secret weapon

The (Not-So) Secret Weapon for Every Startup Fashion Brand

“Which did you prefer….

Having a business partner or not having one?”

This question often comes up when I’m working with new entrepreneurs, because I’m in the uncommon position of having experienced both.

My first company, a sustainable clothing line, was my first taste of entrepreneurship and I worked with a co-founder for two years.

My current company, Factory45, is a business I started on my own as a “solopreneur.”

Of course there are pros and cons to both scenarios. (And for the record, I loved having a business partner.)

When you have a partner you only have half the workload.

When you’re solo you have all of the control.

When you have a partner you have someone to celebrate the wins and falls with.

When you’re solo you aren’t responsible to anyone else.

I could probably list out 50 other reasons to advocate for both, but there is one pro of having a business partner that takes the cake above all else.

And it’s this:

Accountability.

When you start a business with another person it’s a lot harder to give up.

For all the ways that having autonomy as a solopreneur is great, there is an intangible X factor that comes from having someone in the trenches with you.

Having said that, working with a business partner isn’t a natural fit for everyone. It takes a very special partnership to be able to work through the highs and lows of entrepreneurship together.

If you don’t have a business partner or if you don’t see one in your future, then my suggestion is to surround yourself with some sort of community.

Ever since I decided four years ago to start a business on my own, I’ve hired coaches, taken online programs and joined “mastermind” groups, knowing that I needed other people around to cheer me on.

It wasn’t enough to simply say, “I’m starting a business. See you in three years when I pull myself out of the hole in my home office.”

The entrepreneurs who have come through Factory45 will be the first to tell you how invaluable their peers have been in the infancy of their businesses.

Community is, quite simply, everything.

So, how do you go about finding it? Here are a few options:

  • My top recommendation is the online community at Startup FASHION. I’ve introduced you before to my friend Nicole (you may recall the interview I did with her here) — and she has created a global network of startup designers.

As I tell my Factory45’ers, joining Startup FASHION is the next natural step after graduating from Factory45, and I’d highly recommend it to anyone who is beyond “idea or early stage” of starting their line. Enrollment is opened for this week here and is super affordable for budget-conscious entrepreneurs. (Update: enrollment is now closed.)

  • Check out your local incubator, accelerator or co-working hub. The fashion hotspots like LA and NYC will have multiple options but you’ll be surprised by what you can find in cities like Boston, San Francisco, Austin and Raleigh. If you’re the type of person who craves personal connections in a physical space, then simply co-working with a few fellow entrepreneurs can do the trick.
  • Join an online program that offers personal mentorship and a community component. While there are many online programs out there, not all are created equal. Identify whether having a community is important to you and seek out the programs and courses that include that personal connection. (On that note: we have set an official open applications date for the 2017 program of Factory45: mark your calendars for May 17th.)

And if you’re the type of person who can work by themselves for hours on end, then more power to you. Keep doing what you’re doing — just remember to come out of the hole every once in awhile ; )

 

 


5 Reflections from Working with Over 100 Fashion Startups

On Friday, we wrapped up the final day of the Factory45 2016 program. (A special shout-out and congratulations to this year’s entrepreneurs.)

Last week marked 2.5 years since Factory45 started and the ‘graduation’ of my fourth cohort of ‘Factory45’ers.’

As many of us do this time of year, I’ve been reflecting on the conclusion of this chapter. And today I want to share the five main takeaways that I’ve observed from working with over 100 entrepreneurs in the past 2 years:

1. You are capable of more than you think.

In the first month of Factory45 my entrepreneurs start by sourcing fabric and materials. It’s the part of the process that takes the longest, and it can often require the entire six months of the program to find the perfect fabric.

Anyone who has tried sourcing before knows that not only does it take time, but it can be very frustrating. Many of my entrepreneurs are hesitant to reach out to suppliers out of sheer fear of the unknown.

And then a light switches on.

By the middle of the program, they’re giving each other tips, sharing leads on materials they’ve found, and offering advice about how to connect with an extra busy supplier.

Like anything new, it takes practice to become a pro. But you’re capable of more than you think you are.

And if you give it a chance, it will happen quicker than you expect it to.


