stand out

5 Ways to Stand Out as a New Fashion Brand

It’s no secret that the fashion industry is competitive.

There are so many brands vying for attention that it can often feel like it’s “all been done.”

Especially when you’re starting from zero… as a one-person show… with a limited marketing budget.

I feel you.

The good news is that there is still plenty of opportunity. 

If you’re in the early stages of launching your brand, here are five different strategies (with examples!) that will help you set you apart.

Dudley Stephens

SCARCITY | Dudley Stephens

Dudley Stephens is an American-made fleece brand for women and children — and let me tell you, these things sell like hotcakes. I was on their list for months waiting for the Cobble Hill turtleneck to come back in ice blue.

When I was notified that they had restocked I made a purchase immediately — and then scooped up another color for my mom.

That’s all to say, Dudley Stephens has made an outstanding product and whether it was intentional or not, the scarcity model works for them.

Why? Because it creates urgency to buy. You know that you can’t wait too long to make a purchase or your size, color or style preference will go out of stock. And that can be a really powerful business model.


Shit That I Knit

BRANDING | Shit That I Knit

In the middle of a snowstorm, founder Christina Fagan posted a photo on Instagram of herself wearing a bathing suit and one of her brand’s red knit hats.

She then challenged her following: Post your “bikini and beanie” pic, and you could win a free hat. Within hours, she had over 50 submissions from followers wearing their Shit That I Knit beanies.

This is just one example of how Christina has created a cult following and a million dollar business through the power of stand-out branding.

As The Boston Globe recently noted, the STIK brand tells a story — Christina, as the founder, is the main character, and the progress of her business is the plot.

The result? Brand obsession from fans who feel a connection to her.


Alter Ur Ego

ONE-OF-A-KIND | Alter UR Ego

In 2007, Heidi McKenzie was in a car accident that resulted in traumatic head and spinal cord injuries, leaving her a T4 paraplegic (she can’t feel from the chest down).  

Since then, she has become an advocate for other young people who are paralyzed and joined the first-ever Factory45 program in 2014 to launch a functional denim brand for men and women in wheelchairs.

While she says there is other “wheelchair clothing” on the market, almost all of it is designed for the elderly. Alter UR Ego is the only denim brand providing jeans for young, fashionable people like her.

When you’re the only product on the market providing a solution to a specific problem… well, that’s a good place to be.


Project Repat

PRICE | Project Repat

The product is simple: Send Project Repat your memorable t-shirts and they’ll turn them into a t-shirt quilt.

There are other companies that make t-shirt quilts but Project Repat leads the pack, in large part, because they’re able to offer the most affordable price.

They spent years perfecting their supply chain and manufacturing process so that they’re able to make t-shirt quilts in the most efficient amount of time possible, while still manufacturing in the USA and working with factories that pay a living wage.

With over 300,000 customers and thousands of five-star reviews, it makes it difficult for other competitors to come into the market if they can’t match the price. And that makes a big difference when it comes to staying ahead and continuing to grow.


Nisolo

CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE | Nisolo

If you’re still reading and thinking, “Uh oh… my brand isn’t any of these things!” then this is for you.

Every single business in the history of entrepreneurship can achieve the stand-out quality of incredible customer service. In fact, there’s no reason not to.

Nisolo, a brand of ethically handcrafted shoes and accessories, has created a memorable customer experience that keeps people coming back for more.

My friend Claire still talks about her experience with Nisolo with heart eye emojis. She said they responded quickly over the holidays and honored a lower price after there was a price discrepancy with a product on sale.

Customer service is still one of the easiest ways to encourage word-of-mouth marketing and there’s no marketing method more powerful than that.

 

factory45 owner shannon

 


Factory45 CTA

success

One Thing You Can Do Today to Increase Your Long-Term Success

“That’s huge!” I say in my most celebratory voice.

“Yeah… but I still have to print my hangtags and my button supplier isn’t calling me back,” she tells me with a tone of defeat.

I pause for a second.

“Okay, sure, but you’ve finalized a CUSTOM sustainable fabric that you’ve been working on for MONTHS. That is a HUGE win!”

“Yeah… I guess you’re right…” she says, only slightly waning to my enthusiasm.

