The Anatomy of a Bubble in Fashion #FastFashion

Everything that goes up must come down.

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Let’s take a classic Bubble pattern (mind you, this is schematic of a financial bubble):

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Bubbles happen when the price of (fill in the blank) rises to an extreme level – way beyond its fair market value. So what causes a product’s price to rise so high?  The simplified reason is strong demand and, of course, investors and businesses capitalizing on that demand.

Generally bubbles are used in relation to Housing or Financial, but I see the same ebb and flow in our Fashion and Fast Fashion industry.

As explained by John Mauldin, Bubbles generally operate on 5-part phases: 

1. Displacement (All bubbles start with some basis in reality. Often, it is a new disruptive technology that gets everyone excited, although Kindleberger says it doesn’t need to involve technological progress.)

2. Boom (Once a bubble starts, a convincing narrative gains traction and the narrative becomes self-reinforcing.)

3. Euphoria (In the euphoria phase, everyone becomes aware that they can make money by buying stocks in, creating and/or selling Widget X)

4. Crisis (The momentum is disrupted. In the case with retail, it’s generally by a flooded market of competition and lowered price points. The only way to sell is to offer prices at a much lower level. The bubble bursts, and euphoric buying (producing) is replaced by panic selling. The panic selling in a bubble is like the Roadrunner cartoons. The coyote runs over a cliff, keeps running, and suddenly finds that there is nothing under his feet.)

5. Revulsion (Just as prices became wildly out of line during the early stages of a bubble, in the final stage of revulsion, prices overshoot their fundamental values. In other words, consumers discover the ugly truths of marketing, inflated pricing and the products themselves)

The first recorded bubble occurred in the Netherlands during the early 1600’s and involved tulips (yes, the flower). Tulips became so popular that their price soared, even to the point where some bulbs allegedly cost more than 10 x the annual wage of a skilled worker.

Sounds silly, right?  There are similarities, however. 

The average cost to manufacture a yoga legging in China = $6

Retail Cost = $90

Demand upon entering market: High

Why?  New. Different. Comfy

Worker’s wage to manufacture that legging = $1.78/hr.

I can see this Bubble in our entire fast fashion industry, but for the sake of simplicity, I will narrow it down to say, jeans and activewear.

Denim hit quite a boom for several years and the premium denim market was soaring to great heights.  Premium denim was king and everyone started producing with Italian, US and Japanese fabrics. LAs garment district for denim was crazy.  Big brands emerged from nowhere and exclusive boutique brands popped up all the time before burning out. Denim’s bubble definitely burst when companies started creating premium fitting denim without the premium price.  As a result, consumers found value in brands such as Uniqlo and American Eagle. A lot of companies either went under, lowered prices considerably or sold their brand to dept. stores like Kohls (Rock & Republic). The premium denim companies who are still alive after the bubble are struggling to climb and compete with: Yoga Pants. 

Activewear has been around for a long time, and it was gaining popularity in 2005, followed by a slight decline before it began to rise again in 2011 (1. Displacement). But Activewear really begin to soar around 2015 (namely yoga pants), outselling Jeans.  Leggings became the new jeans and the price and numbers reflected as such. (2. Boom)

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Leggings followed the premium denim market, and it wasn’t unusual to see leggings retailing for $90, although in reality, the true cost of manufacturing spandex or nylon leggings in large scale production in China is only about $6-$8 per piece (far less than the average $15-$35 manufacturing of better to premium quality jeans). The machines involved with manufacturing a legging are roughly 3, whereas jeans require about 8 different sewing machines and also require more skilled labor as well as washing and finishing machines, techniques and processes.

So it stands to reason that what we are seeing in Activewear is also trend and a Bubble created not only by consumer demand for new, fresh and comfortable, but the capitalization (over-capitalization) of this demand.  The hot trend of activewear has allowed brands, manufacturers and investors to do what they do best: jump on a bandwagon and run it into the ground and saturate the market.

What we saw in 2014-2015 was new yoga wear brands and existing brands expanding to activewear (3. Euphoria)

Rebrand, New Brands, New Collections, Sell, sell, sell – at whatever cost it takes.  Make up fancy fabric names for what is really just nylon or spandex. Increase the prices to make it appear more interesting. Create expensive marketing campaigns to increase the demand.

But consumers get smart. When they see brands like American Eagle and Forever21 offering the same $85-$90 pants for $20, they begin to question everything. The illusion is shattered and there is no turning back.

The market is now totally flooded. Sales (and perhaps interest) will begin to decline. Investment will become limited, brands will scale back their SKUs. (4. Crisis)

I’d presume where we are right now in the Activewear bubble is right around the Delusion and New Paradigm (or on the cusp of Euphoria and Crisis) area.

