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If you’re like most of the entrepreneurs I work with, then you know this:

  • You want to start a fashion brand that’s socially-conscious
  • You want to do something to combat the “fast fashion problem” 
  • You don’t want to be just another fashion brand

In your heart, you are committed to building a sustainably-made and ethically-manufactured brand, but where do you even start?

While I run an entire six-month accelerator program to help with exactly that, I want to get you started with the first four things to consider right now.

In today’s episode of Factory45 TV, I’m sharing where to begin when you’re building a sustainable fashion brand from scratch.

These four things are not generic answers like, start a business plan or research your competition or trademark your business name.

Click the button above and in four minutes you’ll have four steps to building your sustainable fashion brand right now.

Enjoy!

 

 


manufacturing kit

Every year around this time, I try googling a list of fashion events happening around the world, and I’m never able to find a comprehensive list… 

So, I put one together for us.

This list focuses mainly on sourcing, tradeshows and conferences with an emphasis on sustainable fashion, specifically.

I’ve also divided the events into USA and International — if there’s a tradeshow or conference that’s missing, please email me and I’ll add it to the blog post!

Enjoy,

 

 

*Designates the event being exclusively sustainable fashion-focused.

 

USA

Texworld USA

Jan. 19-21 | New York, NY

One of the largest sourcing events on the East Coast for apparel fabric buyers, product R&D specialists, designers, merchandisers and sourcing professionals. 

 

DG Expo New York

Jan. 20-21 | New York, NY

The fabric show features North American and European Fabric and Trim Suppliers with Global Production. Including: Made in USA / Low Minimums + Stock Programs.

 

Premiere Vision New York

Jan. 21-22 | New York, NY

Six major industries supplying materials and services to the global fashion industry come together in New York.

 

MAGIC Las Vegas

Feb. 5-7 | Las Vegas, NV

MAGIC is the most comprehensive fashion marketplace in the U.S., showcasing Women’s and Men’s Apparel, Footwear, Accessories, and Sourcing resources from around the world.

 

COTERIE

Feb. 11-13 | New York, NY

The COTERIE Marketplace brings together all categories of women’s fashion under one roof.

 

*Impact Fashion Shop

March 14 | Los Angeles, CA

One of the leading sustainable fashion events in Los Angeles, this free pop-up shop brings the best impact-driven, environmental-friendly, fair trade brands under one roof.

 

DG Expo Dallas

March 25-26 | Dallas, TX

The fabric show features North American and European Fabric and Trim Suppliers with Global Production. Including: Made in the USA / Low Minimums + Stock Programs.

 

*Sustainable Fashion Forum

April 24-26 | Portland, OR

A highly-curated, community-driven sustainable fashion conference that looks to the future by fostering an honest, thought-provoking conversation about the social and environmental effects fashion has on our world and what we can do individually and collectively to improve it.

 


INTERNATIONAL

The London Textile Fair

Jan. 15-16 | London, UK

Provides manufacturers and their agents with the opportunity to showcase their products to the most influential British buyers and designers.

 

IM INTERMODA

Jan. 16 | Guadalajara, Mexico

IM INTERMODA, is the most important international platform in the fashion industry in Latin America.

 

Future Fabric Expo

Jan. 29-30 | London, UK

The Future Fabrics Expo is the largest dedicated showcase of globally sourced available sustainably and responsibly produced fabrics and materials.

 

Pure Origin

Feb. 9-11 | London, UK

The UK’s only fashion sourcing show to bring every element of the fashion supply chain together in one location.

 

Texworld Paris

Feb. 10-13 | Paris, France

One of the largest sourcing events in Europe for apparel fabric buyers, product R&D specialists, designers, merchandisers and sourcing professionals. 

 

Premiere Vision-Paris

Feb. 11-13 | Paris, France

Six major industries supplying materials and services to the global fashion industry come together in Paris, the capital of fashion.

 

*Drapers Sustainable Fashion Conference

March 11 | London, UK

Brought to you by Drapers, the event is for fashion brands and retailers, clothes manufacturers, supply chain experts, innovators.