Why do we do this?

As entrepreneurs, why are we the last people to celebrate our own wins?

Even worse, why do we focus on all of the things that aren’t working rather than taking a moment to recognize how far we’ve come?

I’m as guilty as the next person when it comes to celebrating my own progress.

I’ll remember to send my web designer a bottle of champagne on launch day, but I won’t pour a glass for myself.

What gives?

The most obvious excuse is that there’s just too much to do.

As small business owners, we don’t have time to focus on the things that are going well because there’s always something else to be working on.

But I’m not suggesting you go on a Carnival Cruise every time your fabric order arrives on time.

What I am suggesting is that you take a beat to reflect.

To appreciate.

To sigh a breath of relief.

To recognize that in at least one way, you are doing great.

So, here’s your call to action for this week:

Come up with one small thing you can do to celebrate your wins.

Maybe it’s a five-minute office dance party to your all-time favorite song.

Maybe you take 10 minutes at night to luxuriate with a bubble bath and face mask.

Or maybe you splurge for the $5 oat milk latte instead of the $2 drip coffee.

Whatever you decide, it’s not so much the act of treating yourself as it is taking the time to acknowledge what you’ve accomplished.

And most of us need a physical trigger to remind us to do that.

Why is this important? Why do we need to celebrate our wins, you ask?

Studies have shown that when we take time to celebrate small victories, we become better at goal setting and more importantly, reaching those goals.

And I don’t know about you, but if I’m going to set a goal then I’m willing to do whatever it takes to increase the odds of accomplishing it.

So, the next time you’re busting moves to Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody,” know that you aren’t just indulging in a dance break…

What you’re really doing is increasing your odds of long term success.

And that’s something to celebrate.

 

factory45 owner shannon

 


Factory45 CTA

Will a Kickstarter Campaign Work for your Fashion Brand?

Will a Kickstarter campaign work for your fashion brand?

This is one of the most common questions holding people back from using crowdfunding to launch their brand.

Whether you have one signature product or a full 10-piece collection, today I’m going to show you that it’s absolutely possible to raise money for your brand no matter how many products you have.

With the help of crowdfunding, these four Factory45’ers successfully launched their brands through Kickstarter:

kickstarter

1 PRODUCT

The World’s Most Comfortable Blazer by Trace Fashion

Founder Kristin Salat launched her Kickstarter campaign based on one signature piece, the Kimono Blazer. Similarly to how I launched the Versalette in 2011, this approach lives and breathes one product that’s presented in a variety of colors.

If you look at the rewards column of Kristin’s campaign, you’ll see that she was able to create multiple rewards even though she was only selling one piece.

She raised $32,949 in pre-orders to fund the first production run of Trace Fashion.

kickstarter

2 PRODUCTS

The First Leggings Inspired to Dress Up or Dress Down by Parallel Connection

Mother-daughter co-founders Allie and Carol Levy took it a step further by creating a Kickstarter around two products. They designed two styles of leggings that were only slightly different from each other — a classic legging and a slim pant legging.

By offering two different styles, they were able to appeal to a wider audience of women including those who wouldn’t typically buy leggings. Additionally, Carol and Allie made a conscious decision to offer a larger than normal size range from XXS to XXL, as well as multiple prints.

They raised $19,518 in pre-orders to fund the first production run of Parallel Connection.

kickstarter

6 PRODUCTS

The Ethical Women’s Capsule that Redefines Loungewear by Nine56 Studio

The capsule collection is the most popular approach I’ve seen from the entrepreneurs I work with. Whereas the two campaigns above offered multiple colorways, founder Meg Rohs launched her capsule collection with only two colors — black and white.

Because of fabric minimums, some brands choose to limit the color options so that they can offer more products and styles.

Meg raised $15,510 in pre-orders to fund the first production run of Nine56 Studio.

kickstarter

10 PRODUCTS

Naturally Dyed & Size Inclusive Lingerie by Unity Outfitters

And then there’s the 10+ product approach that is the least popular campaign choice, but definitely still possible. Founder Katina Gad is a trained seamstress so she was able to create all of her samples and patterns without outsourcing and paying the upfront cost.

