Recap of Balanced Fashion Sustainable Business Development Course 2-Day Course in August 2018
On August 19th and 19th Balanced Fashion held our first ever 2-day course on Sustainable Fashion Business Development at the Canvas, by Querencia Studio. The goal of the course was to help entrepreneurs in the fashion field to more easily navigate in the oversaturated fashion industry, learn more about sustainable practices and to better understand all the technology that is available for fashion brands to benefit from. Nataliya Makulova, founder of Balanced Fashion opened the course with a presentation overviewing the current state of our industry and explained how we got here and gave examples of some of the top players and innovators in sustainable fashion. After that, Nataliya led two sessions focused on the aspects of business development for fashion brands, which included a deep dive into wholesale and direct-to-consumer business models, their pros and cons, discussed working with showrooms vs sales agents, advised on how to create a stores database, how to reach out to buyers, what materials a brand needs to use during sales week and how to conduct terms negotiations with buyers. During the direct-to-consumer topic, Nataliya discussed the importance of building a compelling e-commerce website, and talked about various methods of selling online via marketplaces, aggregators and other fashion tech start ups.
After the first 3 session of Nataliya’s presentations, Megan Murphy-Bratich, Co-Founder of Get the People, a purpose-driven creative agency, talked about the power of branding and walked the audience through the steps to take to create a powerful brand online, she covered pros and cons of hiring an agency for your company’s digital needs and gave some valuable tips on how to develop a compelling brand on a budget. Top takeaways: simplicity wins, strategy is the brother of creativity, credibility begins with aesthetics.
Day one concluded with presentation by Faye Lessler, Founder of Sustaining Life, a blog focused on holistic sustainable living and fashion. Faye uncovered some valuable insights of promoting your sustainable fashion brands through Instagram and shared an ultimate strategy on working with influencers. Top takeaways: Importance of collaboration over competition, if you don’t pay influencers, then you’re not an “ethical” brand and that brands have to let go and allow influencers to take control of the narrative to preserve the authenticity of what is being communicated to their audience.
The second day was kicked off with a presentation by Cat Bradley, Founder of Sewethico, a consulting, providing business essentials for ethical fashion designers. Cat covered the topic of financing your fashion business, stressed the importance of a business plan and shed some light on building a financial planning within it, and explained about ways for a fashion startup to raise funds. Top takeaways: a business plan is a must, angel investors and venture capitalists DO invest in fashion companies, crowdfunding is always a great idea to prove the product concept.
For the following session, Jessica Schreiber, the Co-Founder of FABSCRAP came in to speak about the way FABSCRAP, a non profit organization that contributes to a circular fashion development by collecting, sorting and recycling pre-consumer waste generated by fashion companies, or simply put: fabric scraps and trims. The numbers of scraps being collected from the hundreds of brands FABSCRAP is working with is truly astonishing. After the collection, the materials are being sorted by volunteers (you can learn more about their volunteering program here!), and then — sent to recycling or sold to young designers, students and other individuals who don’t need large yardages. Top takeaways: unused commercial waste in fashion is significantly larger than residential waste, and it can be downcycled, recycled and up-cycled, depending on the fiber and quality of fabric; spandex is a non-recyclable material — Jessica advices designers to completely avoid using it in garment creation.
After a fascinating Q&A session with Jessica about her business, Nataliya Makulova continued with her talk on the aspects that make a fashion brand sustainable, covered various certificates in fashion to officially prove the sustainable and ethical practices to the customers, and spoke about various ways of brands can be socially involved while creating and selling a great product.
The last guest speaker of our weekend course was Sylvia Heisel, the Founder of Heisel, an expert in 3D printing for fashion, a design and product development lab. Sylvia shared her vision for 3D printing as an additional method of manufacturing clothes and accessories — a totally zero waste one and shared a few examples of leaders in the industry successfully using 3D printers for production of innovative garments. Top takeaways: fashion production automatization is here to stay and how data collection & utilization will be more and more important for fashion product creation.
Nataliya completed the course with my presentation on various fashion tech solutions available for fashion brands to help them be involved in more sustainable practices. Nataliya also shared my vision of a future split in the fashion industry, when sewing robots will bring a full automation of sustainable mass fashion production, and where sweatshops will disappear. On the other hand, artisans and local creators would play a bigger role in producing a quality product that people would be proud of wearing for years and years ahead. This topic will be discussed in more detailed in Nataliya’s article to come out in Fall 2018.
We are very happy how seamlessly our first large-scale Balanced Fashion course came together and grateful to the amazing space, The Canvas who hosted us, for the wonderful guest speakers and for the lovely, smart and curious attendants. Without you all, this course wouldn’t have happened!