 

*The Australian Circular Fashion Conference

April 1-2 | Melbourne, Australia

The conference is specifically designed as a call to action for collaboration within the

Australasian textile and apparel industry.

 

Fashion World Tokyo

April 1-3 | Tokyo, Japan

FASHION WORLD TOKYO in Japan’s largest fashion trade show which consists of 6 specialized shows, held twice a year.

 

International Apparel & Textile Fair

April 7-9 | Dubai, UAE

Leading brand in the MENA region to source and showcase the best in textiles, fabric, footwear accessories and prints from renowned mills across the globe.

 

*Copenhagen Fashion Summit

May 27-28 | Copenhagen, Denmark

From CEO’s and creative directors to policymakers and thought leaders, the Summit brings together decision-makers from across the globe for agenda-setting discussions on the most critical environmental, social and ethical issues facing our industry and planet.

 

*MOCHNI Conscious Loft

July 4 | Hamburg, Germany

CONSCIOUS LOFT is a cozy 1-day event for people looking to connect, learn and shop in an intimate atmosphere. At CONSCIOUS LOFT you will feel consciously at home within a like-minded community.

 

International Sourcing Expo

Nov. 24-26 | Melbourne, Australia

The show provides an unmatched opportunity to meet and do business with some of the best suppliers from around the world in apparel, accessories and textiles.

 


fabric sourcing

About this time of year, I traditionally write an annual review of how life and business went this year.

You may recall 2018 being a doozie with the health status of my mom, the arrival of Baby Lohr and the post-partum blues that came with it.

But this year I’m doing something a little differently, inspired by my own 2020 business planning.

At the beginning of December when I got out my notebook and wrote “2020 PLAN” at the top of the page, my immediate instinct was to write “Goals” just as I’ve done every year.

But I wrote this word instead:

FOCUS

In that moment, I realized it was never my past goals that were that important — it was the tangible steps that I focused on to achieve those goals.

And it’s this system of focused planning that I want to share with you as an exercise today.

First, I divided the year into two parts — Q1/Q2 and Q3/Q4 — but you can divide it into four parts (or more) if that works for you.

For Q1/Q2, I wrote down one singular focus: MARKETING
(i.e. spreading the word about the Factory45 2020 program)

Then for Q3/Q4, I wrote down one singular focus: FACTORY45 EXPERIENCE
(i.e. making sure the entrepreneurs in Factory45 2020 have the best possible experience)

Next, I made a list of all of the tangible action steps that would enhance each of these two focuses.

For MARKETING, I came up with a list of seven “buckets”. 

For FACTORY45 EXPERIENCE, I came up with a list of four “buckets.”

For example, one of my MARKETING buckets was “Email List & Blog,” so underneath that bucket I listed all of the things that go into my email list and blog as they relate to marketing. 

  • Repurposing “best of” blog posts 
  • Sending out a new YouTube video every month
  • Cross promoting other people in my industry 
  • Using paid ads to promote my best blog posts and videos
  • Driving new subscribers to my email list via lead magnets
  • Cultivating and fostering the existing relationship I have with my current readers

For each bucket, there was a list of actionable steps like the one above that would get me closer to my broader focus of Marketing.

*Important note here that you may find interesting: Social media did not come up in any of my buckets. Sure, I’ll still post on Instagram, FB, etc. but it isn’t a task that I’m putting emphasis on for my Marketing Focus. So, if you’re one of those people who is putting all of their eggs into the Instagram Stories basket, I encourage you to think outside the box!

Alright, still with me?

The final step was to list out January through December 2020, and allocate the most important steps in each bucket to a month or multiple months. 

It looked like this:

JANUARY

  • Paid ads
  • YouTube
  • Pitch podcasts
  • Outline new workshop
  • Activate free TCF webinar
  • Research video companies

The first three bullets span across every month of the year. But the other three bullets only exist in that month because they have a deadline.

Make sense?

The idea here is to have actionable steps each month, rather than general goals, that amplify what you’re focusing on for the first half (or first quarter) of the year.

