How I Failed in Fashion During the On-line Fashion Boom by Collette Costello – How to Start a Fashion Company Series

My “How to Start a Fashion Company” Series of blogs have been giving you hints and tips on running a successful fashion company and the pitfalls.  I have always aimed to tell the truth about the industry in my blogs, now I want to tell the story of how my fashion company failed.

People shy away from failing and don’t want to admit things did not go to plan, particularly in fashion where everyone is ultra positive and confident.  Well I started my own on-line vintage fashion company and had to close it after a few years because I could not make any money, this was down to my own inexperience and bad business decisions.  To learn how I started and grew my company check out my other blog posts.


So Where Did it all go Wrong!!!

I had a great web-site, a business premises on Salford Quays, factories making my collections, customers coming to my web-site, loads of publicity and had won £3,200 in business grants to kick start the company.

 Money, Money, Money!!

When I started my fashion company I had no real business plan, most of it I learned as I was going along.  You can read more about the company on Exposure.  My advice to anyone would be to spend as much time as you can on your business plan, really think about how you will spend your money and most importantly what is working for companies already doing it.

I started my fashion company with a grant of £4000, which I spent entirely on a collection of dresses to be made by a factory, leaving no money for anything else. I should have spent £2,200 on marketing and just £1000 on stock when sales were being made.

My business premises cost £500 per month, plus my own flat rental I had over a £1000 every month to find for rent. I did not even need an office and spent most of the time sat in it on my own.  The rent was so high I started teaching dressmaking courses to pay for it, this meant I had very little time to spend on my fashion company.

I stupidly thought starting a fashion company meant I could only sell my own designs, so I designed everything from the fabric to the clothes.  This wasted loads of time and caused loads of issues working with factories, see my blog post “How to Stock Your On-line Fashion Shop”.  Companies like Boohoo who started at the same time sold wholesale clothing, I should have done this so I had more time for marketing.

The collection of dresses I designed were probably the worst type for selling on-line, they were made in stiff cotton and fitted tightly to the body.  Whilst they looked good on the models in photographs, customers keep sending them back due to fitting issues.  Most successful on-line fashion shops sell mainly loose fitting styles or clothes made in stretchy fabric.

Publicity is great and I had loads of newspapers, bloggers and magazines writing about my company.  It is easy to get pulled into the excitement of being featured, however the more well-known you become the more people start wanting a piece of the action.  Journalists would pretty much have me spending a day writing their articles for them, events organisers would ask for prize donations, it all took time, money away from my already struggling business and I never considered was it actually resulting in sales.

Shutting-up Shop

The pressure of paying the business premises rent was the start of the end, any money I made from sales or teaching just went on rent instead of investing in new stock and marketing.  I had so much money tied up in sale or return stock that I was still getting cheques months later, by then it was too late.  After years of not even paying myself I took a full-time job as a fashion lecturer and the company was shut down.

Never Give Up

For years after I felt like a real failure and embarrassed it did not work out.  Now I think so what, at least I tried and considering how clueless I was I got pretty far.  I still design and just love it, I have tried out loads of different businesses since selling everything from customised Kids clothing to retro cushion covers and 3D printed wearable technology.   Each time it’s not working I learn a little bit more and maybe one day I will get it right.  Hope my failings help you succeed;)



One comment

  1. […] My fashion company was started with a business cash award from Salford Business Start-up Awards, to win this prize I had too write a complex business plan and keep business accounts.  Honestly even though I did all the paperwork, I never bothered to look at the business plan as it was complicated, which lead to failing to monitor my business finances properly, resulting in my business going under.  To learn more check out my blog post, “How I Failed in Fashion During the On-line Boom”. […]


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