2. Attitude is the number one indication of success.

On the final day of Factory45 this year, I sent an email to my entrepreneurs that began as follows:

Yesterday I was watching a video, explaining a method of thinking for entrepreneurs called the ‘Ow’ or ‘Wow’ Brain.

The psychologist was sharing research that found that the success of an entrepreneur isn’t about talent or starting capital or socioeconomic background or looks or knowledge.

It’s about attitude.

The entrepreneurs who are successful are the ones who look at their progress in terms of how far they’ve come rather than how far they have to go.

You could sum this up as the ‘half glass full’ philosophy.

I’ve done a lot of research about what makes some people ‘successful’ and what makes others stall out and falter. And it almost always comes down to attitude.

Successful entrepreneurs not only know they can do it, but they aren’t afraid of overcoming obstacles along the way.

3. Time can either be your friend or your foe.

We all start out with 24 hours in a day. It’s our job to decide what we’re going to do with those hours.

There’s a theory that a task will take you as much time as you allow it to. So if you say you’re going to launch in three months it will take you those entire three months. If you say you’ll launch in one year, then the study says you’ll stretch out that same launch to take you the full year.

It’s normal as an entrepreneur to feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day, but it’s the levelest playing field we have with our competition. The entrepreneurs who are able to get time on their side, are the ones who set hard deadlines and stick to them.

4. Start before you’re ready.

I’ve shared before that this is my single best piece of advice for aspiring entrepreneurs who want to launch their own clothing brands.

While some of the entrepreneurs I worked with this year had already been pursuing their businesses before they joined Factory45, the vast majority came through the program with just an idea.

When you start before you’re ready you initiate forward momentum. The feeling of moving forward little by little is what protects ideas from vanishing into thin air.

If you have an idea that you truly believe in, then you can increase its chances of survival by simply making the commitment to start.

5. Entrepreneurship is a battle between the heart and the mind.

Your mind will come up with as many excuses as it can to stop you from pursuing something it perceives as ‘risky.’ If you let it, the rational mind can easily overthrow the aspirational heart.

Our hearts are what keep us moving forward on an idea that the mind tells us is nothing more than a pipedream. Knowing and expecting that, you are better prepared for an ongoing battle.

Instead of letting the mind inhibit you from taking risks, reframe the fear. Recognize that the mind is just trying to protect you, but the part of your brain that initiates ‘fear-based thinking’ doesn’t have the last say.

Allow your heart to say, “I hear you. Thank you for trying to protect me, but I’ve got this.”

The more you practice this back and forth dialogue, you’ll find that the fear-talk in the mind starts to weaken. You’ll hear it less frequently and then it simply becomes…

A matter of the heart.

 

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crowdfunding factory

What’s the difference? Factory45 vs. The Crowdfunding Factory

“Sisters, not twins.”

That’s what I told my web designer when we first started talking about the branding and design for The Crowdfunding Factory.

I said it needed to be clear that The Crowdfunding Factory was not the same as Factory45, but more like its little sister…

And that’s when we became two normal people talking about websites as if they were humans.

: )

But in all seriousness, I know there might be some confusion about how The Crowdfunding Factory is different from Factory45 and today I want to get really clear on that.

Factory45 is a six-month online accelerator program that takes sustainable apparel companies from idea to launch — including sourcing, pre-production, manufacturing, marketing, selling and crowdfunding.

Applications only open once per year so I can work closely with one dedicated cohort of entrepreneurs at a time.

There is 1-on-1 support, group calls and a community element that creates an exclusive experience for those people who want to build their companies in a sustainable and ethical way.

The tuition for Factory45 is $500/month for six months, and I can be as involved in helping you build your business as you want me to be.

The Crowdfunding Factory is a new course I just launched last week that acts as a stepping stone to Factory45. It’s for the people who are eager to join Factory45, but they don’t want to wait until the spring to get started on planning their launch.

As you’ll learn in my courses, a detailed marketing strategy that takes you to pre-selling on Kickstarter are the two main pillars of a successful fashion brand launch.

When you begin your launch strategy with The Crowdfunding Factory, you’re getting a huge head start on creating a campaign that will ultimately fuel every other aspect of your business.



And the best part? Come spring, when you’re ready to join Factory45, you’ll have a marketing strategy in place that you’re ready to implement.