She pre-sold a range of products, styles and colorways, while also offering a size-inclusive range for all body types. Because naturally-dyed lingerie is more niche, it was important that Katina expand her offering to reach as many women as possible.

She raised $8,626 in pre-orders to fund the first production run of Unity Outfitters.


So there you have it, crowdfunding can work for one signature piece and it can also work for a full collection.

Although I only shared examples of womenswear brands, it’s important to note that there are plenty of men and childrenswear brands that successfully launched on Kickstarter.

If you’re ready to raise money for your fashion brand, enrollment my self-study course The Crowdfunding Factory is now open here.

This is the course that teaches you the complete strategy to create a fully-funded Kickstarter campaign.

If you’re considering joining Factory45 in May but don’t want to wait to get started, this self-study course is a great way to get ahead.

It’s open for one week only.

Click here to enroll.

 

factory45 owner shannon

 


Market45

left edit

Spotlight on Factory45’er Left Edit, Essentials that Make an Impression

What do you get when you pair two style-obsessed women with a shared passion for sustainability?

You get a womenswear brand with bold colors, custom-designed prints and fashion-forward silhouettes.

Meet Left Edit, essentials that make an impression.

You may recognize Kestrel Jenkins as a longtime sustainable fashion advocate and the voice behind the Conscious Chatter podcast.

Teaming up with Holly Stavnes, formerly the founder of accessories brand Hera By Day, the duo has created a responsibly-manufactured and sustainably-sourced fashion brand for women.

At the end of last year, Holly and Kestrel successfully launched a Kickstarter campaign to pre-sell their first collection of five dresses.

In 30 days, they raised over $20,000 to fund their first production run.

Left Edit 1

The five dresses were designed, prototyped and tested to ensure ease of movement, versatility, longevity, quality and community — putting responsible manufacturing at the forefront.

The fabrics are lower-impact than conventional fabrics, including Tencel linen, 100% Tencel and Cupro, and they boast bold colors and bright prints in an industry that’s already thriving in the basics and neutrals department.

Over two years ago, I met Kestrel and Holly for drinks in San Diego where they first presented the idea of Left Edit to me.

Shortly after, they joined the Factory45 program and spent over a year establishing a brand presence on Instagram, growing a following, designing and redesigning their first collection, sourcing fabric, meeting with factories, and more.

Leading up to their Kickstarter campaign, Holly and Kestrel seamlessly “teased out” the brand reveal so that by the time they launched, there was an eager fan-base of customers waiting to pre-order.

As they gear up to ship their first batch of garments this spring, the five debut dresses are still available for pre-sale on the Left Edit website here. (I pre-ordered The Eve : )  

You can also follow along and connect with Left Edit on Instagram: @leftedit

 

factory45 owner shannon

 

P.S. If you’re considering a Kickstarter to launch your own brand, you’ll want to look at Left Edit’s campaign for inspiration (it really was seamlessly executed.)

And if you want access to the strategy used to create a fully-funded Kickstarter, I’m opening enrollment to The Crowdfunding Factory on Monday. Sign up to the waiting list here to find out more about this course.


factory45

This is the Most Overlooked Skill by Fashion Startups

For the past three nights, I haven’t been able to fall asleep.

(Sleeping is one of my best talents, so this is highly unusual.)

And as I’m laying there, I end up doing the exact opposite of what you’re supposed to be doing when you can’t fall asleep:

I start scrolling through Instagram.

(I know, I know… I’m only human!)

But last night, as I was scrolling, I started to pay attention to which captions I clicked to read.

And I realized something…

There is one very crucial skill that I see many new fashion brands lacking.

And that’s the ability to write compelling sales copy.

If you’re not familiar with the term “copy” it refers to any text you write to represent your brand.

In other words, your emails to your list, subject lines, blog titles, any “call to action,” Instagram captions, blog posts, the “About” page of your website, the product descriptions on your shop pages, your social media bios, etc.

To be honest, if you asked me why some fashion brands are successful and others aren’t, I would boil it down to two main marketing components:

#1 Great product photography

#2 Great sales copy

And it’s #2 that I want to talk about today, because I think this skill is detrimentally overlooked by startup fashion brands.

To be able to sell *anything* online, you need to be a strong writer.

