#MAD Inspiration# How to start up your own fashion label

#MAD Inspiration# How to start up your own fashion label
MADNESS wants to help elevating the creative industry in Shanghai. With #MAD Inspiration# we let entrepreneurs from a particular industry share their experience and opinion how to grow as a new start-up brand.
We interviewed 4 entrepreneurs in the fashion industry:
Aya Aspan – Fashion Blogger and Brand Developer
Todd Richard Tokimoto – Founder of Lawo Fashion App
Natalie Grishkova – Founder of GO NAT’s Fashion Label
Frank Chen – Founder of THE COLLECTION Shoe Brand
Aya Aspan
Living in China and The Netherlands for several years, AyaAspan, born in Kazakhstan, started her own fashion education blog dedicated toteach the younger generation who is interested in the business of fashion. Withher past working experience in the luxury fashion industry, she became a freelancerin brand management, production, PR and publishing.
According to Aya, Shanghai is a good starting base for afashion start-up. “Shanghai is an incredible place to start. If you are a creativeand bold brand, then this is your city. If you are more of a niche brand, Iwould think it is best to start from second and third-tier cities in China,then after the brand has some following, expand to Shanghai.
A friend of mine on one occasion told me: “In New Yorkyou are a small fish in a big sea. In Shanghai you are a BIG fish in a BIGsea.” – And I absolutely agree with her. I am not sure if it is good or badthat we live in kind of a bubbly environment in Shanghai, fashion industry andnetwork is very small here and everyone knows everyone. However, it does help aperson to make a faster breakthrough in the industry. The downside is that makingbig in Shanghai does not necessarily mean that one will make it big in rest ofthe world too, but it is a very strong starting point.”
The market had high fashion, then it had mass fashion, andnow is the right time for individuality. People are hungry for uniqueness.
Today, more and more people are willing to try out newindependent designers, as their prices are still in the affordable price pointyet the quality and design is far better than of mass market brands. I believe,now is the right time for all emerging designers to unite and together educateconsumers to attain right shopping habits. For start-ups and new brands, it is better to choose the target audienceand concentrate on those who buy, the customers, and create a community, ratherthan go for big creative marketing campaigns. It is a good time to executeguerrilla marketing and crafting commune behaviour. As for the mass market,well, they will always be there and they will always be successful. But thatshould not be the main concern of start-ups, neither should be theircompetition. Choose your targets rights, create a strategy and find yourcommunity that hear what your brand wants to say.”
“The world gives us thechance to reach out to our customers while sitting back on the sofa in ourapartments. So yes, definitely start with online presence. Test the market,build relationship with audience, create community. Then, after the brand isstrong enough to bring traffic to offline store, go ahead”
Fast does not mean good. Some start-ups want to make it bigin a very short time. Take gradual steps, gather professionals around you,research, study up, test and analyse. Enthusiasm is a powerful tool, but it isnothing without knowledge. And patience.
拉我 Lawo
Born in the US and graduated with a Master degree in Mechanical Engineering, Todd Richard Okimoto worked and lived in multiple countries before coming to China. Todd Richard started his app based on a shopping experience with a group of girls back in 2007. Observing the situation, the girls could not decide what to buy and match due to the unreliable opinion of the sales person and their boyfriends. After his MBA in China, Todd Richard decided to take the step and launch the Fashion App ‘拉我 Lawo’ to connect the fashion community to everyday people here in China and help them improve style, fashion sense, and build confidence while bringing business value back to the fashion community.
I realized that the fashion community in China has areal need for a tool, or better yet, a platform to identify like-mindedpotential partners and resources, broaden personal and professional networks,as well as share information and communicate to the community at large.  On the flipside, the everyday person has nodirect line to interact with the fashion community, a bevy of talented peoplewho could provide expert and more genuine assistance to help them improvepersonal style, fashion-sense, and self-confidence.”
拉我 Lawo started to create awareness by being active in numeral Wechat fashion groups and share their vision to find the right new-and-coming fashion designers, stylists, brands, models, photographers, and bloggers. Taking a rather smaller approach and start to build and grow with a more intimate (but knowledgeable) target market rather than putting all the effort in the big (social) media platforms and competing with the big brands in the brand sensitive target market is according to Todd Richard the best approach for small fashion start-ups. Niche fashion platforms like 拉我 Lawo can enable brands and others in the fashion community to personally connect and interact with everyday people.
NatalieGrishkova, Master in fashion, living in Hongkong and born in Russia.A story as unique as her own fashion label called ‘GO NAT’s’. A combination of luxuryand edgy women’s wear established 2016 in HongKong.
Natalie considered to start in Shanghai. It is be agood base to grow fast, because it has a large and multicultural market. Howevershe was not familiar with the Chinese procedures, while HongKong has a very efficientand transparent procedure to start a business. Next to that, she was living inHongKong already.
Natalie has been trying to create brand awareness on multiplesocial media platforms such as Instagram and Not Just A Label, but alsocollaborate with bloggers and events. For a luxury fashion label like Natalie’s,a good balance between online and offline is important. Natalie does believethat in future online is getting more important because it saves time andeffort, but for luxury brands offline presence is a must. Consumers arenot likely to buy expensive luxury goods from a brand they don’t know withoutfeeling and trying it. Don’t focus to much on competition. The main key factor to be successful is uniqueness and individuality.
“Don’t be afraid to do! Learn from your mistakes… Ifsomething you don’t know you always can learn through experience. Think 10steps ahead and never stop exploring the market you are targeting at, especiallyin fashion.”
Moved from Huanggang, Hubei, Frank Chen established ‘THE COLLECTION’ in 2014, specialized in women’s shoes. Frank started in Shanghai, being the fashion capital of China and a good place to spot trends. “If you can be successful in Shanghai, you can be successful elsewhere in China.”
Frank mainly focus offline for now. Especially for women shoes, consumers prefer try before you buy. With heel shoes for example, comfort is essential. Frank believes that besides the product itself, experience plays an important role. Customers don’t only buy your product but also buy your service. Extra services for example are: personal styling, customized shoe stretching, repair service and instant delivery service. “We also organize cocktail parties for our clients to socialize.”
To become successful does not always mean to be weird or expressive, but actually focus on simple design. It is important to position your product right and fill the market gaps. The key success factors of THE COLLECTION is to provide good quality for a competitive price and offer smaller and bigger sizes that many mass brands exclude.
“Find what is needed in the market and the selling point of your products, price it competitive, build up your unique service system, market it to the right channel. and money will come to you.”
Want to get in touch with them or us? Just let us know!

Shanghai Creative Collective

E-mail: jean-daniel@createcdigital.com
E-mail: michiel.vullings@createcdigital.com
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