Brands are scrambling to market the same product with fancy names or reinvent the yoga pant and what we see are innovative fabrics that promise to melt your fat and eliminate cellulite while you wear the leggings. Or better yet, they’ll step up their game with even more expensive leggings and target a luxury market.  (5. Revulsion)

Consumers are aware of the true value and product availability now exceeds the demand.

The Bubble has burst.

The same happened with denim.  There was a premium denim bubble. And it happened much in the way I’m seeing the activewear market. It rose, hit hard and then the market was flooded.  The prices declined, the lower fruit bearers shut their doors and the strongest brands who were the first and best players survived.

The bubble is bursting with Junior brands also. PacSun, Aeropostale, etc. Same clothes, different stores.  Homogenized.

The fashion industry is totally flooded.

The active wear market is absolutely flooded at this point, with a big range of price points. And the bubble will burst within the next year or so, leaving tons of brands in the red with tons of inventory to be sold on sites such as Overstock, 6PM and Zulily. In fact, I am already seeing this.  While new companies and brands are jumping on bandwagons, they are missing the silent Stealth phase of what’s to come.

So what creates a demand or drives a trend?

Truthfully, I think the biggest portion of the activewear market right now is in women’s yoga and fitness.  It’s strong not because Lululemon introduced it to us.  Activewear has been worn since the 1980s. Activewear is a reflection of where women’s interests are right now.  Women want to be healthier, live healthier, more soulful lives. They want to run, be active, do yoga, feel beautiful and be comfortable.  Women are tired of wearing shit that isn’t flattering or comfy.  Women are becoming more self aware, more empowered and either starting their own companies, or taking jobs that allow them to just be themselves.

“A report from the Institute of Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) shows that women are steadily increasing their presence in the world of small-business ownership. About 29 percent of America’s business owners are women, that’s up from 26 percent in 1997. The number of women-owned firms has grown 68 percent since 2007, compared with 47 percent for all businesses.” – Gillian White, The Atlantic

In order to see what trends are ahead, it’s important to see who your target customers are and where they’re heading.  What are their interests and who do they want to be?

So what’s next? 

As with any bubble, there is a burst and a return to normal.

My guess is: Minimal.  

Comfort and quality over quantity.

Comfortable, classic. Leisure loungewear that plays double duty as day to active wear? Perhaps.

Less is more? Probably.  

Where is our focus these days?

The basic little black dress of casual wear (black yoga leggings) will probably never leave our closet, but athleisure trend will fade.

The next phase, or our Return to Normal is not another sport bra and yoga legging.  It’s simplicity. The only way to see where we are going is to see where our focus, as a whole, lies.

Sources: Forbes, The Atlantic, Google Trends, Jean-Paul Rodrigue, Mauldin Economics.

15 Ways to Think Like Coco #Chanel and Be Successful

One doesn’t have to look too hard to see that Coco Chanel was a successful woman. And here’s why

Coco Chanel was a exceptional woman who became one of the most influential designers in the fashion world. When I think of her, I imagine her to be this driven, independent, slightly withdrawn and cranky woman.

Abandoned by her father when she was a girl, and raised in a convent probably emphasized her need for self-sufficiency. Being born in an era where most women weren’t on their own financially, set her apart. She never wanted to be with a man out of financial need, although she was accepting of the help she received along the way from the male suitors in her life.  I find some parts of her story to be a little vague, but one doesn’t have to look too hard to see that Coco Chanel was a successful woman. And here’s why:

  1. “I don’t care what you think about me.  I don’t think about you at all”.
    She didn’t really care what people thought. Period.
  2. “A girl should be two things: who and what she wants.”
    She wanted to be who she wanted to be, and she wanted to do what she wanted to do. She did not waste her time or energy being concerned about other people’s opinions of her (see #1).
  3. “Success is most often achieved by those who don’t know that failure is inevitable.”
    She understood her worth.  She believed in herself beyond belief. She knew she was talented and had every bit of opportunity as the next person. She didn’t let negative self-talk dictate her life.
  4. “My life didn’t please me, so I created my life.”
    She didn’t let her past create her future. Although she grew up in an orphanage, she knew her life story was waiting to be written. She never let her humble beginnings be her obstacle, but a driving force to create the life she wanted.
  5. “I wanted to give a woman comfortable clothes that would flow with her body. A woman is closest to being naked when she is well-dressed.”
    She wasn’t afraid of taking risks, nor did she let people intimidate her or sway her creative direction. Coco created clothes she wanted to wear, she created clothing that she knew women wanted.  Her ideas were radical for the times and there were many people who didn’t understand the way she did things, but she remained true to her visions and stuck with it. (And it paid off!)
  6. “I don’t do fashion, I AM fashion.”
    She believed in her craft, she embodied her work heart and soul. Quality and personal creativity was one of her top priorities. She wasn’t going to sell her soul just for the sake of higher profits.  Her name was attached to every piece she made, and she was known for a relentless drive for perfection, whether in construction, design or fit. She had a strong opinion in all matters of style and taste, and backed her clothing with authority.
  7. “Don’t spend time beating on a wall, hoping to transform it into a door.” She knew when to let go.  When her life wasn’t taking the shape she wanted, she knew how to recognize it, let go and move on-even if it meant letting go of a cushy life. She wasn’t one to waste time and energy beating a wall and waiting for it to turn into a window.
  8. “The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud.”
    Speak up.  She was not afraid to speak her mind.  There was probably never a question of Coco’s position or opinion on something.
  9. “It’s probably not just by chance that I’m alone. It would be very hard for a man to live with me, unless he’s terribly strong.”
    Independence was very important to her, and she knew her emotional limitations. She knew that living a life where she had to compromise what she wanted meant she wouldn’t have her freedom.  For Coco, being with a man out of need was not an option.  She was hellbent to make it on her own, or not at all. Once her business became financially successful without the help of Boy Capel, she stated, “I was my own master, and I depended on myself alone”.
  10. She believed in magic. If you visit Coco’s apartment in Paris, it is as it was when she lived there: lucky symbols are everywhere, such as a frog with its mouth open and a crystal placed inside (a symbol of love, luck, money and health), pairs of Japanese deer and wheat motifs (a sign of prosperity) are scattered across the apartment.She believed in the healing power of crystals, so there are crystal chandeliers in every room.  Lions are also scattered throughout, a reference to her sign, the Leo. Mirrors placed on the walls are octagonal in shape, which was also significant. The shape of the stopper for the Chanel No. 5 perfume bottle was also octagon, and even the number “5” of her perfume has special meaning in Numerology. The number 5 is the most dynamic and energetic of all the single-digit numbers. It is unpredictable, always in motion and constantly in need of change. Sometimes believing in the magic that we possess will get us over humps when we feel like quitting.
  11. “There is nothing worse than solitude. Solitude can help a man realize himself; but it destroys a woman.”
    She believed in surrounding herself with inspirational and like-minded friends. She befriended artists such as Dali, Picasso, Diaghilev, Stravinsky, Cocteau, Jean Renoir, Visconti – all of whom she collaborated with.  It’s well-known that Coco didn’t like to be alone. Find your “tribe”, and you will watch wonders unfold creatively.
  12. “There is a time for work, and a time for love. That leaves no other time.”
    She knew how to manage her time and energy. She knew what was most important to her and she neither deviated from that or tried to combine them all. As a business woman, Coco wasn’t one to waste valuable resources with endeavors that did not serve her higher purpose. Her only focus in life was her vision, her brand, her company (and occasionally love).  What are your priorities?
  13. “Luxury for yourself” Chanel believed in pampering herself.  Don’t be afraid to be a little selfish sometimes. When we feel spent, and our venture feels like it’s failing, we have to look at our life and see where our daily energies are going.  Chances are, you probably aren’t devoting enough of your time to yourself, or to what YOU want to do, because you’re too busy trying to do too many things, or you’re too busy cleaning up everyone else’s mess.  Focus on taking care of yourself, and on the things you want to accomplish, and don’t be afraid to tell others “I’m sorry, I just don’t have the bandwidth”.
  14. “Simplicity is the keynote of all true elegance.”
    Simplicity without “decision fatigue”.  Coco was known for her simple, but elegant design aesthetic. She didn’t overcomplicate her designs because that wasn’t who she was.  Most days, Coco wore black, because it was simple, elegant and easy.  She was, what we’d now call the “Capsule Movement Wardrobe”.  It’s the trait of highly successful people like Mark Zuckerberg and Barak Obama, for example. In an interview, President Obama stated, “I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make.”In a 1969 interview with Micheline Sandrel, Chanel was asked, “You have this suit, this Chanel on you, what else do you have nowadays in your own wardrobe?” Coco Chanel: Two suits I’ve had for three years, a beige one and the one I wore yesterday, with a small pattern, three is good.
  15. “In order to be irreplaceable one must be different” Don’t spend so much time trying to do what’s working for others, or do what you think will sell. Follow your passion, explore your own talents and ideas, no matter how different they may seem from mainstream.  Carve your own path.  After all, there was only one Coco and there is only one YOU.