The final step was to move this calendar out of my notebook and into Asana (the to-do list of my choice) so that I know exactly what I’m taking action on and when I’m taking action on it.

So in review, here’s how you can effectively plan for 2020 for your own business instead of creating general goals:

  1. Create 2-4 Focuses for each quarter of the year.
  2. List all of the “supporting actors” for each focus and divide them into Buckets.
  3. Under each bucket, list the sub-steps that go into each one.
  4. Allocate each bucket to certain month(s) of the year.
  5. Add the to-do list for each month into your task management platform, to-do list or digital calendar.

That’s all to say, I think I’m over “goal setting” in the traditional sense. 

Yes, it’s incredibly important to have a vision for your business.

But you know what’s more important? 

Taking action to achieve that vision.

 

 

This will be my last blog post and email of 2019 — I’m wishing all of you a very Happy New Year and will be back on Wednesday, January 8th : )


CTA-Factory45 SHOP

What is an “eco-friendly” fabric?

That’s the golden question — and it’s a subject of debate among designers, educators and industry veterans. 

Above all, it’s important to remember that there’s no such thing as “perfectly sustainable.” 

Everything new has an impact in some way.

The goal as sustainable fashion entrepreneurs is to do the best we can, always striving to improve our supply chain, educate our customers and put pressure on the big brands to move away from petroleum-based synthetics. 

So on that note, I’ve put together a video of my six favorite eco-friendly fabrics. I go through the pros and cons of each one — because again, nothing is perfect… 

Unless you’re using truly upcycled fabric, but that’s a video for another day.

Click on the video below to play.

Which fabric did I miss? Leave a comment below the video to tell me your favorite eco-friendly fabric : )

 

 

Want more fabric sourcing advice? Watch this video: Fabric Sourcing for Your Fashion Brand in 5 Easy Steps


fabric sourcing

Last week marked the end of the Factory45 2019 program. One of this year’s graduates asked if she could write a guest post to share her experience with all of you. If you’re considering applying to Factory45 in 2020, you’ll want to read Amber’s post until the end.

Here she is:


Have you been wanting to create your own fashion collection, but you’re worried you don’t have any fashion experience? 

That was me.

Are you wanting to take the plunge into fashion entrepreneurship but have no idea what a “muslin” is?

That was me too.

Are you seeing white space in the market and you know the exact solution to a problem? 

That was also me.

I had no idea what a “pattern” even was.

But I developed a concept (that would later be Feel Good Swim) in the summer in 2018 when I realized I wanted to take my career a whole new direction – instead of working for someone else, I wanted to try becoming my own boss.

I didn’t have an idea of what I wanted to pursue right away; just an inkling of the direction I needed to go.

And finally, the swimwear idea hit me – I was putting on my last swimsuit of the year and hating every minute of it.

I’ve always struggled finding swimsuits that fit my curvier top shape – there’s not much out there. 

So I decided that’s what I would build.

But I didn’t pursue the idea right away. I went back and forth with myself for a few months. I was plagued by my own limiting beliefs and negative self-talk.

“Who do you think you are?”

“You have ZERO experience in fashion, you can’t do this.”

“What would people think?”

“What if I fail?”

And finally, last December, I realized what I was doing to myself. I stopped thinking about the “what if,” ignored my lack of experience, and purchased a domain name. Mind you, I had never created a website before.

I researched like crazy. I googled every – little – thing.

And finally, I landed on the Factory45 website.

I read through all of the free content, saw that Shannon was focused on ethical and sustainable fashion, and knew it was the best thing for me.

It was a significant investment, but I had plenty of time to mull over the pros and cons (at that time, the program didn’t open up for a few more months). So I signed up for Shannon’s emails and continued my research.

In those months, I worked on my own — finishing my website, creating a social presence, blogging, trying to create a technical flat, more research…  

And I realized I needed help.

I didn’t find any other programs as thorough as Factory45 and knew I had to move forward. It didn’t make sense for me to spin my wheels on my own anymore.

