The Fashion Designer’s Ultimate Guide to Shopping the Market

And now… for what may be the most fun part of the job: as a fashion designer, you need to shop! Yes, you heard me correctly! Fashion designers are constantly shopping the market as part of their job, as it a critical step in both the apparel design and product development processes to achieving business success. Now is that not just the best news you’ve heard all day?!

“Target what?!”

First thing’s first – you need to define your target market. Don’t be daunted by these business-y terms, they’re simpler than you think! Let’s break it down; a “market” is more or less a general category, like bridal, menswear, or children’s clothing. “Target” is exactly what it sounds like: they are the “bullseye”, the people who shop your category, or market, that you are trying to get to buy your product. Once you’ve defined your target market, you can move forward to the next step. Need more info about this term? Check out this resource from Marketing Donut for more on identifying your target market!

Scope out the competition

Sew, why is shopping the market so important as a designer-entrepreneur? It’s vital that you understand where they are shopping, what they’re shopping for, and most importantly, who’s going to be your direct competition in the industry. Simply put, shopping the market is research.

You’ll want to take inventory of your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses.

Here is a checklist of points that will help you make accurate analyses:

  • What types of products are they offering?
  • What types of fabrics are the products made from?
  • Check out there care label: where is it made?
  • What are their quality standards?
  • What are price points their products are sold at?
  • Where do they market and promote their product?
  • Which of their social media posts, showcasing a product, is the most successful?
  • How is their customer service?
  • Where do they sell their products?
  • What products are selling fast?
  • How big is the company? What are their general sales, revenues and employee figures?

You can find your answers to these online and by going to your competitors’ stores. You can even chat up the sales reps there, or reach out to other industry professionals, but your options don’t end there: speak to people in your target market and see what they say, too!

How the pros do it

With your checklist of questions in hand, you can go about utilizing these best practices to make the most of your research (and by research, we mean shop ‘till you drop)!

  • Diversify your hitlist: you may know of the top brands and stores in your category by now, but don’t stop there! Vintage stores and thrift shops offer unique inspirational ideas you can’t find anywhere else, giving you an edge over your competitor!
  • Go global: regardless of if you want your brand to stay local or sell internationally, you’ll want to look into styling trends all around the world, as well as compare price, fit, and quality. This will give you further insight into what’s available in the market.
  • Stock up: while taking photos or making mental notes of pieces may work, sometimes it may be beneficial to purchase a few pieces, especially if there are key details, materials, or anything to do with a fit that would be hard to understand without having it in front of you. You can use these pieces as:
    • The inspiration for mood boards
    • Aid in development of tech packs for silhouette designs, stitching, or fit
    • A guide for construction or stitching details on design, to be sent to factories, pattern makers, or sample sewers
    • A standard for sourcing fabrics, trims, and embellishments

Using your research

Now that you’ve shopped the market to expand your knowledge, ideas, and resources consider the following when planning, designing and developing your own product:

    • Can you solve a problem?
    • Can you design a product that fills a need?
    • What is missing in your desired market?
    • What can you do better?
  • Why would someone give you money?

P.S. Do you need help working through and need some help honing in on your niche? Check out The ‘ Wil It Work?”  Feasibility Package here.

Do you have any secrets for shopping the market to share to up-and-coming designer-entrepreneurs?