7 Crucial Elements For Crowdfunding Success

I discovered there are several pretty crucial (and basic) elements involved that can really make all the difference in your campaign.

So, you have a magnificent idea or product. Now what? With the popular crowdfunding websites like Kickstarter and IndieGoGo, the world is your oyster and the possibilities for success seem endless. I have been following crowdfunding for the last 3+ years, observing the wildly successful campaigns and also ones that weren’t quite so successful. After having one of my campaigns miss it’s goal, I went back to the drawing board and dug in to as much crowdfunding tips and research as I could get my hands on.

When my second campaign first launched, my inbox was flooded with everyone from Kickstarter campaign gurus to PR agencies and Fiverrs. Everyone wanted to help make it successful. At a price, of course. But I was on a zero budget, so I did it all myself. The campaign was a success but I learned a lot. Through trial and error, along with determination, I discovered there are several pretty crucial (and basic) elements involved that can really make all the difference in your campaign.

1. Get Social! Make sure you have a strong network, online and off. Build up your social crowd and establish yourself and your brand/product first before launching. Let everyone in on your secret and get them excited, pre-launch. Talk to people, get to know them. In other words, make sure you are well connected and plugged in to your social connections. I would aim for at least 1,000 in your network. Facebook is still a great resource, but tap into Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google+. It’s like any business: if no one knows you exist, how can they support your project?

2. Look and Feel – Is your campaign click-worthy? First of all, make sure your MAIN image looks awesome. This is the image that everyone sees first. If it’s appealing to the eye, you’ll get that click you want. You want it to stand out. A clear photo of your product, or an appealing image that showcases your project is key.

Make sure your campaign page looks attractive and cohesive as well. Pictures tell a thousand words. I have discovered that too many words in a campaign can bore an audience. We are living in a digital age where we are more stimulated with quick posts and pictures. You can provide all the info you want, but make it easy to read. Take some inspiration from various infographics and think of creative ways to get your message through quickly.

If you are not much of a graphics guru, that’s OK. Ask a graphics designer for assistance with this.

3. Your Video This can be tricky and expensive if you don’t know a videographer or editor. If you have a budget to hire a videographer, that’s great! If you are doing a DIY video, make sure your video has good sound (I goofed on this one with a cheap radio shack mic). Create a visual story, tell everyone about your project in 30-60 seconds or less. Let your project evoke a mood or inspire your audience. Be yourself. It doesn’t need to be fancy. If you are not comfortable being on camera, a video or photo montage with your voice-over is good too!

4. Rewards Offer a variety of pledge amounts, but don’t get too complicated. I have found that less can be more on Kickstarter. Too many options, and people can get a little confused. The $16-$25 rewards are a nice sweet spot. However, I also realize a product that is more expensive is well worth it to Backers, especially if it’s a project they believe in. Also, never underestimate the power of the $1 reward! I have seen quite a few projects with over a 1,000+ $1 Backers.

5. PR and Blogger Outreach is as equally important as the product you create and vital to maintaining a steady flow of traffic to your project campaign. If you plan to do your own PR, make sure you have created some kind of social media rapport before pitching your product to an editor, even if it’s just to Share or Re-Tweet an interesting news article they have written. Make sure you are targeting the right blogs, magazines, etc. Have a list of the contacts ready to go before you launch. Send the e-mails out before you launch and offer exclusive “first dibs” press. Send them info on your project along with the website or Kickstarter preview link. Emails are the best way to reach editors. Make the emails personal. Canned, lengthy templates are not a wise choice. And make sure you follow up! (If the email addresses are not available online, you can call and ask for the specific editors’ email address if it is a magazine like Conde Nast or Hearst Publications).

Read more:  How to Do Blogger Outreach and PR

Make sure you understand the amount of time it’s going to require to reach out to the right bloggers, editors, etc. It doesn’t end when the campaign goes live. Write, Send, Follow-up and Repeat. (Getting friends to help you with this is also highly recommended). I think I must have sent 30 emails out before I got an interview and write up with Fast Company. Be diligent and don’t give up! It WILL pay off.

6. Extra Marketing Funds Set aside some funds for help in Social Marketing/PR. Even if it’s only $500-$700, make sure you have some funds for this. There are a lot of social media ad promotions you may want to take advantage of (i.e. Google, Twitter, Facebook). There are also individual PR agents and agencies out there who offer crowdfund-specific packages at reasonable rates.