Which of course, means that you’ll have more time and energy to devote to sourcing the perfect materials and working on product development.

So, that just about sums it up.

  • If you plan to join Factory45 in the spring, then The Crowdfunding Factory is for you — and you’ll receive $500 off your Factory45 tuition, which is one month free.
  • If you already have your samples and manufacturing lined up, then The Crowdfunding Factory is also for you. It’s the next best step to taking your brand from pre-production to pre-sales.

My intention with all of this is to set you up with several different ways to be successful.

Enrollment is open here and it closes on Wednesday, February 15 at midnight EST.

 

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How the Founder of Sotela Raised Over $20,000 to Start a Womenswear Brand

Many of you know Hanna Baror-Padilla, who is one of my past Factory45 entrepreneurs and is now the founder of a womenswear brand called Sotela.

Hanna is a prime example that you don’t have to have thousands of dollars sitting in the bank nor endless amounts of free time to launch a clothing brand.

In fact, while Hanna was preparing to launch her clothing company through Kickstarter this year, she was working a full time job and commuting two hours each way.

I’ll never forget meeting her for brunch in L.A. last spring and hearing about the ungodly hour she would wake up every morning to go to work and then the equally ungodly hour she would get home from work.

Hanna is proof that if you want something bad enough, then you find a way to make time for it.



So, after a year of saving up money and dedicating her nights and weekends to building her campaign, Hanna launched Sotela with a Kickstarter this past May.

And she raised over $20,000 to fund her first production run.

As much as I can tell you how great crowdfunding is and how I know that it’s the very best option for you to launch your brand, I wanted to bring Hanna in to tell you about her own experience.

In this interview for Factory45 LIVE, Hanna and I talked about:

  • How she went from simply having an idea to actually getting started.
  • Why she chose Kickstarter as her launch platform and the other methods of raising money that she considered.
  • What she did to initially prepare for her campaign and how long she prepared for.
  • The strategies she attributes to the success of her Kickstarter.
  • What life looks like for her now… and more.

If you even have the slightest feeling that you think you might want to run a Kickstarter campaign someday, then you’ll hugely benefit from hearing the personal experience of someone who has done it before.

Watch the recording here.

 

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The Crowdfunding Factory Launches Next Week!

Six years ago, I told my friends and family that I was starting a business.

The kicker was, I didn’t have an idea yet.

I had found someone crazy enough to start the “business” with me, and I figured that was enough of a reason to keep going.

The first idea we came up with was to start an import / export business of fair trade textiles and artifacts, so we booked one-way tickets to Guatemala.

My then co-founder and I arranged to live with a host family so that we could learn Spanish in a month and start building partnerships with artisan cooperatives around the country.

Were we naive?

Um, yeah.

Did our original idea pan out?

Not even a little bit.

Did we learn something more valuable in the process?

Absolutely.

A year after we returned from Central America, we did in fact launch a business but it looked nothing like our original vision.

In retrospect, I could look back on the costs of flights, room and board, Spanish lessons, transportation and other travel expenses as money down the drain.

I could have thought:

“If only we had just known from the beginning that we’d end up designing a piece of clothing, manufacturing in the U.S. and launching with a Kickstarter campaign… Think of all of the money we could have saved!”

But for all of that money lost, you couldn’t put a price on what I learned.

It’s the one piece of advice that I’ve taken with me over the years.

It’s the one piece of advice that I tell all of the entrepreneurs I work with.

And it’s the one piece of advice that I hope you’ll take to heart today:

Start before you’re ready.



Why?

Because starting before you’re ready isn’t about being underprepared or unsure of yourself.

Starting before you’re ready is actually a marketing strategy.

It’s a strategy that you can use to build a business and generate customers before you’ve even launched.

And I’m going to show you how.

Next week, on Tuesday, November 15th, I’m opening enrollment to The Crowdfunding Factory. (Update: Enrollment is now closed for 2016. Get on the list to be notified when enrollment opens in late 2017.)

This online training program is for fashion entrepreneurs who want to launch or grow their brands with the help of a Kickstarter campaign.

I’m going to show you how to raise money for your brand in a way that ensures you have an audience to launch to —

And guarantees that you have customers before you go into production.

