This is a question I hear a lot from people developing business plans. I am never able to reply with an answer they like. Handily, WWD provides an excellent example and answer. Apparently, one can expect to sell 20 million dollars worth of stuff in the debut year. Provided of course, you know what you’re doing. The example in this case is Dorian Lightbown of Nic & Zoe who’d been designing for Sigrid Olsen for 16 years. According to the story,
Targeting specialty retailers, Nic & Zoe has been picked up by 600 stores, including Nordstrom. Brown said the company expects to reach $20 million in first-year sales volume.
That’s a lot of stores to pick up in a debut year. You’re only able to do that if you have a lot of credibility. In other words, her samples didn’t just look good, she had 16 years of credibility; her sell through is estimable as she’s a known quantity to her stores. Likewise, she had the back of the house covered in that she partnered with Telluride Clothing Co to produce the line.
In an unrelated way, the story interested me for another reason; that Dorian started the line in the midst of life crisis and tragedy (her husband was diagnosed with brain cancer and died quickly). The quirky thing is, a lot of DEs do that too. It is so common that when somebody tells me they’re launching a line, I assume something life changing has happened to them recently (within the past 3 years). I mean, how many designers start companies because they need a job? It’s more typical that technical people start their own companies because they need a job but not designers. I’ve long known that consulting with designers has sometimes meant helping them overcome their emotional challenges. I was surprised to see an article about that. I think that when all is said and done, success really hangs on passion -wherever it comes from.
Oh and on yet another unrelated matter of Dorian Lightbown, evidently the company she worked for successfully sued Gillman Knitwear Co. for knocking off their sweaters. If you are curious about the standards that are used to determine similarities between styles, read the decision from the 1st US court of appeals. Surprisingly, it’s highly readable without a lot of legalese.