7. Social “Auto-Pilot” and Organization Get familiar with social media platforms such as Bit.ly, Hootsuite and Sprout Social. These are excellent tools to help you get organized and track your interactions to see what platform works and who is listening. Also, it will do you some good to have these platforms working for you on autopilot while you (hopefully!) sleep. There is a whole other side of the world that is up while we sleep and we can’t forget to include them.

Some say there is no real secret sauce for Kickstarter success, other than having a strong network and tons of views. I have seen marshmallow projects go crazy, underwear sell like it’s a hot commodity and wallets hit (and miss). I think the product has to be a good one, but I also think people are looking to connect with a project and the creator. It’s more than just products people want. They want to feel like they are a part of something that moves them, whether it be in a fun, creative, humorous or philanthropic way.

I would love to hear about your Crowdfunding experiences!  Please comment and let me know what has worked for you!

Make Money As A Fashion Blogger: 8 Lessons for Going from 0 to $50,000 per Month

Not possible? Just ask Chiara Ferragni, who pulled in a reported $8 Million in 2015

Nobody believes a blogger can make any money, let alone $1 Million a year. If you ask most people, they will say, “Don’t quit your day job”, or “That’s just a pipe dream.”, or my favorite:

“Blogging?  That’s not a “real” job, it’s a hobby, right?” 

I don’t know, just ask Aimee Song, The Man Repeller or the Chiara Ferragni of the Blonde Salad, who by the way, pulled in a reported $8 Million in 2015.  And those are the top fashion bloggers right now.  Think about even the successful bottom tier bloggers and what they are making.  According to research, the average blogger with 40,000+ page views per month are pulling in anything from: $5,000 to  $40,000+ per month.  You read that correctly.

Still think you can’t make money blogging? 

My Tween Fashion Blog makes a good chunk of change and has over 44,000 visitors per month. And I don’t really feel like I do anything. Or, at least all I could be doing.

How?

I’ll be happy to tell you. First of all, most of the advice you’ll read out there is crap or outdated.  All of that “monetizing your blog” info is complete nonsense.  Monetizing your blog does nothing for you except clutter up your content with annoying ads.  The money you get in return is pennies —literally.

For example, do you see any giant ads on this site, or on my Tween Fashion Blog?

Not really.  There’s a reason why.

I am a Fashion Designer and Fashion Consultant.  My blogs are my platforms to offer my expert opinions, reviews, advice and products. I have been designing professionally since 2003, and I have been marketing and selling online since 1999. In fact, I began my fashion career in similar ways as Sophia AmorusoFounder of Nasty Gal. 

I began buying and re-selling clothes on eBay in 1999.  I would visit my local thrift stores and find used, designer and vintage clothes to resell through my eBay store.  By 2001, I had worked my way up to buying and reselling in large quantities, and importing stocklots from factories overseas.  In fact, one month I made $60,000 in sales.  After only one year in business I had sourced and collected literally hundreds of businesses across the USA who were wholesale apparel sellers, liquidators, outlets and resources for B2B sales.  And then I realized there were thousands of new eBay sellers every day begging for information that I had to source their inventory.  I realized I was sitting on very valuable information. I compiled my first Wholesale Apparel eBook and sold it online through my first ecommerce site I built with Dreamweaver. I sold a lot of these at $49 each.  A lot.

You see, Bloggers don’t make most of their money selling ad space or earning dimes for clicks. Bloggers are essentially teachers, and fashion bloggers are a branded platform.  What they sell are their ideas, a feeling, expertise and eventually products. Fashion Bloggers are the experts and trendsetters in their field. They start with rich, relevant content to target their audience and work their way into building up that audience to — you guessed it: sell their product, or sell other people’s products. Chiara Ferragni started off as a Look of the Day gal in 2009, but she now has her own collection and a few million per year with The Chiara Ferragni collection. THAT is where her money comes from my darlings.

That is where I am these days.  I no longer work for any corporate entity except for my own.

If you are reading this, you have probably dug into every piece of information you could get your hands on about quitting your job and making a living blogging.  But the truth is, until you figure out how to sell what you know,  you probably aren’t going to make money blogging. Building up your readership is key. And you can’t build up that readership if you aren’t providing information that’s useful or relevant.

People want information.  And information sells.  Stories are great, but stories don’t make bloggers wealthy–unless they turn the story into a tangible product
(a book, or movie)
.  

Fashion provides a steady, constant moving stream of information.  People want to know what boots are hot this season, what dress to wear to the holiday party, what to wear, how they should style their hair, etc.  This is where the fashion blogger comes in.  