If you know you need to raise money for your fashion startup, then make sure you’re signed up to be notified about early enrollment here.

 

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Introducing NOVEL SUPPLY CO: Conscious Apparel for the Urban Adventurer

This is an interview with Factory45’er Kaya Dorey about the launch of her brand NOVEL SUPPLY CO. With the help of a Kickstarter campaign, Kaya is raising money (update: has raised money) for her first production run of conscious apparel for the urban adventurer.

Can you give us a brief overview of your brand and the pieces you’re pre-selling?

NOVEL SUPPLY CO. is conscious apparel for the urban adventurer. My line is made up of three comfy, casual, gender neutral styles made from all natural hemp and organic cotton including:

The Cabin Crew, The Adventure Tee and The Muscle Tank.

My brand connects with adventurers who love active lifestyles and mindful living, but also care about their style. The goal for NOVEL is to provide people with conscious apparel that doesn’t sacrifice style. Rad graphics created by local artists keep our designs fresh and manufacturing locally allows for transparency throughout the manufacturing process.

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Why did you choose to launch your brand through Kickstarter?

I chose Kickstarter because I was familiar with the platform and I had seen several other entrepreneurs (including Shannon and my fellow Factory45’ers) have success with their campaigns.

Kickstarter’s branding is super on point and their website is easy to navigate so I thought it would be the best fit for my campaign. Also, the demographic of people that use Kickstarter, or even know what it is, fit with my target market.



You’ve done months of prep. What helped you keep up your momentum and motivation?

As I am still working full-time to help fund my business and life, it was crucial that I work somewhere that was relatively flexible, with people who supported me from the get-go. I am so grateful for my team at work and their constant support and motivation.

Also, my guy – and marketing guru – has been an integral part in helping me to launch this campaign, manage my time and has been there every step of the way to cheer me on. He believes in me sometimes more than I believe in myself and has been crucial in keeping my fire stoked.

My friends and family have also helped me maintain momentum not only financially but also just by believing in my vision, connecting me with the people I need to know and constantly encouraging me to hustle.

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Can you give us a little insight into your campaign strategy? What has been working and what hasn’t worked as well?

Stoke my networks. The NOVEL tribe is made up of some of the raddest, most supportive people. They are the adventurers, they are the ones who make conscious decisions about what they buy, they are the ones who are making sustainability cool, and they love all things creative. They have also turned out to be the mavens of my campaign.

I am super lucky to have collaborated with some of the most talented and creative entrepreneurs in Vancouver and, because of that, I have a solid lineup of visual content that will help spread the word about NOVEL. Stay tuned 😉

What do you do when self doubt starts to creep up?

When self-doubt creeps up – which, I can tell you, it does – I go to the mountains, I have my friends over for a glass of wine, I have a good cry, I go stretch it out with some yoga, or take a timeout for myself and meditate. It’s the only way to tame a creative mind.

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What’s your favorite reward being offered in your campaign?

I love what I have come up with in terms of NOVEL apparel, and maybe I’m a little bit biased, but hey, my heart and soul is in The Muscle Tank, The Adventure Tee AND The Cabin Crew.

BUT, my favourite rewards being offered are the ones that I collaborated with others on! The growlers are sick! The handmade and hand-painted paddles are love at first sight! And, the designs, whether they are on the postcards, prints or NOVEL apparel are on point! It’s impossible to choose a favourite and I guess I haven’t really answered your question. Sarry.

If you had one piece advice for someone considering launching a Kickstarter, what would it be?

Adventure always!

You can check out Kaya’s campaign for NOVEL SUPPLY CO. hereTo read more about Kaya’s experience in Factory45, read her alumni story here.

 

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hard work

Does Hard Work Really Pay Off?

When I was growing up my parents always said,

“Work hard and it will pay off.”

When I knew I really shouldn’t sign up for that AP Biology class I did it anyway because, you know,

“I’ll just work harder.”

When I made an audition tape for an internship with Nike, I scripted out the entire four-minute video, storyboarded each shot and had multiple costume and set changes, because well,

“They’ll see how hard I worked.”

When I applied for a fellowship with NPR, competing against thousands of top-tier journalism grads, I told myself, I’ll get it because…

“I work really hard.”

