned what makes the exceptional eco-fashion designers stand out.

HOW TO BE HEARD THROUGH THE “NOISE”

What can you do to stand out from the constant barrage of information and gain traction with customers? Although marketing and social media are important to getting your brand name out there, none of that matters if you don’t have innovative, wearable, and accessible products. Below are the three tips for standing out in the crowd:

1) Be Innovative.

Focus on your genuine designer voice and how you can incorporate ethics and eco into your creations. People will not buy things just because ‘it’s the right thing to do’; people want to look fashionable. Always keep learning and experimenting – read about new techniques or have coffee with a different artist.

Ask for feedback from customers and friends. Search through image galleries to help make your ideas come to fruition or expand upon a theme. Don’t assume that just because your shirt helps support orphans abroad that people will buy it. Design comes first.

2) Create Wearable Goods.

While creating an intricately woven dress of Jimmy John’s wrappers is amazing, it’s not going to see a fashion runway. It’s going to be displayed like art. There is a difference between this – largely considered ‘trashion’ – and eco-fashion, which refers to wearable fashion. Great eco-fashion designers understand the differences between the feel and drape of certain fabrics and how to interpret those certain fabrics into well-fitting garments.

3) Be Accessible.

Yes, there is a high-end couture market. However, many of the names synonymous with that segment have been around for many years and have substantial funding to support the plethora of craftspeople and thousands of hours invested in creating those pieces.

You could try to compete in that market or you could aim for the middle – beyond fast fashion and before couture – for the consumer who shops at boutiques and is looking for quality and transparency and a brand she / he can trust. People like to connect with companies who share their values and help ‘badge’ them as a particular type of individual.

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WHY THIS MATTERS

  • People get excited about good design and new ideas – it’s much better to focus on the positives of innovative fashion, and how your product benefits people, than to focus on the horrible atrocities of the fashion industry. Guilt doesn’t make people buy things, empowerment and joy does.
  • Craftsmanship and “wearability” is important to customers. People are looking for quality and durability and are getting sick of throw-away clothes.
  • There is nowhere to hide these days – if you put your brand in the public eye the public will react. Maintaining transparency of what you value as a designer and how your brand echoes is vital to creating loyalty.

Being a designer is tough, especially when you are just starting out. Being an eco-fashion designer who considers the impact on the earth and humanity through production of your goods is even tougher — but you are the future. There is a strong and growing undercurrent of customers looking for inventive and authentic goods made by designers who are transparent about how their products are made and who makes them. Be someone who stands out.

Get involved with Redress here.

 

3 replies
  1. Anna Herman
    Anna Herman says:

    I have seen many well meaning talented people come and go. There are not enough stores that carry Eco Fashion. I’m good at math & produce in America. You have to pay more for your supplies. If you can find a shop to carry your clothes they will pay you 1/2 . The retailers need to pay a better percentage. The stupid rules of the fashion industry dictate you to give a sales rep 15% of wholesale . No way. Case in point . My men’s organic yoga pants are 49.95 . I’d have to give the retailer 25.00 that leaves my company with 25.00. The cloth costs at least 12.00. 15% of wholesale to a sales rep that is 3.75 12.00 + 3.75 =15.75. That leaves 9.25 to to make the pants. That is why I’m a direct marketer. Eco Fashion companies need make enough to stay in Business in order to help the environment.

  2. Shannon
    Shannon says:

    I agree, Anna – the wholesale world is a tough one. I’m also a proponent of direct-to-consumer business models. Thanks for sharing your experience.

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