For me, my blog provides info on the best brands, the best stores, what’s trending, what’s awesome and what sucks.  And my niche happens to be the Tween, Girls and Juniors market. Yours may be completely different, but that’s up to you to decide and refine.

My head is full of useful information. I have been involved with the fashion industry for 16 years and a fashion designer for over 10 years.  I have taken my knowledge and skills and transferred that energy into teaching what I know, creating products and helping others create their own collections or products.  

Your head is full of useful information, too. It can be niche, too. 

If you take some of what I learned and apply it to your blog, it’ll pay off for you.

Because here’s the thing:

You can make money blogging.   A million bloggers out there can’t be wrong.  What everyone wants is information.  All the time.  And of course you can be the person they come to for that information.  

So, here’s the beginning to what you need to know to get started making money as a blogger.

Lesson #1:  Realize That You’re Not “Just a Fashion Blogger”

You’re an expert, a teacher, a mentor. Your blog is simply a springboard for all of those things. Perhaps you can offer more than just daily posts, right?  You have a bigger goal, a bigger vision, it’s just not incubated long enough.  But it will.  Keep your head and your eye on the bigger picture.

Look around, and you’ll find nearly all fashion bloggers who make a decent income have an active Instagram account full of fantastic product and lifestyle shots, fashion show attendance, product endorsements, their own fashion collections, books, a consulting or trend forecasting business, side gigs etc.  THAT is how they make money. Their blog and their Instagram account is just the platform where they introduce themselves, give away cool stuff or talk about the things that spark interest to attract followers, customers or clients.

Their interesting ideas and perspective, coupled with rich content = Followers, which equals audience.  And as we all know, audience = influence = $$$

Lesson #2: Don’t Sell Advertising

Selling ads can be attractive, because it’s income that generates without you really doing anything, but it’s generally minimal unless it’s ad space bought by  Gucci.  (Or you have a million followers and you are using a platform like RewardStyle.me to sell OPP – Other people’s products).

So, unless your ad space is purchased from someone like Gucci or Prada, say “nada”.
Why push someone else’s product for pennies, if you can make 5-10 x more money using that same “ad space” to sell your own products or services?  At the very least, promote an affiliate product that is either cohesive with your blog theme (i.e. health and wellness, fitness, high fashion, etc.) or a brand that you love -and one that will make you a significant profit per month. 

For example, try signing up with shareasale.com or Rakuten Marketing.  Some fashion brands will pay up to 20% commissions in sales. When I first started out, I signed up for big brands for the names, but they barely paid 3% commissions and although I didn’t want to look a gift horse in the mouth,  it just didn’t add up.  I discovered after my first year that I had been pushing their brand and watching their sales increase based on my efforts, and I was literally getting a few dollars in return. In the first year as an affiliate, I generated 1.3 million impressions and $17,200 in sales. My commission for that was peanuts ($605).

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Example of Affiliate Program Sales

 

What I realized was if I applied that same effort to my own products, I could make what they were making.  Viola!  Do you see how it works?

People were coming in for my content, but spending dollarinos elsewhere.

If you do choose to go with affiliate marketing (until you get your own product, of course), set your baseline commission standards to at least 15% or don’t waste your time.  Your time is extremely valuable. Crafting awesome posts takes you hours, and pushing a brand for pennies is just not worth it.

After all, your goal is to make $50,000 per month right? Right!

Stop working for free.

Now, If you consider the possibility of a $25,000 month of sales for all of your affiliates combined, and your baseline is 15%  Your monthly commission is $3,750.  Makes a bit of difference, doesn’t it?

I reiterate, you CAN make money as a blogger.

On my blog, I mostly promote my own brand, products and design services now, but I am also in the process of writing a book about How to Start Your Own Clothing Line.  The bottom line: Think bigger than ad space or paid reviews. Sure, you may get free stuff and that’s totally fine if you’re going for that. Free stuff is fun but it’s not going to allow you to quit your day job and really earn a living blogging, or send you and your family on vacation. So if your goal is to earn a 6-figure income blogging, set your standards high.

 

Lesson #3:  Build Your Content

Your an expert, give the world your expert knowledge.  Don’t hammer your readers with sales pitches, or too many ‘buy me, buy me’ posts.  Your whole point for being here is to offer valuable information.  The good, the bad, the ugly – Not a car salesman pitch at every turn. Be polite. It’s much better to build relationships and trust by giving readers some valuable content before you begin talking about or pushing your products and services. Yes, you might make less money in the short term, but the long-term profits are so worth it.  

In the Fashion world, photos are everything.  So, make sure you partner with a good photographer who can work with you often to create the overall look and mood of the clothes you may be presenting.  Reach out to stylists and brands to collaborate.  I cannot stress enough the need to collaborate.  It is vital, especially if you are going for stylistic shoots, and highlighting products.