In addition, there was a ton of social proof from the members of the StartUp Fashion community (another amazingly helpful membership, by the way). There are quite a few Factory45 alums in the group that highly recommend Shannon’s program.

Here’s a taste of what Factory45 included:

  • Demystification of the fashion industry
  • Exact steps to create an actual garment and go into production
  • Extensive databases of ethical suppliers, samplemakers, and manufacturers
  • Email templates and tactics for outreach to ensure you’re sounding like an industry pro
  • Guidance on how to establish yourself in the content and e-commerce spaces as well as how to launch to an audience ready to buy your product
  • Strategy to fund your first production run
  • And media outreach 

I didn’t have any of this prior to the program. 

And without it, I’m not sure if I’d have found my supplier or samplemaker by now. Finding the right manufacturer may have been even harder, especially when ethical practices and small minimums can be so rare.

There’s no “woo-woo” or fluff here. Every lesson is action-packed with how-tos, videos, interviews, and supplemental information. And if you need more help, Shannon is just an email away with a rapid response time.

As a business owner, it’s hard to do everything on your own. And I know that without Factory45, I’d be still trying to figure out what a “muslin” is.

So, what are the two foremost tips I can give you from one founder to the next?

First, don’t listen to your limiting beliefs – they aren’t real.

Second, of course, join Factory45 as soon as you can – you won’t regret it.


This is a guest post from Factory45’er Amber Rankin, founder of Feel Good Swim, and all thoughts are her own. To keep up with Amber’s journey of starting a swimwear company, you can subscribe here or follow her on Instagram here.

sustainable fashion advice

In the last episode of Factory45 TV, I shared five ways to find a clothing manufacturer for the first time. If you missed it, you can watch it here.

Moving forward, you’ll eventually come to a point when you think you’ve found the right factory partner and you’re ready to start production… 

What questions do you want to make sure you ask?

What mistakes do you need to avoid?

What questions should you be prepared to answer?

And what do you really need to be able to start production?

In this video, I’m going to answer all of those questions for you (and more), so that you don’t end up wasting money on the wrong things, or turning off a factory from working with you or realizing that you sent a factory inquiry too soon (that happens all the time).

Click the video above to watch Cut & Sew Manufacturers: How to Work with Them.

Enjoy!

 

 


Manufacturing Checklist

How do you find a manufacturer for your clothing line?

…especially as a new brand without many industry contacts?

In today’s episode of Factory45 TV (!), I’m sharing 5 tips to finding a clothing manufacturer for the first time.

My best tip — that I haven’t shared before — is saved for #4 so make sure you watch all the way to the end.

It’s never too soon to start making a list of potential production partners that you can contact when you’re ready.

This video will help you begin (or continue) your search. Enjoy!

 

 


clothing manufacturer

How to Increase Your Fashion Brand’s Sales by 15%

In the lead up to becoming an entrepreneur, I was a waitress.

I’ll clarify:

I was a waitress at a rowdy Irish pub turned late-night bar in the tourist district of downtown Boston. 

I spent the summer of 2009 working six nine-hour shifts a week, serving up to 24 tables at a time — often by myself.

We were constantly understaffed, with myself and three other waitresses on rotation, and we spent the entire summer clamoring over each other for the chance to be promoted to bartender.

The best shift was Thursday night.

It was just one waitress and Ian, the Thursday night bartender, and the waitress had control of the entire floor which meant you got to keep 100 percent of your tips (there were no bussers in this place).

When it was my turn for this shift, I would mentally and physically prepare. 

I’d make sure I was stocked up on silverware roll-ups, that the menus were wiped down from yesterday’s beer sludge and that the outside chalkboard clearly promoted our daily special of 2 dollar Molsons.

And then from 4-11pm, I would work harder than I have ever worked before. 

At the peak of it all, I remember holding a menu and someone’s check in my mouth while pouring a draught beer with one hand and balancing two plates of food on the other hand.

After several shifts like this, I came in one Thursday night and Ian said something I haven’t forgotten in 10 years.

“Shannon, our food and bev sales are always up 15 percent every time you work. What are you doing differently from everyone else?”