Turns out, I got a “C” in AP Biology, didn’t get the internship with Nike and wasn’t even asked for an interview with NPR.

(My parents also have many words of wisdom for dealing with disappointment.)

Of course you need a hearty dose of hard work to accomplish your goals.

But the disclaimer of “hard work pays off” should be, “it’s also no guarantee.”

This was never more apparent than when I became an entrepreneur.

I quickly learned that hard work isn’t going to get you that much farther than the entrepreneur next you. 

Because working hard is simply a given.

I’ve spent the past 2.5 years working with and observing other entrepreneurs who have set out to start businesses of their own.

A lot of them work hard. And some of them don’t.

But there are other qualities that make far more of an impact:

>> They’re resourceful. I don’t mean they can forage for wild berries and make a bonfire with two twigs, I mean they have an attitude of, “I’ll figure this out.” Successful entrepreneurs know that every problem has a solution and they aren’t afraid to take action to find it.

>> They’re willing to take risks. Deciding to start your own business feels like a huge risk in itself, but it’s just the first one. Your entire entrepreneurial career will be made up of opportunities to take more risks.

Unfortunately, the word ‘risk’ typically comes with a negative connotation. Most of us were taught to follow the straight and narrow path that has road signs with the word “Conventional” along it.

One of the best things I ever did for my own business, and peace of mind, was start trading out the word ‘risk’ for ‘experiment.’

I’m experimenting with this marketing strategy… I’m experimenting with this type of business model… I’m experimenting with hiring this person…

>> They’re not easily derailed. The true test of an entrepreneur is when things go wrong. How will you handle it? Will it be the end of the world and cause you to curl up in the fetal position? Or will you look at it as an opportunity to try something new and come up with a new solution?

Real success is a series of baby steps and the entrepreneurs who break apart from the pack are the ones who keep their energy up.

They don’t let a tech glitch destroy their mood. They don’t let a confusing email from a supplier derail their focus. They don’t let a botched sample force them under the covers.

I once had an entrepreneur friend tell me that she starts working at 10am and is done by 5pm because, “She gets more work done during that time than the average person gets done in a 12-hour day.”

Needless to say, I appreciated her honesty.

Hard work is not the same as productivity, or attitude, or impact.

Successful entrepreneurs know that “working hard” is just another day at the office.

 

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How to Get Featured by Fashion Bloggers as a Startup Brand

“25 thousand dollars?!”

My friend nearly spilled her glass of wine across the table.

“How is that possible?” she asked, mouth agape.

I was out for drinks on Monday night with a couple of friends — one of whom is in the fashion industry and the other who isn’t.

“Yep, we were quoted $25,000 to be featured in one blog post with three product photos and 500 words of text,” my friend, who runs a womenswear brand, went onto explain.

I have to admit that even I was shocked by that price tag.

For small businesses who are doing the best they can with the resources they’ve got, the world of fashion blogging can be very intimidating.

How much should I expect to pay?

Do I give them the product and a fee on top of that?

Is it going to be worth it?

Being a fashion blogger is big business these days, but it doesn’t mean there aren’t affordable opportunities for smaller brands.

On Factory45 LIVE with the founders of Trendly we talk about what you really need to know about working with fashion bloggers.

Trendly is an app that connects influencers (like fashion bloggers) with authentic brands (like yours) that have social missions.

Pretty perfect, right?

So I wanted to bring Michael into the community so he can answer your questions about sponsored content, collaborations with bloggers and realistic expectations.

It’s true that just one Instagram post with the right influencer can skyrocket your revenue in a day.

It can also help grow your own social media following and get you on the radar of some of the bigger fashion bloggers in your niche.

But it can also be really hard to know which opportunity is worth investing in.

If you’ve dipped your toe into the blogger world but still haven’t quite figured it out or if it’s something you’ve been wondering about, then you can now listen to a recording to the interview.

Watch it for free HERE.

 

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If you know someone who would benefit from watching this interview on Factory45 LIVE, please share this link with them.

P.S. The next Factory45 LIVE will be with Lorraine Sanders, founder of Spirit of 608 on Wednesday, October 19th so mark your calendars : )

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How Much Money Do You Really Need to Launch a Fashion Brand?