Lesson #4: Don’t Be The “Bottleneck”

Time is your biggest obstacle as a blogger. There just isn’t enough of it.  Not only are we expected to publish a continuous stream of photos on Instagram and publish content on our blogs, but we also have to make time to create creative assets, giveaways and promotions, schedule styling shoots – if you do that sort of thing, deal with technical issues, read books and articles about the industry, design, create new products to sell (I certainly do, anyhow) and answer questions from readers.  Did I mention social media management also?  The list really goes on and on for days.  It is more than a full-time job, and you have to be prepared to put in the work.

Many days, my job as a Designer and managing my business starts at 6:30 AM and doesn’t end until about 8 PM.  I have found myself literally doing E V E R Y T H I N G.

But you will learn quickly, and maybe you already have, that you CAN’T do everything.
You just can’t. And you shouldn’t if you want to succeed as a fashion blogger.

So, what’s the answer?

Your job as a fashion blogger is a lot like the manufacturing process. If one machine is down or working slower than others in a factory, it can literally cost the company tens of thousands of dollars per hour. If something slips up and a batch of tees get dyed the wrong color because someone was overworked, it will cost another several hundred thousand dollars. 

To make sure snags don’t happen, manufacturers and brands have Product Developers and Production Managers,  Why?  Because they are worth every penny of their $100K+ per year salary, and they  eliminate these snags or “bottlenecks”.

The same is true for us, except the solutions are a little different.  We will want to focus in the area(s) where we are the most bottlenecked and find a solution to free up that valuable time.  We might sign up for a service or purchase a new software that automates some of our social media work flow, or we might hire an assistant. It can be expensive, yes, but it’s worthwhile if it saves you time. because you can then dedicate that extra time to higher value activities that yield better ROI.

Lesson #5:  Time is Money

Put a price on high value activities.  What are “high value activities” anyway?

Well, it depends on your goal. If your goal is to increase your blog traffic, then start measuring the ‘visitors per hour invested’. For example, if you invest three hours in writing a post or shooting a post for Instagram and it brings you 100 visitors, and you invest five hours in writing a guest post (or collaborating with another Instagrammer) which brings you 500 visitors, the first post has an hourly rate of 33 visitors per hour. The second post has an hourly rate of 100 visitors per hour. Guest posting and/or collaborating with an established blogger, therefore, is a better use of your time than writing content on your own blog (in the beginning).

Anticipation builds momentum.

Consider the possibility of building up your content and following before launching your blog.  The last thing you want to do is post regular content if nobody is reading.  Get you visitors and followers ready with a ‘coming soon’ page and collect emails for the next 30, 60 or 90 days while you build out your blog, take photos, create content and make connections with other bloggers as a Guest Contributor.  I took this strategy with my Berry Jane website and the response was astounding.  I had a ‘coming soon’ page up for three months before launching and I was able to grow my email list to nearly 1,000 in no time flat.  

Lesson #6:  Facebook, Twitter, Google+ may be a waste of time.

Wait, does this mean having followers in those places is useless?   No. Facebook is OK because you can advertise to your followers. Google+ can help boost your search engine rankings. Even with those benefits though, it shouldn’t be at the top of your priority list. In my opinion, you shouldn’t think about them at all until you hit 10,000 followers/subscribers, and then you can outsource the social media management to someone else. Use your time more efficiently in other places, such as Instagram, YouTube, Stylish Shots, Product Reviews and Writing Longer Content.

Why longer content?

Longer content gets much more traffic, and is more SEO friendly than shorter content.  The sweet spot seems to be about 2,000–3,000 words per post (This post, for example, is appx. 2,817 words).

Lesson #7:  Promote, Promote, Promote!

Promote the heck out of your content.  I’m not talking about just sharing your posts to your Followers on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. I’m talking about blogger outreach. Build relationships with influencers and asking them to share your work.

You should spend just as much time on blogger outreach as you do creating your own content. So, if you’re spending 5 hours a week writing blog posts, you should be spending 5 hours a week on outreach too.

It comes back to TIME.  When your blog is new, the most efficient uses of your time is: building relationships with influencers (including guest blogging), creating content worth linking to, and selling your products and services. I have worked with a broad range of brands and companies from Target to Simon and Schuster, Pac Sun and even Dollar Shave Club. 

If you follow just those three things well, not only will your blog gain traffic and prominence, but you’ll also start getting search traffic (organically) without doing anything.

