When you are starting your entrepreneurial journey you need to understand what makes you unique. This is easier said than done when you are in an industry where everybody is aiming to stand out. In the fashion industry, there are strong personalities, and everybody is constantly bringing their A-game. And this is why personal branding is just as important as your products and services. So what does it take to differentiate yourself?
Stand for Something
It sounds simple but so many entrepreneurs out there are clearly in it for financial gain. The reason we have to make an impact in the world of business is that we are doing something different. But we can't fake this. We have to make a statement that is inherently us. There are many ways for you to stand for something.
Many fashion designers take a stand against fast fashion. But there are other more subtle ways that you can do this. You can do it through the practices that you preach. It's so important to recognise that the things you do in-house are just as important as the things you present to the world.
Some people focus on a more personal touch in the products they create. And you can start to build this into your business by using more modest practices that, for example, could incorporate industrial and commercial embroidery machines or processes that focus on lean manufacturing methods. It's so important that when we stand for something that we make it a part of who we are which is key to the next point.
Fashion is one of the few industries where you can be you. There are so many icons in the fashion world that are no one else but themselves. And it's such a simple way for you to exhibit your personal brand.
When we look at someone like Zandra Rhodes, she has a very distinctive personal brand. Her signature hair colour is one of the most obvious examples. When you start to convey authenticity through your outer brand, you also need to put a lot of focus on your inner brand. This is why standing for something is so important. You need to put as much energy into your political statements over the years. And when we stand for something, it becomes a very simple way to differentiate ourselves from everyone else.
That's not to say that everybody else is not being authentic, but one of the most important lessons in being authentic as an entrepreneur is discovering how to be you and not anybody else. When we start to be ourselves, it's almost like we are giving ourselves permission to relax into the role. It may take time because we have to discover who we are within the role, but also, it's so important to not put a time limit on things. If you are determined to be an entrepreneur, you will have to discover who you really are. And this means staring at yourself in the mirror and really getting to grips with who you are and what you stand for.
Focus on How You Present Yourself Beyond the Visuals
Fashion is an industry that is all about how you look. But it's important to recognise that when it comes to developing your outer brand, it's not just about your style, but it's about a combination of so many different factors that, if you're not careful, will reflect poorly on your brands. These include your body language, your presence, how you communicate, as well as your personal impact.
It is so important to be aware of your personal impacts especially in relation to your reputation. There are many examples of people in the fashion industry that have damaged their personal brand. For example, John Galliano's anti-Semitic remarks in 2011, which damaged his personal brand, and cost him his role as Dior’s creative director. You should never think that you are “off the clock” when it comes to your personal reputation, and this kind of comment isn't acceptable. You need to remember that while authenticity is crucial, it's about understanding the signals you give out to the world.
Taking inspiration from those people who are authentic, but are amazing with people. World leaders that seem to have that ability to convey leadership while also being human is not an easy thing, but it is certainly achievable.
A fashion entrepreneur needs to work their signature or story into their creations. And as you start to craft out memorable ways to show your signature, it allows people insight into who you are.
In fashion, there's a number of ways you can do this, for example using textiles or a certain type of embellishments that is inherently you. Do you have a skill that sets you apart from your contemporaries, or is there a unique cut that represents your uniqueness? You need to explore ways to bring this into your creations. Every design tells a story.
Finally, if you are trying to differentiate yourself, think about the people who have collaborations with stores. If you are trying to make a name for yourself, you may not be able to have a big name clothing chain get on-side but use this as inspiration to work with people that can have a positive impact on your brands.
Joint branding can be a very daring move, but it's a wonderful way to boost your product and your impact. Even if you cannot work with a supplier, there are other ways for you to collaborate, for example, hosting an event together, or working with a very small group of networkers. The fact is that collaboration is the best way for you to convey who you are in an industry where everybody seems to stand out.
The fashion industry can be cutthroat, but it rewards uniqueness. Trying to be different can seem like a tall order, but sometimes to be different, you've got to be you. Being an entrepreneur that is different is someone that is true to their values, their goals, but actually lives a different life.