If you've read my previous blogs you will already know that I created this website:
a) because its something I've always wanted to do
b) because it's part of a research project I'm completing to get my degree.
For anybody new here, I have a question that I need to answer. That question pertains to the viability of a small, low budget brand or designer who wants to start an online store. Now, so far I'd only stuck to the "brand" part of that, and had focussed on creating a second-hand selling brand. Alas my tutors pointed out that I should also cover the "designer" aspect of the question.
So with a couple of weeks to go until hand in I had to quickly come up with a design that I could whip up to test out the waters and see how viable an online store is for a small time designer.
This is where the little social media community I now live in became so helpful! During my sourcing trips to the op-shops to find vintage, I also stumbled across a number of amazing retro 1970s floral sheets that I bought thinking they could be backdrops for photos. But now I was seeing them in a different light as a potential fabric. I put out feelers on the stores Instagram, asking what people would like to see made from these fabrics, and I got the biggest response I've ever had!
The majority of answers were for summer tops, but there was also a lot of requests for scrunchies and a few for dresses and skirts. One person even sent me through some inspiration photos of a particular 1970's style halter top that they had been searching for high and low. These photo's were the starting point for my pattern making as this style of top would be perfect, a tie back halter would fit multiple sizes and would be easy enough for me to make in my limited time frame.
I found the pattern making process quite simple for this top as I have made similar little bra tops in the past so I already knew that to drape the pattern straight onto the mannequin would be the best way to proceed. After a few small alterations I had a pattern and a sample ready to go!
I decided I would make the tops reversible to make the construction process easier as I would only need the one machine, as well as making the tops more desirable as they can be worn multiple ways. I would also only offer three colour ways to start off with so I could test the waters and see if this idea was going to work. I was still struggling with how I was going to make enough stock to be able to launch the tops online, with enough time to judge how successful this was, as by this stage I only had just over a week until hand in. After talking to a classmate who was also making items to sell online, (shoutout to www.jadewalton.co.nz), I decided to follow what she had done and make my items on pre-order. This meant that I would only need to make one of each item for photographs, and I could give myself a decent amount of time to make these tops, whilst still having them online long enough to judge their successfulness. A pre-order is also a much more sustainable way to create clothing, as if the tops didn't end up being successful I could use the fabric for something else.
I did a little photoshoot, photographing the tops on both Jade and I, to show how the tops could fit multiple sizes, and scheduled them to hit the online store at 6pm on Tuesday the 12 November, expecting only a couple of orders from the feedback I had received so far.
Well I was shocked! Five tops sold that first night, another four the day after, and another one the Sunday after. This response was a lot more than I expected, especially as sales of vintage have been quite slow recently. The yellow colour-way completely sold out and I had to start a waiting list to see if I could fit more tops out of the fabric.
I strongly believe that building a social media following (although mine is still tiny compared to some accounts) is crucial to the success of an online business. Also finding your niche online and becoming a part of that community means you've already got a support system of people who are happy to promote you and share your items with their followers, furthering your success. I have found that the Instagram driven selling community is very helpful and friendly and in no way competitive like you would expect. The majority of sellers promote and share other peoples work and this is a great thing to be a part of!
From this experience I would say that it is definitely attainable for a low-budget, start up brand or designer to create their own store online. But it will only be viable if the time and effort is spent in getting your name out there, and in building a space for your store to thrive online. In this age of social media, there are a million different stores out there and for yours to stand out you need to create a unique product and spend the time finding the appropriate audience. Use Instagram to connect and drive sales to your website, and be genuine. From my experience, and from what I have witnessed, people prefer a genuine personal interaction, not a faceless brand.
Next up, reversible sun hats!