Lesson #8: Build Your Email List.  It’s More Important Than You Realize

In my experience, your email list is the most accurate predictor of how much money you’ll make blogging.

A successful Blogger makes around $3 per subscriber per month. If you’re new to this, I would aim for $1 per subscriber per month in sales. In other words, an email list of 1,000 subscribers should result in at least $1,000 per month in sales,  10,000 subscribers would result in $10,000 per month and so on.

The more subscribers you get, the more money you make. If course, your relationships, quality of content and products are key for success.

Sell “You”

Don’t just turn your blog into a big sales pitch. I see that with so many bloggers and it gets annoying fast, plus its just not very personal.  And “personal” is what got a lot of these fashion bloggers where they are today.  They created content that made followers feel connected.  I see this with Aimee Song.  We love to see her photos on Instagram, but her blog and Instagram account is basically a show and tell platform to sell what she’s wearing.

Be real and personable. Sell your knowledge and ideas, but don’t become just a machine for selling. 
Nobody likes that.

Remember to keep offering something your audience wants and needs. I’m interested to hear your comments on this subject and see what has worked for you, and what hasn’t!  If you’re just starting out, keep plugging away.  Starfruit takes time to ripen.  

You’ve got this.

Why You Need to Be Your Own Competition

Everyone is fighting to be relevant, whether it’s from a personal branding, or a company/product standpoint. Now more than ever, the need to create a product with buzz factor is essential. Sometimes that means refreshing or even reinventing your product(s) more than you’d like.

I have been a fashion designer for the last 10 years. Within that time, I worked for a few successful start-ups and well-established companies, as well as created and launched a few independent labels for myself and other clients. What I discovered quickly, was that many had the resources set aside for creating the initial product, but they were missing a few vital elements in building and maintaining a solid brand. Few were open to deep market research, investing in solid branding and marketing, or changing the product to stay ahead of competition.

Everyone is fighting to be relevant, whether it’s from a personal branding, or a company/product standpoint. Now more than ever, the need to create a product with buzz factor is essential. Sometimes that means refreshing or even reinventing your product(s) more than you’d like. Yes, change can be really hard at times.  It’s not always cost efficient and it takes time to readjust. But if it’s necessary for growth, it must be done. Don’t let fear or your ego get in the way. If objectives haven’t been met or sales, traffic, etc. hasn’t improved after a year or two, stop saying, “I know what I’m doing, I don’t need to do it different”. Or, “I can’t” or “I’m afraid to change”.

Remember that scene in Superman III, where Good Superman and Bad Superman have a duel at the scrapyard?  Both had the same set of tools to fight with, but one was willing to fight a little dirtier than the other. You have to be willing to split into two parts and look at your company through the eyes of the bad Superman self and be willing to be your own enemy in order to be your best objective advice.

You have ask, “Is this product as awesome as it could be?
How can I make it different or better?” Is your product a compelling story, and does it fill a need in the market?

The beginning stages of product or company development involves an in-depth and honest evaluation. Before you even sit down to create or market Widget A, you have to determine if it has legs first. Do painstaking market research. Who is your competition, both directly and indirectly? What are they doing? What are their failures and successes? How can you do it better?  Treat your product as though it’s already launched and YOU are now the competition.  Approach your product and/or business model as an outsider with hyper-critical thinking and constructive criticism. Keep in mind that your current competitors may not always be your most “dangerous” competitors. The obvious competition is well, obvious. But pay attention to internal employees with innovative ideas that are shot down, the small team of young, disruptive innovators or even your own vendors.  Imagine my horror when I discovered that a factory I was using was not only trying to offer my product cheaper under their own label, but they were using my photos to sell my design knockoff product.

An unexpected competitor launches a product that is completely different to your (and your perceived competitors’) existing, established product, but which accomplishes the things your customers want better than your products can do. They are, of course, disruptive innovators. And, if you do not pay attention, you will not notice the threat they pose to your business until your customer base begins to evaporate and you have to go into damage control mode to save your business.
– Jeffrey Paul Baumgartner

Brand building and maintaining relevancy is as important as the product itself. It’s not enough to just create a great product initially and ride that train until the wheels fall off. Failing to change, even a little, along the way may mean you’ll be left too far behind to make even the slightest impact later.  It isn’t a ‘set it and forget it’ crock-pot. In order to stay relevant in business, you either have to create something that stands above all others the first time, or be open to constant change.

Think ahead in terms of what the natural progressive steps, if any, may be. Already BE there mentally.  Obviously, if something is steaming ahead out of the gate, it doesn’t need changing right away. But you should always keep some next-step, progressive ideas in your back pocket, ready to launch when the moment strikes.