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Janet Engle

How to Open & Operate a Financially Successful Fashion Design Business

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If you are artistic and interested in fashion, working for yourself may sound tailor made for you. Keep in mind that owning a design business requires more than creativity. Business and technical skills
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Some sources for information within the fashion industry include:
• U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov)
• The American Apparel and Footwear Association (www.apparelandfootwear.org)
• U.S. Census Bureau, County Business Patterns (www.census.gov/prod/www/abs/cbptotal.html)
• U.S. Census Bureau, Economic Census (www.census.gov/econ/census02/)
• U.S. Census Bureau, Monthly Retail Trade and Food Services (www.census.gov/mrts/www/mrts.html)
• U.S. Census Bureau, Current Industrial Reports (CIR) MQ313A-Textiles (www.census.gov/cir/www/313/mq313a.html)
• The International Trade Administration, Office of Textiles and Apparel (http://otexa.ita.doc.gov/msrpoint.htm)
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The executive summary hits the main topics from the entire plan:
• What is the business?
• What is the purpose of the business plan?
• Who is running the business?
• Where will the business be located?
• Why is there a need for the business?
• How will the business make money or pay back the loan?
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A good business plan should grow and change with your business.
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Unfortunately, new business owners tend to wait until their business has grown too big to manage before they write a plan. They construct a business plan to address problems, not to prevent them.
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Once you have a working business plan, it can serve as a map to keep your business on track.
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Most loans are negotiable, so do not be afraid to ask for specific repayment terms.
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Although personal savings is the first place to look for startup capital, you do not have to be wealthy to start a fashion design business.
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If you will be manufacturing the clothes you sell, you may need:
• Sewing machine
• Serger
• Knitting machine
• Linker
• Shelving and storage
• Cutting table
• Workbench
• Directional lighting
• Notions
• Embroidery machine
• Dressmaking or tailor’s bust form
• Pattern paper
• Grader’s set square
• Fabric/fiber
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Think about the image you want for your business. Do you want potential customers to see you as artsy, earthy, sophisticated, fresh, or sexy?
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The United States Patent and Trademark Office has an online database of pending and granted trademarks that you can access through their Web site at www.uspto.gov.
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You will be seeing your business name daily. It will appear on your stationary, receipts, mailing labels, hangtags, contracts, packages, and signs, so cross off any choices you do not like.
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There are three types of businesses: sole proprietorships, partnerships, and corporations.
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You have to pay your dues to put out good products. You have to crawl before you walk, and walk before you run.
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Every project, no matter how small it seems, can be a chance to learn and grow as a designer.
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Successful designers do not just respond to trends – they help shape the path of fashion.
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You should be able to sketch out your ideas. There is no better way to communicate your designs to clients or staff members.
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Effective leaders do not dictate every single detail.
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You need to be equally comfortable talking on the telephone as you are in front of the sketchbook.
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The following organizations provide information and learning opportunities for fashion designers and fashion design business owners:
• The International Association of Clothing Designers and Executives (www.iacde.com)
• The Fashion Group International (www.fgi.org)
• The Council of Fashion Designers of America (www.cfda.com)
• The Costume Designers Guild (www.costumedesignersguild.com)
• The American Apparel and Footwear Association (www.apparelandfootwear.org)
• The International Apparel Federation (www.iafnet.com)
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