How Digital has Blindsided Fashion Designers

How digital has blindsided fashion

It’s hard to find success as a fashion designer. From coming up with a unique product, brand and viewpoint, to mastering manufacturing and distribution and receiving industry support and endorsement, it’s exhausting. But it is often the world of ‘digital’ that has proven most elusive and even damaging to fashion designers and their burgeoning brands.

Twenty years ago distribution may have been somewhat straight forward…from securing plum wholesale deals to eventually opening a store. Ten years ago, the savviest of fashion designers even managed to create web platforms. Yet many also found themselves dealing with fraud and the expense of web design and digital marketing. Some designers dropped their website or avoided it all together. Even some of the biggest luxury houses have only ramped up their digital activity in the past 3-5 years.

Unfortunately the result is that many brands are being damaged by the very wholesale relationships that they are celebrating at the same time.

How has this happened and what can be done?

Include digital terms in wholesale agreements

Digital cant be an after thought when negotiating deals with wholesalers. But these wholesalers, ranging from department stores to pure-play multi-brands such as Net-a-Porter, have robust and sophisticated digital operations.

Here is an increasingly common scenario…

A consumer Googles your brand and is besieged by ads that you didn’t create for 70% off’.  How is this happening? Because even if your wholesale partners aren’t exploiting your brand, their affiliate partners are. Affiliate sites like shopping aggregators bid on your brand an append inflated % off to drive consumers to their sites. These sites are fighting for users more than ever and using your are allowing them to use your brand as bait. If you’ve had great press and/or a celebrity fans it’s even worse.

Fashion designers can play at the same game

You as a brand can engage in affiliate marketing too. You can offer better business arrangement in working directly with publishers. For instance, you can increase the commission you offer over your wholesalers with less of an impact on margin. It’s also a way to initiate a direct dialogue with those same companies exploiting you for traffic.

Find solid, reasonably-priced digital partners

Fashion designers are creative, often finding themselves focused on the look, feel and brand implications of a site’s design. But this doesn’t mean spending loads of money on flashy images and the same website designers used by X, Y, Z house. It’s more important that your site works well. If consumers are fighting to even find you through all of your wholesales and affiliate partners, then they expect search and buy to be a breeze. Everyone wins when you take control of the relationship with your customer.

It’s not an either or proposition and there are loads of resources to take charge.