Before you throw your hands up in the air and tell me, “It’s just something you’ve never been good at!” hear me out:

I’m not talking about the type of writing you learned in high school English class.

The writing skills that are required for the internet are far more attainable than learning how to construct a 42-page essay analyzing Jane Eyre.

(Bleh, aren’t you glad those days are over?)

To write compelling sales copy, it simply requires you to write how you talk.

Back in high school, Mrs. Sullivan would have called this “the vernacular.”

That’s where I want you to start.

I want you to write in a way that’s conversational.

And as with anything you practice over and over, you’re going to get incrementally better at it.

Even if you think you “can’t write.”

But here’s what I would not recommend:

Hiring someone to write your copy for you.

(Unless you have endless amounts of money that you can pay this person for as long as your brand exists… and who really has that?)

Copywriting is a “teach a woman to fish” type of situation.

You really and truly do not want to rely on someone else to be the voice of your brand when you’re just starting out.

Sure, if you reach $1M in revenue, then go ahead and hire a marketing team — but in the beginning, your brand is relying on you to hone your chops at writing.

There are courses out there to teach you how to improve (CopyHour is run by my friend Derek and Marie Forleo has a program called The Copy Cure.)

There is also plenty of free content if you google, “How to become a better copywriter.”

But the bottom line is this:

You need to be able to effectively communicate what your brand has to offer.

That requires you to be clear, genuine, persuasive and most of all, compelling.

Because if you aren’t, then you’re going to train your followers (i.e. potential customers!) that your words aren’t worth reading.

And if your words aren’t worth reading, then how will they know that your products are worth wearing?

 

factory45 owner shannon

 


free resources

5 Must-Have Resources for Your Fashion Brand

As we all know, the internet can be an amazing place for free resources and advice. But it can also be a place of extreme excess and anxiety.

With so many resources available to overwhelmed fashion entrepreneurs, which ones should you use and which ones aren’t worth the time?

Well, here’s a place to start. I’ve narrowed down my top five resources for startup and sustainable fashion brands below:


1.) TECHPACKER

Anyone who’s tried creating a tech pack from scratch knows how frustrating (and time-consuming) it can be. Enter Techpacker, a software that helps you create a professional tech pack in minutes.

The platform gives you (or a team) the ability to manage product development all in one place. You can see some of the main features that Techpacker has to offer here and get started with a free 7-day trial here.


2.) STARTUP FASHION

StartUp FASHION is an online community where independent designers are given a platform to receive and offer advice, form friendships, create business collaborations, let off steam, share victories and belong to a network of peers who are tackling similar challenges.

Run by Nicole Giordano, enrollment to StartUp FASHION only opens twice a year and is currently accepting new members until tonight. You can sign up for $39/month here. (Update: Enrollment is now closed until September 2019.)


3.) MAKER’S ROW

Maker’s Row is an online platform that connects product-based companies with factories in the U.S. In addition to a database of thousands of factories, suppliers, printers and other manufacturers, Maker’s Row offers resources, tips and free advice through their email workshops and YouTube channel.

Brands can join the platform for $35/month and browse the growing list of over 11,000 factories across dozens of industries. You can search by location, response rate and other capabilities by signing up here.


4.) COMMON OBJECTIVE

Common Objective is a U.K.-based platform that evolved from The Ethical Fashion Forum. With a focus on sustainable fashion, members of Common Objective can learn, connect and collaborate while being matched with the people and resources to succeed.

With a network in 141 countries, Common Objective is dedicated to supporting fashion people do better business. You can join for free here.


5.) FACTORY45

And then there’s my own program, Factory45… not biased ; ) A six-month online accelerator program that takes sustainable apparel companies from idea to launch, Factory45 will help you source fabric, find a manufacturer and raise money to fund production.

Applications only open once a year and enrollment for the 2019 program will open on May 15th. Until then, you can get free advice for starting your fashion brand here and see some of the companies that have launched through Factory45 here.


sustainable fashion

December’s Featured Sustainable Fashion Products

This is the final part of a six-month photography series, featuring sustainable fashion products on Instagram. You can see July’s products here, August’s products here, September’s products here, October’s products here and November’s products here.

