How I Started a On-line Fashion Company by Collette Costello – How to Start a Fashion Company Series

The big dream was to be a fashion designer, with my own fashion company, one day armed with my lab-top and sketch-book I made the first step.

After two years of hard work I had done it, I had my own business premises on Salford Quays, a great on-line shop, a team of interns working with me.  My designs had been made in factories, they were selling in boutiques across the U.K, I was making sales on-line as far as Europe, Russia and even the U.S.A.  My collections were sold on my web-site and in various stockists around the U.K, Junk shop Manchester, Athena Boutique Edinburgh and ASOS Marketplace brought in the most sales. The great thing about selling through a shop is less issues with fit as the customers can try the garment on, avoiding returns such as found when selling on-line.  See my blog post “Best Fashion Items to Sell in On-line Shop” for more information.

The company was being featured by newspapers, magazines, on-line blogs, one of the high-lights was being asked to feature in an advertisement for the famous brand Kenco coffee, they wanted me to be seen drinking it.  So this how did I do it, including any pitfalls I faced along the way.


Start-up Grants

To start any company you need money, I won two grants £1500 from the Princes Trust Enterprise and £2000 in Salford Business start-up awards.  I have never been in debt, so was very hesitant to take a business loan which seem to be offered a lot when you are starting out.  It took about six months in total and I had to go to loads of meetings about setting-up a business, most of them were about paying tax, calculating V.A.T and insurance.   I was not allowed to actually own any of the money, it had to be paid directly to a company that I was going to use.

Business Premises

This was the business premises for my fashion e-commerce business, we were based at Waterside business park, Salford Quays. Samples were made on site and the web-site managed from here, fashion interns worked with me sometimes in the office.  I also taught a number of very popular dressmaking courses from my studio.

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Working in the Industry

I was at the stage now where I had designed my fashion collection, had the money and now it was time to find a factory to make the fabric and clothes. Using the grants I invested in stock, which was a collection of 65 digitally printed dresses.  Most factories will only do minimum orders, 50 dresses costed well over a thousand pound to have made.

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Dealing with factories is risky, I had the fabric for the dresses printed in my own design using the grant from the Princes Trust.  The fabric was printed by Digitex in Trafford Park, they printed it with a fault so it could not be used.  Digitex refused to reprint it and there was nothing I could do, new designer no money why would they care.  Another factory I dealt with took some of the fabric for my dresses and stopped answering their phone so I could not get hold of them, luckily no other money had been paid.  Eventually I had the fabric reprinted by another printers and found a factory that did make the dresses.  I lost £1500 in cash from the grants due to being ripped off by untrustworthy factories, so always be careful.

As the company grew vintage became bigger, the latest trend and more in demand. I was often approached by customer wanting vintage style dresses for special events such as proms, weddings and posh dos! This inspired my later 1950’s Prom Collection.

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To get some great photographs of my fashion collections for the web-site I worked with photographers including Emma Phillipson, organising a shoot around Media City and Salford Quays. There were many people involved with eight models taking part, along with a team of hair and make-up artists, for more information about how I did this see my blog post, “How to organise a Fashion Photo-shoot”.  Working other people was a great way to tap into the skills of others, when organising photo-shoots I needed models, MUA’s and Photographers. Often I would advertise on sites such as Gum Tree and look for talent on networking web-sites such as New Faces. Usually we would work on a skills swap bases, everyone working together for the same outcome excellent images to use to promote ourselves.

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This fashion e-commerce web-site was commissioned when I moved to the studio to promote the new range of vintage style purses, handbags, dresses and skirts. The products were all designed in-house and customers buying through the site were from across the U.K and worldwide. Gaining exposure for the company was priority and was done all on-line using social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Meet-up and Eventbrite.  I worked with a team of guest bloggers that wrote interesting fashion articles to add original content to the web-site and spent a longtime building up internal and external links with other web-sites. The result was the web-site ranks on the front page of Google for Manchester Fashion.

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I had journalists regularly contacting me for more opportunities; I was even asked to appear on TV a channel 4 programme and did appear on BBC radio Manchester.  Press coverage gained for the company included features by BBC on-line, The Guardian on-line, Red and Elle Magazine, The Manchester Evening News along with numerous other publications.  PR companies would invite me to special events, I attended Manchester Fashion Awards, a clothes swapping event with Louis Redknapp and was asked to judge fashion catwalk shows.

Screen Shot 2017-10-14 at 13.15.24.pngNetworking on-line is great and I complimented this with holding events including a launch party for the brand at Mojo in The Rum Room and held fashion meet-ups at Sugar Junction in the northern quarter. I invited press to the launch event, Salford On-line came to film and vintage blogger Old-fashioned Sue attended creating a real buzz around the event.

Screen Shot 2017-10-14 at 13.28.33.pngRunning the company was a roller coaster ride with massive highs and lows.  Unfortunately it seized trading after a few years due to my own bad business decisions, to learn more see my blog post “How I Failed in Fashion During the On-line Fashion Boom”.



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