Your first step towards starting a fashion business — Product

Kirti Poonia
4 min readJun 7, 2020

Thank you for the overwhelming response, it has motivated me to share more.

Now that you have decided to start your business, this piece will focus on really how and where to start.

There are over a 100 things to do and keep in mind while starting a business and it can be confusing, should you start with finding a name? worse a domain? should you start with the fabrics you love or should you start with a concept for the brand? So here’s how you should start and its a good thing you don’t need any money for this step.

  1. Start with the Product The best marketing is a great product. You don’t even need to try and sell it, people hunt it down and say “please take my money”. If you are a designer, you might stress about marketing, and operations. Dont let these drain your creativity and the product development process, like any great artist, create your masterpiece. And yes, don’t start with fabrics available to you, customers don’t buy the fabric alone, they buy the end product, don’t restrict your design, you will find the right ingredients eventually. It’s going to give you a much wider canvas. Open a notebook and sketch even if you are terrible at it. Eventually, digital sketches and power point mood boards will eventually save your life.
  2. Validate Customer Need — Imagine that I have designed Chikankari shorts for men (does seem like a supremely creative idea), I could win a design award for it. But do the boys really need it? what need does the purchase address? Will it be functional to wear or will the embroidery threads be an unnecessary annoying factor? Where will the person wear it? Do they care about chikankari ? Who is this customer, where does he live? How much does he earn? Where will he wear these shorts to? At home or to a holiday? What does he like to cook? Define the persona.
  3. Validate the Market Size — Well you have made it to step 3, you know some men who would buy these shorts. It’s time to check the size of this market. Lets say .1% of Indian men are likely to buy these shorts. They are likely to buy 2 pairs in their lifetime. Running these numbers will tell you if there is sizeable market or not. You cannot create an entire business for a minuscule number of people. You can have a hobby.
  4. Validate the Unit Economics — It’s whimsical to build an entire business plan so early in your process, there is actually no need for it this early. But the concept of unit economics is important, the cost of one unit of whatever product you are making. Let’s say the shorts cost you 1500 Rs to make and you need to sell them for 2000 Rs to gain a 10% final profit on each pair after subtracting the overheads. Will the men you shortlisted in step 2 pay 2000 Rs for these shorts? What are the volumes you can do monthly based on step 3. Will you really be able to manufacture in the assumed cost of step 4?
  5. Feed the learnings back into the Product — Tweak the product and run it through the loop again, improve it till it starts to give you and 3 other mentors the confidence that this will work.

Set a Deadline — This one is common sense, but it is important to remind ourselves while on the topic. Be sure to set a timeline and deadline, because this can go on forever and then you have sunk time and costs even before you have started the business.

Important Note — Depersonalise the product while reviewing it. The biggest problem is that most of us lack the ability to constructively self critique and generate meaningful feedback from people around them. We are blinded by the fact that we have made it (effort bias) we have seen the construction process and are hence more attached to it. We believe it’s beautiful, even if no one will buy it. It’s important to be mindful of this during every single second of your product development.

Conclusion: The first step is to have a product amazing enough that it won’t need the marketing gimmicks to survive, it will have a life, repeat buyers, word of mouth and immense amount of support from its patrons. It may not be your only product or collection but it will be your first pillar, and on the back of its success you will build a trusted company that can last a 100 years.

Link to the first post :

// I decided to not write a meta post covering everything about starting a fashion business, because I found plenty of them already available. I have decided to instead go slow and write more intricately about each step of the journey. And also, so that some of you can come along in actually starting yours. In the next few posts I will drill into more aspects of starting a fashion business, also more from a sustainability point of view. The fact that I chose product even before thinking of sustainability is because its not an option, its way too integral //

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Kirti Poonia

I lead a sustainable fashion brand and feel the need to support the industry and it’s entrepreneurs with powerful insights and information.