December has come and gone… but with the holiday break, I didn’t get a chance to share the sixth (and final!) part of my Instagram project with Boston photographer Joyelle West.

All of the brands below are past Factory45’ers. Two of them are available to shop on Market45 now and one of them is coming to the site next month!

This has been such a fun project to take on for the past six months. It ended up being an awesome way to promote Market45 brands and a great way to push me out of my comfort zone : )

I’m currently working on some different content for Instagram (that won’t involve me in front of the camera!) and I’m very excited to share it with you in the coming months. If you’re not already following Factory45 on Instagram you can do so here.

Now, keep reading for December’s featured sustainable fashion products:

NOVEL SUPPLY CO. | CABIN CREW

Founded by Factory45’er Kaya Dorey, Novel Supply Co. is a lifestyle brand for the urban adventurer. Designed with the West Coast lifestyle in mind, the collection of crewneck sweatshirts, muscle tanks and t-shirts are ethically made in Canada from hemp and organic cotton.

The Cabin Crew (pictured above) is made of the coziest hemp fleece and printed with non-toxic dyes. I’ve been living in it all winter and it’s as warm as it looks.

You can shop the Cabin Crew and other apparel for the urban adventurer here. Use code MARKET45 for 10% off your total purchase


HARLY JAE | FLORES BLOUSE

Harly Jae is another Canadian brand that was created in Vancouver, B.C. Factory45’er Laïla Bédard-Potvin designs feminine and vintage-inspired garments that aim to be simple without being basic.

Inspired by her father who passed away when Laïla was 11, Harly Jae has set out to shake up the fashion industry and create its own path.

You can shop other feminine and vintage-inspired designs from Harly Jae here. Use code MARKET45 for 10% off your total purchase.


REPRISE | LACE-UP LEGGINGS

Founded by Factory45’er Mary Bemis, Reprise is a line of plant-based activewear that’s addressing the widespread use of synthetics in workout clothing.

Every time you wash synthetic fabrics, typically used for activewear, it sheds thousands of microplastics into the water, eventually ending up in the ocean.

Reprise uses fabric made out of eucalyptus trees, eliminating the micro-plastics problem and giving you a much “cleaner” workout.

You can shop the lace-up leggings and other plant-based activewear here (and you’ll find Reprise on Market45 soon!)


To see the rest of December’s featured products (like Vesta and Mamachic), come on over to Instagram by clicking here.

And don’t forget, you can now shop other sustainable and ethical fashion brands on Market45 here!

 

factory45 owner shannon

 

 

 

P.S. When you use the discount code MARKET45 I receive a 5% referral commission. I only promote products and brands that I personally wear and believe in.


Oh! And my friend Nicole just opened enrollment to her membership site, StartUp Fashion

There are many past Factory45’ers who are now part of the StUF community and it’s an amazing way to connect with other fashion entrepreneurs, get mentorship and tap into expert resources.

Enrollment is only open for a week, so make sure to check it out here.

Factory45 Featured

Factory45 Featured on CNBC’s Nightly Business Report

A few weeks ago, a producer for CNBC contacted me about featuring Factory45 on Nightly Business Report’s “Bright Ideas” segment.

It was a whirlwind of logistics, falling right around Thanksgiving, but we managed to piece together a story about sustainable fashion, ethical manufacturing and how Factory45 has played a roll in it.

The best part is that we were able to incorporate two Factory45’ers, Cara of VETTA and Mary of Reprise Activewear, and my husband even made an appearance with his company Project Repat.

I’m so happy with how the final segment turned out — it’s always a little nerve wracking when you give someone else control of telling your story.

If you didn’t catch the live version on NBR last week, click the play button below to watch it now:

A huge thanks again to Factory45’er Cara Bartlett for making time to film on Cyber Monday (of all days) and Factory45’er Mary Bemis, who filmed right after flying back from Kenya!

Your support in watching and sharing the clip is so appreciated:

Watch Factory45 on NBR here.

Gratefully,

factory45 owner shannon

 


Market45

repeat customers

How to Create Repeat Customers as a Fashion Brand

On the move? You can now listen to Factory45 blog posts on audio! Just plug in your headphones and click play…

My husband tells me I turn everything into “a festival.”

