The fashion and apparel industry is one of the most wide reaching industries in the world, clocking in at a whopping $3 trillion in global revenue according to Fashion United. It is also one of the most fluid and rapidly changing industries. Zara is able to design a new item in-house and have it on shelves in as little as two weeks. In such a remarkably adaptive industry companies cannot remain complacent or they will become obsolete overnight.
The internet has a massive impact on the industry. Seasonal trends become mega-trends as fashion frenzied shoppers share their new purchases on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, etc. This initial impact is on the demand side of the industry. In recent years, however, we have seen opportunities opening up on the design side thanks to the power of the internet.
If a designer can produce low volume in-house, Etsy provides independent designers a great platform to showcase their work. If their ambitions are a bit higher and they want to scale up their design to the full force of the internet they can crowd fund to bridge the resources gap.
One of the biggest issues for designers has always been: “Okay, it looks cool. Now how am I going to actually take this thing to market?” Unfortunately in years past the result to this is usually one of two things. Either the designer gives up on their dream, or they go to work for a big company which promises to let them bring their designs to life, only to find that big companies aren’t really interested in their dreams.
I recently came across a company called ROOY that has begun offering a service to designers to help them bring their designs to market without selling out to big retailers. ROOY is helping designers bridge the funding and knowledge gap in bringing their designs to market, virtually eliminating the barriers to entry. I had a chat with Ryan Kang, the CEO of ROOY about where he sees the future of the fashion industry.
Q: Have you noticed any patterns with what makes a designer successful? What advice would you give to designers wanting to chase their dream and create their own brand?
Kang: Understanding your strength as a designer is always the first step. Often times, designers view marketing and branding as a separate business scope from their main talent as a designer. Diving deep into how to market your design and setting a goal of where you want to see your brand really helps designers deliver their brand stories to the audience better. I would advise designers to actively converse with their audience and get an understanding of why people like their design/brand. As you can never satisfy everyone, it is important that you communicate with the ones that see and can relate to your vision as a designer. Even within that community there will be many new perspectives on how you can grow your brand and achieve you goals.
Q: How do you see the crowdsourcing movement affecting the fashion industry?
Kang: It allows brands and companies to work much more efficiently without having to completely restructure their existing design team. It is also a much more natural way of producing collaborations while being completely organic. Many large footwear brands throw out collaboration projects to create a buzz, but don’t really deliver the product to the market. The crowdsourcing movement truly allows these brands and companies to create new authentic and content-focused collaboration projects heavily armed with very marketable content.
Q: What is the process like for a designer working with ROOY? Do designers need a lot of money?
Kang: A designer typically joins ROOY by participating in one of the many design challenges that are held throughout the year. Some challenges have specific themes to them, and some are completely open challenges. Designers do not need ANY money. ROOY takes care of all the startup cost, and instead of asking for money, we actually pay a certain percentage of royalty back to the designer from our net sales. It is the perfect platform for designers, as ROOY eliminates all entry barriers to the industry.
Q: What’s your vision for the fashion design industry in 5 years time?
Kang: We see our vision as more than just impacting the fashion design industry. We see it as creating an entire culture of footwear design. We don’t expect one of the newly emerging brands to take off (although it is highly likely to happen) and become the world’s top footwear brand. Instead, we see a collective movement of many emerging brands helping each other grow together in the market and really set the tone by communicating to the consumers that there are so many cool new brands, and every individual should be able to find the perfect style for themselves.