At the time, I didn’t have a good answer for him.

But years later, I often think back to those days in the service industry and now know exactly what I did differently.

(And no, it’s not that I worked harder — I didn’t bring you through this entire story for that.)

It’s something that you, as a fashion entrepreneur, can duplicate and implement:

Make a Frequent, Specific Ask.

Instead of, “Can I get you anything else?”

I would say, “Another IPA?” before the pint glass was empty.

Instead of, “Are you ready for the check?”

I would say, “Our brownie sundae is amazing. The best in Faneuil Hall.”

I was on a constant loop around the restaurant, ensuring that no one was sitting around waiting for me when there was money to be made.

And that ties back to the mistake that I see so many startup fashion brands making.

You’re waiting for your customer to come to you. 

You’re not sending out emails every week, you’re not making it clear what your brand has to offer and you’re not enticing the sale.

It’s all well and good to say, “Well, I’m not salesy and I’m going to do it my way and Shannon, you were just promoting binge drinking and diabetes.” 

And while, okay, that may be true (a girl’s gotta make a living) — if you don’t make the sale, then you don’t have a business. 

It doesn’t matter if you’re selling beer, brownies, jackets or dresses.

Instead of sending out an email to your list once a month about your entire collection, send out an email once a week featuring one specific product in that collection.

Frequent & Specific.

Build a 2-3 part email series around each product that highlights certain defining features, such as fabric or fit or customer feedback or its insanely low return rate.

Frequent & Specific.

Create a two-week, daily social media campaign around the re-launch of your best-selling product.

Frequent & Specific.

Every time you get in front of your ideal target customer, whether it’s through email or social media, you’re asking for them to get behind your brand, support what you’re building and show that support by purchasing from you.

The way you make that Ask matters.

I should know — the next summer I came back as bartender.

 

 


crowdfunding factory cat

Do you know one of the most time-intensive parts of creating a fashion brand?

Fabric sourcing.

It can take months to find the perfect fabric for your product(s).

And that’s why fabric sourcing is the very first thing we tackle in the Factory45 accelerator program.

Because at the same time as you’re building your social media presence, growing your email list and creating an audience before you launch, you’re likely still looking for fabric.

And if you have no idea where to begin, where to look or how to start, then today’s video is for you.

I’m laying out the first five steps to effective fabric sourcing.

And I’m going to make sure you sound like a pro when you’re reaching out to fabric suppliers.

Enjoy,

 

 


supplier email cta

Twice a year my pal Nicole and I offer a free online class for fashion entrepreneurs.

We each have our separate companies — she’s the founder of StartUp Fashion and I run Factory45 — but we like to combine efforts every once in a while to help as many new designers as we can.

So for the last time this year, we’re going to host one more free class for all of you. 

And this one will focus on how to make a lasting impact on your brand that you can implement immediately.

On Tuesday, 9/17 join us for:

4 Steps for Making Massive Progress in Your Fashion Business

Here’s what we’ll be covering:

  • Mindset – confidence, fear, perfectionism and how to manage the mental game of running your own business
  • Business Operations – how to avoid over-planning & over-analyzing, how to create systems, how to implement scheduling tools and how to cut down on procrastination
  • Goal Setting – we’re talking actionable tasks vs. big picture ideas
  •  Finding Community – accountability, emotional support, collaboration, referrals & feedback

Again, this conversation is happening on Tuesday, September 17th at 8pm ET / 5pm PT.

Spots are limited to just 100 attendees so claim your spot here.

We’ll also open the conversation to Q+A at the end so bring your questions!

Nicole and I are all about “walking the walk” instead of just “talking the talk.”

So if you truly want to improve your business (no matter what stage you’re in), then you have to take action to do it.

Free classes like this are one of the best ways to spend your time, so don’t miss this opportunity. 

(Anyone who has joined us before knows we make it worth your while.) 

Click here to RSVP to join us.

Hope to see you on Tuesday!

 

 

P.S. Know someone who would love to join us? Share this link with them!