This is his loving way of saying I turn everything into a production.

Take our Christmas tree, for example.

We couldn’t just decorate the tree on a random Sunday. There had to be holiday music playing, a fire burning, mugs of hot chocolate, candles lit and just the perfect amount of cozy lighting.

Believe me, I’m eye rolling at myself.

And I’ll admit, whether it’s Thanksgiving or a picnic in the park, my one and only goal is to turn that event into an experience.

I’m sure there are times when my husband wants to tranquilize me, but there is an upside to the madness.

Especially when it comes to running a business.

Even more, when it comes to running a fashion brand.

When so much of online sales is dependent upon repeat business and accumulating a loyal following of ongoing customers, you are required to provide an experience for them.

The process of shopping on your website, receiving a “thank you” email after the purchase, getting your product in the mail…

All of that accounts for the unique experience that you’re providing for your customer.

And it’s when you make it memorable, easy, fun, enjoyable or some other positive adjective that sets you apart from other brands selling a similar product.

It’s what turns one purchase into a future purchase.

So, this holiday season, when your sales are at an all-time high for the year, what experience can you create for your shoppers?

Can you build a custom email series that introduces them to other products on your site?

Can you include a handwritten ‘thank you’ in their package?

Can you send a free small gift that will surprise them?

Can you make the online shopping experience so seamless that the purchase is a no-brainer?

What can you do that will transform just another e-commerce transaction into something special?

 

factory45 owner shannon

 


Market45

sustainable fashion

November’s Featured Sustainable Fashion Products

This is the fifth part of a six-month photography series, featuring sustainable fashion products on Instagram. You can see July’s products here, August’s products here, September’s products here and October’s products here.

‘Tis the season for ethical shopping and in case you missed it, Market45 went live on November 1st!

Featuring 20 brands that have launched through the Factory45 program, Market45 is a platform to shop sustainable and ethical fashion, all in one place.

You can use code MARKET45 on all orders and receive 10% off your total purchase.

Now keep reading for November’s featured sustainable fashion products:

BE KIND VIBES | “TO THE SEA” T-SHIRT

Founded by Factory45’er Matt Hickey, Be Kind Vibes is ethical apparel for the conscious adventurer. What started as a message to be kinder to the planet, BKV has evolved into a lifestyle brand that promotes kindness, unity and positivity.

The “To The Sea” tee is made in the USA from 50% organic cotton and 50% recycled polyester. It’s a tribute to Mother Ocean and a reminder to think consciously about how we treat her.

You can shop clothing for the conscious adventurer here. Use code MARKET45 for 10% off your total purchase.


PURE COLOUR BABY | ALLIGATOR HOODIE & HAREM PANTS

PURE COLOUR BABY | ALLIGATOR HOODIE & HAREM PANTS

Pure Colour Baby was started by Factory45’er Lindsay Down, who handcrafts organic baby clothing in Canada. Founded on a “grow-with-me” philosophy, all Pure Colour Baby pieces last comfortably through multiple sizes.

My son is wearing their adorable alligator print hoodie that’s made of a medium-weight organic cotton jersey. The matching organic cotton harem pants make it the perfect set or can be worn separately.

You can shop the Alligator Hoodie, as well as other Pure Colour Baby pieces here. Use code MARKET45 for 10% off your total purchase.


LIZ RIDEN | SLIM WALLET & TALL TOTE2

LIZ RIDEN | SLIM WALLET & TALL TOTE

Factory45’er Liz Riden creates handcrafted leather goods, using vegetable-tanned leather that’s a byproduct of meat industry waste. This is above and beyond the standards of conventional leather goods brands.

Made by hand in Pennsylvania, you can also add custom monograms making these accessories the perfect gift this holiday season.

You can shop handcrafted leather goods from Liz Riden here. Use code MARKET45 for 10% off your total purchase.


To see the rest of November’s featured products (like La Fille Colette and Bokk Baby), come on over to Instagram by clicking here.

And don’t forget, you can now shop other sustainable and ethical fashion brands on Market45 here!

 

factory45 owner shannon

 

P.S. When you use the discount code MARKET45 I receive a 5% referral commission. I only promote products and brands that I personally wear and believe in.


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