Keep it simple: it’s the mantra of many but the reality of few. And when it comes to business, ‘uncomplicated’ is an especially good way to keep things. Luckily for Alison Cotton, creator of Sydney-based fashion label First Base, that’s the concept her whole business is built on (which is why every second woman in Bondi is wearing her stylishly simple designs).
We cornered Alison to uncover her savviest tips for basic business:
PROBABLY THE BIGGEST OBSTACLE IS JUST HAVING CONSTANT SELF-BELIEF. When you’re doing something just because you believe it’s a good idea, you can so easily get knocked off your pedestal when a small thing goes wrong. Continually picking yourself up and just going again is exhausting, but essential.
ASK AROUND. Make a list of every single person you know who might be able to offer some guidance and then send them a short email asking for their help or recommendation. That’s often how I’ve come to work with new manufacturers. Having a recommendation will always give you more confidence to work with someone new. I don’t do networking as I’m horrible at it, small talk is not my thing, but I do think that building those genuine industry connections is a super important part of this industry.
UNFORTUNATELY THERE IS NOTHING NEW UNDER THE SUN. Well, pretty much. Just be sure that you’re not indirectly copying someone else’s designs or work because you are inspired by it. If a product is already in the market and you are designing something similar, my advice would be to push yourself further and improve on what already exists. Don’t just replicate it. If we discover midway that someone has beaten us to the punch and already released an idea we are just working on, I generally abandon it and start again. We never want to be old news.
MORE OFTEN THAN NOT IT’S GOING TO BE A SLOWER, MORE ORGANIC GROWTH YOU EXPERIENCE. By the time you get to a point where demand is excessive, you’ll have enough experience to know what to do. But, what we do each season is when we [know] what is selling we check in with our supply chains and ensure they can meet the demand for extra production if we require it and lock in the turnaround times to do so if necessary. We also purchase fabric in bulk so we have it ready and waiting so that we can more quickly meet re-cut demands. Also have a range of people working for you so if someone lets you down you have a bit of a safety net and can potentially get one of your other suppliers to help you out.
ANALYSE EVERYTHING. From merchant banking fees to freight costs, there is always room for negotiation and for costs to come down. I am now in the habit of cost reviews every six months. Every single time we do this, I find places we can save money and even places we’re being over-charged.
DRESS FOR THE JOB YOU WANT, NOT THE JOB YOU’VE GOT. That’s one of the best pieces of advice my father gave me many years ago. It’s an oldie but a goodie. We spend time and money on creating beautiful content for the brand so that as soon as someone opens our website or a lookbook, we are presenting a very clear identity and vision for the brand.