The resources and connections that need to be in place before you commit to launching your brand on Kickstarter.
Last week, I launched my womenswear line, Eenvoud, on Kickstarter. While I’ve been working on Eenvoud for some time now, most of the work up until this point has been quietly done behind-the-scenes. I’m pretty sure that many of my friends have no idea what I do all day. And I’m fairly certain that most don’t understand how much work it took to get to this point. The truth is, I’ve been working towards hitting that ‘launch’ button for 2 years; quietly, but hard. While creating a fashion line inevitably takes a lot of hard work, there are some clear steps to follow and great resources available to young designers these days. Read on to find out what it took for me to launch my brand on Kickstarter.
A Basic Understanding of Garment Construction + Production
This goes without saying, but launching a clothing line requires a basic understanding of how clothing is constructed and how it is produced. Before you do anything else, you should educate yourself about the type of garment(s) that you’re planning to produce. You don’t have to know every nitty gritty detail and you don’t have to know how to sew, but being able to speak to a patternmaker and a factory using the proper terminology is very important. The fashion industry is still a word-of-mouth kind of a place, and many seasoned professionals won’t want to deal with newbies who require constant explanation. I’m lucky to have studied fashion design at Parsons and to also have gained much of my knowledge through years of working as a fit model in New York. However, many colleges offer affordable continuing education classes on basic patternmaking, sewing, etc. There are some great books out there, like The Entrepreneur's Guide to Sewn Product Manufacturing.
Fabric + Notions
The next step is to spend time sourcing your fabrics and notions (notions are any additional bits and pieces that make up a garment; such as zippers, snaps and buttons). Fortunately, the internet is actually a really great place to source fabric these days. I found one of my fabrics via Le Souk (previously called Source 4 Style). You can search for fabrics via content, composition, color, sustainability factors (like certified fair-trade, certified organic, etc)., end use and country of origin. For me, knowing exactly where my fabrics come from and that they are responsibly produced is crucial. Le Souk includes detailed information about each of the fabric mills that it features; information that can often be difficult to uncover. My other fabrics were found by word-of-mouth referrals, but could also have been found via internet research.
A Patternmaker + Samplemaker
For the first year of working on Eenvoud, I attempted to do all of the draping, patternmaking and samplemaking myself. While I did learn quite a bit during this process, it got me nowhere fast. I became so discouraged that I almost threw in the towel. One of the most important lessons that I’ve learned these past few years is to hire the people that can do things better than you. The moment I hired my patternmaker, Iris, was a complete game-changer. In a matter of weeks she had patterns and samples made for my entire collection; something that I had spent a year trying to do. Patternmaking is a complicated science. Find somebody that’s an expert at whatever type of garment you’re creating and become their best friend. Most patternmakers will also be able to make your samples, but not always. If yours isn’t also a samplemaker, chances are they can refer you to a great one.
Once you have your samples made, you’re going to need great product photos. For Kickstarter’s purposes, you’ll want clear shots that show all angles of your garments. You don’t want to get too ‘fashiony’ or too editorial. You’ll need to hire a photographer, a model and find a location to shoot in, be it a studio or a lucky friend’s apartment. Asking friends for favors is a great option and that’s exactly what I did here. People are generally very happy to help out a when they know that it’s for a crowdfunding campaign. Make sure to say thanks with dinner, beer, ice cream, etc.
A Great Video
This is a big one. A successful Kickstarter campaign hinges pretty heavily on a great video that clearly and powerfully shows what you’re trying to accomplish and why. This was also very surprisingly the most challenging step for me. I had never written a script before, and trying to fit everything that I wanted to say into a 2-3 minute-long, engaging video was tricky. Fortunately, I have some smart friends who helped me a lot with the editing process. Make sure to take the time to find a videographer who has a background in call-to-action types of videos. I ended up reaching my Kickstarter goal in just under 27 hours and I’m pretty confident that it was due to a our video (our amazing videographer was Luke from Cool Hand Film in New York).
A Production Partner
Before hitting the launch button, you’ll want to have your factory set up and ready to go. That way, you can seamlessly move right into production after your campaign ends. For me, producing my garments locally was very important. I’m lucky to have partnered up with The Brooklyn Fashion Design Accelerator. The BF+DA focuses on sustainable and ethical design and is located just a few blocks away from me. While it might take a little bit of digging and asking around, there are factories all over the United States that would love to work with young designers wanting to produce their clothing locally.
This is the number one ingredient. The secret sauce. What gets you out of bed when there’s no office to go to and nobody holding you accountable. Day after day. Month after month. Year after year. Often in the beginning, you won’t have much to show for yourself. Just ideas in your head that you’re slowly working to turn into tangible things. Drive is what will keep you going even when others might think you’re crazy.
Be clear on exactly why you’re doing what your doing. For me, creating clothing is just my medium. My drive comes from creating the clothing that I wasn’t able to find. It comes from creating the most responsibly-made clothing that I possible can. It comes from the hope that my work has the potential to inspire others to purchase more mindfully and to help shift the fashion industry to a less harmful place. You’ll know when you’ve found your reason because the work truly won’t feel like work. It will feel like hard fun. You’ll be excited everyday to get down to it.
Growing up, my dad - a serial entrepreneur - often was the one to drop my brother and I off at school or summer camp at The Science Museum (Yup. Nerd alert.). Everyday before we got out of the car, he would turn to us and with a serious look and he would say, “Remember. You HAVE to have fun.” It’s true.
Support EENVOUD on Kickstarter here!