The G-Code of Survival in Fashion (Any) Business
Julia Antufjew Sunday, January 20, 2019
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“Action helps, but Focus is the ultimate Hocus-Pocus.” – Julia Antufjew
Click, Click, Click …
Said the clock…
She was crying…
Why?! In the whole dear world,
Why are all of them dying?
Three years ago, witnessing a massive wave of bankruptcies among our best customers, my team and I have finally succeeded in isolating the ‘G-Code of Survival’ in the fashion business.
Our experience makes us believe that this ‘Genetic Code’ applies to any business, selling physical products, to say the least.
WHAT’S GOING ON?!
That was me, three years ago, standing in the bright halogen lights of our garment manufacturing hall, pulling my hair in despair. New fashion labels we have been working with for the past four years were closing down one after another …
Not the ‘Early Flames’ – the ones who would start their fashion line just to figure out it is way too much work and quit six weeks later.
Not the ‘Walking Dead’ – the ones who would re-appear every January 1st, full of determination to make it work this time, and evaporate into the thin air not later then June 1st (vacation taaaaaime!) abandoning their ‘Business Attempt of the Year’.
We were losing the ‘Burning Hearts’, the ‘Wild Talents’, the ‘Wolves of Passion’ – the ones who would work hard for each and every second for the past four years to make their brands take off! And we ourselves, ‘Burning Hearts’ and ‘Wolves of Passion’ by blood – we were crying, witnessing such a horror.
When I am saying that three years ago most of our best customers closed down – the emphasis is on most. ‘Most’ means not all. So there were a few best customers of ours who’ve made it thank God!
The business volumes of those who’ve made it was not enough to sustain our fully grown company, so under much stress and tremendous financial pressure we had to close and restructure since then. It was a time of a serious crisis. But this is not what the story is about.
The story is about the few fashion labels that have made it, as for they are the carriers of the ‘G-Code of Business Survival’.
Every customer we’ve served had the very same top quality just-in-time manufacturing. They were more or less equally talented. They had more or less equal access to capital. So why did many fail?
And most importantly what did those who’ve made it do differently?
[Note: ‘Made It’ category means a company with six-figure annual turnover, supporting stress-free and comfortable lifestyle for its owner, a company which is sellable with a valuation of several million US$.]
THE G-CODE OF SURVIVAL
My team and I have stepped back and started analyzing.
We have seen two key differences between ones who’ve failed and ones who’ve made it. Are you ready? Because here it is!
Key success factor # 1: The size of the product portfolio.
And I have to say - there is nothing subtle about it. The ones who’ve failed had anything between 48 and 240 new products every year. They would create two collections per year, 24 to 120 styles per collection.
And the ones who’ve made it would run one single fashion product year in year out. In different colors it is. But the very same product!
Key success factor #2: Functionality of the product. The ones who’ve failed did engage into the design of garments with general garment functionality: a trouser to be worn as a trouser; a dress with a single functionality of being a dress.
Those who’ve made it, on the other hand, we're developing a product that solves one particular and well-defined need.
ARTISTS VERSUS ENTREPRENEURS
Analyzing the differences between fashion labels - we could not help but notice that success of the startup was closely related to its type. To be the more precise success was closely related to the designer character, name him or her being a Fashion Entrepreneur or Fashion Artist.
In the game of fashion business, there are two choices really: you are either a Warrior or a Magician; either an Entrepreneur or an Artist.
Fashion Entrepreneur finds a need and designs a product around it. The ultimate need of an Artist is self-expression. Both Artist and Entrepreneur are running two very distinctive business models. What can I say? In our particular case, all fashion labels who have made it – were Entrepreneurs.
This statement has zero preferential value. It is a simple truth we have to deal with, using this knowledge to our advantage when planning our business.
Why is there such a difference between the two business models?
There will be lots of people who will scream as one: “Because Artists cannot do business! Their mind is creative rather then logical and therefore they are in disadvantage.” Bullshit. Artists are very proficient in business. A talented person is talented in everything. So let me make this one point clear: personal capability is not the factor which makes Entrepreneurs more successful than Artists.
What is it then?
THE MAIN DIFFERENCE BETWEEN FASHION ENTREPRENEURS AND FASHION ARTISTS IS FOCUS!
All activities carried out by Entrepreneurs are focused around one single product. Those activities are like sun rays gathered through a magnifying glass and focused on one single spot. Those rays of focus spark a cash flow fire with a tremendous speed.
On the top of that entrepreneurial product is developed around a certain well defined and present pain or need. The purpose of an entrepreneurial fashion product is to solve this pain or address this need. The pain may be real or virtual, but it is there.
Entrepreneurial fashion products are almost like medical remedies:
- a belt which keeps your pants up no matter what;
- a super lightweight bag which fits business, sport, and baby stuff without them being all mixed up;
- Perfect Tights – a perfect pair of legwear that serves active components by osmosis, helps you increase your energy levels overnight, say goodbye to chronic fatigue, start exercising, clean up your diet and as result claim back your personal power!
These pieces do enhance our daily life experience and therefore we will continue buying them.
Artists are forced to spread out their focus across large product portfolio, and therefore fail to get sustainable results.
FOCUS & PURPOSE
What to do then? Shall we all just forget our Artistic nature and become Entrepreneurs?
I hear two repeating chords throughout the symphony: FOCUS and PURPOSE.
1) Make sure you focus on one single Core (Fashion) Product until it runs seven digits turnover.
2) Make sure your product has a purpose, hence is build around a certain well defined and present pain or need of your dear customer.
3) No matter whether you have a physical product or not, no matter what business you are in – FOCUS & PURPOSE, FOCUS & PURPOSE, FOCUS & PURPOSE …
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