3 Major Mistakes New Streetwear Brands Make

For someone preparing a clothing brand for its launch, it is important to know the market well. Once a business plan is prepared, it is time to start searching for investors and partners. The global apparel market was valued at US$1.7 trillion in 2012. In USA alone, the value of sales was US$361 billion at retail in 2013. For the past 3 years, streetwear has been on the rise. The beauty of streetwear lies within its accessibility. The combination of luxurious and casual brands is what enabled streetwear to become so popular. Looking ‘fly’ was no more a matter of necessarily spending ridiculous amount of money on garments. It became completely fine to throw on a John Elliott+ zipper tee with pants by Raf Simons and then top it off with Jordan sneakers. But how about those that cannot afford pants by Raf Simons? For them, there is a number of shops to spend their money in, such as Zara. The problem arises when too many people cop the same thing from the same store.

This problem inspired numbers of young fashionistas to come up with their own designs. Since it is so popular to crave for being unique at any cost nowadays, new independent streetwear brands started popping up. While it is inspiring to see so many talented people with great designs, there are some flaws that prevent a lot of these brands to stand out from the crowd.

While I was browsing some Instagram accounts promoting relatively unknown streetwear brands, I noticed 3 main flaws that lot of them keep making.

1. Authenticity

There is always a design that changes everything. Whether it is Balmain with their signature biker jeans, Givenchy with animal prints or Pyrex Vision with jersey college white on black print, it serves as an inspiration for others. Inspiration is inevitable for innovation, but there should be clearly set boundaries between inspiration and a rip-off. It is alright if designers that create their first collections take some inspiration from their favorite brands and designs. What is wrong is their inability to come up with something new and unique. It only takes few seconds to spot the similarities between the original design, and the design that is heavily based off it. What is even worse is the fact that a significant amount of these new independent brands do the same thing.

I doubt most of the founders would even be able to answer the following question: “What makes your brand unique, and why should I buy your products?”. It is understandable they wouldn’t be able to answer, because there is no good answer to that question. Out of the first 12 pictures I see on Instagram, at least 8 brands offer the same thing. Where is the uniqueness? Where is the authenticity? There are the same designs, prices and quality, but what is so unique about the particular brands? As long as the brand is a clone of any corporate run fashion brand, it will never succeed in achieving its own portion of commercial success. People that are into streetwear know a thing or two about materials, execution, trends or history of fashion. People that are die-hard street wear enthusiasts have no problem getting inspired by 1995 Helmut Lang Fall/Winter collection the same as by Kanye West’s recent outfits. Therefore, why should they care about a no-name brand that does not provide any additional value? Brands that rely on current trends too much are destined to fail.

*Of course, one could leverage the trends to his benefits, but generally it is not the case. A very good example is Virgil Abloh with his Pyrex Vision. Abloh bought wholesale Champion tees, gym shorts and hoodies along with Ralph Lauren Rugby shirts and printed simple graphics onto them. This way, rugby shirt sold for $35.99 became a Pyrex Vision shirt with ‘PYREX 23’ printed on its back for $550.00 . Nonetheless, it was constantly sold out along with other garments that were sold as Pyrex Vision. Abloh was able to leverage the trends and star-power of his close friend Kanye West who helped bring Pyrex Vision to attention of general public. This way, Abloh obtained a starting capital and the needed promotion for his new brand Off-White.

But what differentiates Virgil Abloh from others is the fact he has been a part of streetwear culture for more than 10 years. Not many of the novice designers are creative directors for Kanye West’s think-tank Donda, or have been Kanye’s stylist for years. Also, there are not many that have worked with Fendi, Balmain or Giuseppe Zanotti.

2. Communication

The rise of social media brought transparency that is inevitable in order to maintain a connection between a brand and its customers. Generation Y wants to feel unique by being able to communicate with the brand. Being on Instagram is no longer added value; it is now a must for mainstream brands. There is a reason why big-name brands were so fast to adopt social media; Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat to name the most important. Now it is not only about the products: what is needed is a sustainable relationship. Not even fashion houses such as Fendi can now rely on their legacy and appearance. What I’ve noticed on Instagram is that most of the new brands have a page that somehow represents their vision, but it all ends there. There is a lack of customer support, there are almost no updates about new collections or casual reminders. If there is anything, it is only a photo of an outfit with links to the online shop.

People do not want to buy clothing all the time, they also want to know what is going on with their favorite brand. People love stories. They love engaging posts they can relate to. These are practically non-existent in most independent streetwear brands. They have no legacy, no history. It is hard to understand them. Brands that have no personality are incredibly difficult to relate to. Good examples of brands with distinguishable personalities are: Coca-Cola, Apple, Red Bull, Amazon. Everyone has their favorite brand, and if asked they would probably know how to describe it in a way, one can imagine it.

3. Business Management

There is a difference between being a designer and being a businessman. Most of the founders of independent streetwear brands are people (predominantly men) with a certain sense of dressing well, but what they lack is a business background. To successfully run a company, there is much more than only providing the best product possible. It might seem simple to an outsider; sketch designs, get money, produce the designs, sell them. This might work for some, but only for a certain amount of time. If one’s goal is to make money fast off some cool design, fine. But to create a brand that will last, much more is needed. What many forget is to lay the foundations for the brand, things such as a mission statement, core values, point of difference or long-term strategy. On one hand, there are products that could possibly be sold to customers, but on the other, there is no background behind it. What I’d personally recommend to ambitious designers, would be to find a manager that can take care of the ‘dirty work’ and focus on the scaling of the company, the cash-flow and else. There are essentials that should be mastered before the launch of the brand/company. Seemingly bothersome company vision might seem unneeded, but will surely help in future.

Tips

  1. Don’t be scared to come up with something new.
  2. Treat the brand as an outgoing person that wants to be seen favorably by others and behaves that way.
  3. If you’re not a businessman, find someone that understands your vision and is able to help you make your vision come true.
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