A few weeks ago you may remember I sent out a questionnaire to all of you, asking one question:

What is your SINGLE biggest challenge right now when it comes to launching your clothing company?

And not too surprisingly, most of you said the exact same thing…

“I don’t have any MONEY!”

(Or something along those lines.)

A lack of funds can be a huge problem for a startup brand that has the vision and dedication to succeed but simply doesn’t have tens of thousands of dollars to invest upfront.

Even more significant is the fact that many of us have a lot of fear-based thinking when it comes to money.

Whether it’s because of the way we were raised or a feeling of lack throughout our lives, many of us operate in a cycle of scarcity rather than abundance.

When it comes to building an apparel brand there’s also a lot of confusion around how much you really need for product development. We say we want to pay the people we work with an “ethical” wage but most of us don’t really know what that means.

In the second interview for Factory45 LIVE, I talked to Nicole Giordano, founder of StartUp FASHION, about the money topic that most people don’t want to touch.

In addition to answering questions from the audience, Nicole and I covered:

  • How much money you should realistically expect to spend during product development.
  • Our top recommendations for funding your first production run without the risk.
  • Ways to determine your stage of business, develop a budget, create a financial plan — and STICK to it.
  • The personal stories of how we funded our businesses from the beginning without going into debt.
  • And other creative ways to raise money, with management advice about how to be less afraid to spend it.

The truth is, if you’re creating a physical product then it requires some money — there’s no way around that.

But whereas 10 years ago, you had to have all of that capital sitting in your bank account (or have some rich relatives), the industry has changed. There are now easier and smarter ways to start your brand with very little risk to your own finances.

Listen to Factory45 LIVE with Nicole Giordano of StartUp FASHION.

 

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If you know someone who would benefit from attending Factory45 LIVE, please share the recording link.

P.S. The next Factory45 LIVE will be with Michael Riddering, co-founder of Trendly.  : )

 

How to Legally Protect Your Fashion Brand from Copycats

Your product is as unique as you are. With this usually stems some level of fear that others will want to copy your ideas.

Although these feelings are common, you don’t want it to prevent you from taking those next important steps.

So how do you move forward through the production process without your unique product being knocked off?

There are the legal routes to help protect yourself, and then there are common sense precautions you can choose to implement.

Three legal ways to protect yourself are: US Copyright Law, Design Patents and US Trademark Law.

>> US Copyright Law: This law will protect your “original expressions” — as in texts or graphics. It will not however protect any functional elements. For example a jacket you have created, the design you have had meticulously stitched into it – that is covered. However, the squared physical shape of the jacket is not covered under copyright laws.

>> Design Patents: This law will provide 14 years of protection, covering exclusive industrial design rights for new and nonobvious ornamental designs of functional items. This process can take anywhere from 6-12 months, so keep this timeline in mind while you’re working through the process.

>> US Trademark Law: While copyright law will protect the original design creation, trademark law will protect the wording and logo of the designer. This should lower the risk of confusion with the consumer, allowing them to know where their product is coming from.

Now you also have personal approaches you can take:

>> Tighten the material controls. One unfortunate problem you could encounter is having your manufacturer slip your design out the back door for their own personal gain. This rarely happens — especially in the U.S. — but it’s something to be mindful of. You want to keep a close eye on the production of your product. 

For example, if you had 3,000 units produced, and you are only seeing 2,400 units ship out, then you have a problem.

Try to source your own material any time you can, and only send the manufacturer what is needed to fulfill your exact order amount. This will give you more control over what’s happening in the production phase.

>> Break up the production when your product has multiple components. Have each component produced by a different manufacturer and then shipped to a completely separate party for assembly.

This will allow you to be more discreet so that no one manufacturer will know the entire process involved in creating your product.

>> Focus on the strength of your brand. One sure shot way to know you can overcome the competition is to make sure you have a rock solid brand identity.

Develop a brand that sets itself apart from all others so that your customer will go out of their way to seek your products.

At the bottom of it all — fashion design cannot truly be protected. My advice is to save your money for more immediate needs than trademarks and patents although a lawyer will probably tell you otherwise. 

Stay focused on building an awesome product, attracting excited early customers, and getting your brand to market for fast feedback.