Based on the comments to Kathleen’s post yesterday, I have some ideas on figuring out which lines you’d hang with. Yahzi Rose asked:
What I’d like to ask is what factors do you use in determining who you would hang with? Other than price points, do you look for something with a similar style, color story, fabric or a line that compliments? I know which lines I personally like but its hard to choose not coming from a retailer’s perspective.
The answer to this question is that you really have to know your market. You won’t know who you hang with based on color story or fabric, because to do that, you’d have to see other lines before hand and know what they were making. I find that this is (surprisingly) a difficult question for many DEs to answer.
As an example, I have a friend who was designing a line of handbags and I asked her “who is your customer?” She went into a description of lifestyle terminology like “she likes to travel, she goes to social events on the weekends.” Since I felt like her descriptions were too vague, I flat out asked her, where does she shop, what does she wear, give me specific stores and brands.
This is how you answer the question of “who do you hang with”. It’s not about you, it’s about the buyer and the end customer. It’s about how that customer shops and how that buyer merchandises. When you don’t know who you hang with, you don’t really know where your line fits into the retailer’s store. Sometimes it is a matter of finding a complementary line, when you make tops or bottoms, and sometimes it’s a matter of “fitting in” with other lines.
How do you find out who you “hang with”? You visit stores. Don’t just rely on your knowledge of the competition, visit retail stores and view their merchandising.
Can I tell you what my pet peeve is? Granted, I have many, but one of my main frustrations with purchasing what I call “independent designer brands” is the lack of cross-merchandising. I believe this is generally true across the board, but a big brand usually merchandises across the board. If a large brand picks up two colors for a delivery– say peacock and mango, or bean and grass, or whatever (because you know the color names are always exotic) usually, that color merchandises across the line. If they have a print, it will usually have one of the colors as either the base or the highlight, and several groups in the collection will use that color, enabling the buyer to pull pieces from various styles/groups and cross merchandise them. A dress here, a skirt here, a top here, a scarf here.
“Independent designer brands” seem to have a difficult time doing that. It almost seems as though each group stands alone and very few pieces, if any, cross merchandise. Cross merchandising your line, or at least thinking of it from a bigger perspective, helps you deal with the “who do you hang with” issue. It provides a cohesive collection that enables the retailer to view your line as a whole and merchandise your line with others.