Category Archives for "Vibe Consulting"

Mar 13

Creativity on Demand

By Maria Pesin | Fashion , Vibe Consulting

According to Donatella Versace, “fashion is about dreaming and making other people dream.”

Ok it is a new season and you have to design your collection. Except you just finished last season and your creative juices are running a bit thin.

Wouldn’t you love to be consistently creative?

The truth, though, is that we all get stuck from time to time. So here is what I do when I need to turn on my creativity.

First, I submerge myself in inspiration.

I look at the runways, on line, pinterest, magazines, museums, movies, stores, pretty much any and everything that gives me ideas. Then I start to see a thread develop and my vision takes form.

Second, I start to focus in on what I truly find exciting. From there I create. The more ideas I have the better. And I don’t censor them. I throw a lot on the board before even think about narrowing in.

“Studies from the University of California Davis and MIT have shown that groups who produce a large amount of bad ideas also tend to produce the most amount of good ideas as well.”

Sometimes having no inspiration and living totally in my head helps me create ideas.

I find hiking, driving a car, or even taking a shower is where I get some of my best ideas from. Doing something that I can do on auto pilot is also a great way for me to get my brain to start dreaming. (Just don’t space out while driving!)

Another tool that I hear works well is to just start.

Writers for example will start writing anything just to fill a page in order to get themselves in the mindset. For a fashion designer that might be just starting to sketch and see what comes from it.

Finally if all else fails, walk away.

Just like there is writers block, there can be designers block. Instead of pressuring yourself to the point where your mind is a blank, do something else completely different and then come back to it totally refreshed.

After all, we aren’t robots. Although creativity comes more naturally to some people than others, you still can’t expect to be constantly “in the zone.” Give yourself a break and let the inspiration occur!

Mar 09

3 Stockbrokers walk into a bar…

By Maria Pesin | Fashion , Vibe Consulting

Once upon a time I was married to a stock broker.

I know it sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, but it’s true! One thing he would tell me is that when everyone is excited about the market, that is when the NASDAQ is about to go down. Like Warren Buffet says, “the time to buy is when everyone else wants to sell.” When everyone wants in, the smart money starts to take their money out – in order to capture profits.

While I wouldn’t say fashion cycles are exactly the same as the stock market, there are some similarities. When a trend is being bought by everyone and their mother, we know that it’s about to start fading.

Right now we are going to start seeing that with Athleisure. I mean they are putting the word in the dictionary soon for goodness sake.

Athleisure product is everywhere and every major brand from Tory Burch to Calvin Klein is now doing some kind of performance/casual brand.

Of course they all look the same.

One of the biggest fails of our industry is the way we copy things to death without having a unique point of view. Don’t you think wearing yoga pants every day is getting boring?

Aren’t we jonesing for a fabulous skirt with a cool pair of pumps?

Industry site the Robin Report predicts that athleisure “is rolling over for fall and its growth rate will dramatically slow, and then stall out”.

I don’t believe that this trend will ever fully end. The American people love casual dressing so this kind of apparel will leave the realm of trend and become a staple category just like jeans did.

However, I think the next trend is going to be a bit more dressed up.

And I for one am glad.

It will be fun, new, and, fresh. Isn’t that what fashion is about…change?

Feb 28

You Screwed Up. Now What?

By Maria Pesin | Business , Fashion , Vibe Consulting

You saw the news everywhere.

While announcing the best picture Oscar award at this past Sunday’s event, there was a mix-up of cards and presenters Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty initially declared the musical, La La Land, the winner.

Ooops!

But just as La La Land’s producers were accepting the award, they were interrupted by Host Kimmel who stated La La Land was not the winner, Moonlight was. As you can imagine chaos and confusion erupted on live TV.

Wow! That is a big error!

Who’s fault was that? And how does the guilty person recover from such a huge mistake? Can you image that person’s rep in the industry? I bet they won’t be stuffing envelopes for a while!

Embarrassing, yes – but not really all that uncommon.

In the fashion industry people screw up all the time, many times publicly.

Remember when Lululemon had to recall their yoga pants because they were too sheer? Or the time Andrew Marc was sued by The Humane Society of the United States after an investigation revealed raccoon dog fur violations? The investigation uncovered evidence that the brand continued to sell raccoon dog fur (a species of dog) despite a court order prohibiting it after March 2013.

Think of one of the biggest business blunders ever! Coca Cola changing their soda formula. Overnight Coca Cola experienced a huge drop in sales.

How do businesses come back from these mistakes? And they all did.

According to Paul Schoemaker, the research director for the Mack Center for Technological Innovation at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School and co-author of the forthcoming Brilliant Mistakes, most people tend to overreact to their slip-ups. They “make asymmetric evaluation of gains and losses so that losses loom much larger than gains,” he explains.

I know in my many years in business there was a time or two where I made cringe worthy mistakes. We all do. Then I dwelt on them for months rather than remembering the successes.

So how do you handle a mistake?

First you own it. Acknowledge it, even if it has to be public. Maybe apologize. Learn from it. Then course correct.

You can’t undo what’s already happened. You can’t miraculously make people forget.

However, by being honest, humble and up front about it, your chances of quickly recovering are good. People are usually forgiving of honest mistakes.

They may laugh at you for a while, but remember: no one ever died from a red face!

Feb 23

Should your Fashion Business Go “Seasonless”?

By Maria Pesin | Business , Fashion , Vibe Consulting

My goodness, is spring already here?

Wasn’t it snowing a couple of days ago?

The weather is so strange. It seems winter is later and spring is earlier every year. Climate change is all too real an issue for our industry.

Many years ago I was taking May 30th for Fall deliveries from Saks Fifth Ave. Now no one wants inventory before August. For 6 years I worked in the coat industry. Each year business became more and more difficult as the cold weather took longer and longer to arrive.

One solution is the buy now, wear now model. Creating clothing much closer to need as opposed to showing way in advance of the season. “The current way of showing a collection four months before it is available to customers is an antiquated idea and one that no longer makes sense,” stated Tom Ford.

Another solution is to include “seasonless” pieces in your collection.

These are items that feel timeless and can be worn again and again, but are still interesting enough to make the customer want to buy. I don’t know about you, but I find myself wearing the same clothing all year round.

This is a trend that brands need to be on.

Seasonless fashion is on the rise, and we can’t afford to ignore it. And this isn’t just about heavy coats and lighter fabrics. This change breaking some of our hardest kept fashion rules.

Now you can wear white in the winter and cashmere in the spring. Also using lighter weight fabrics that are layered in the fall and then stripped down in the summer. You see women without hose in the winter, and all sorts of weird fabric combinations.

Then there are companies like AYR (https://www.ayr.com) that stands for All Year Round. They were founded in 2014 when the founders saw the need for seasonless clothing. And Catherine Quin (http://www.catherinequin.com) who’s website says the brand was “created as an interchangeable wardrobe reflecting the needs of the modern woman, the Catherine Quin collection transcends occasion, climate and culture with seasonless versatility.”

Is this a strategy for you?

Obviously I can’t be sure. However, I think this is a strategy everyone needs to consider. Almost certainly there should be some element of “seasonless” incorporated into just about every collection.

Feb 17

How Much Margin Should Your New Fashion Brand Include?

By Maria Pesin | Vibe Consulting

It’s a recurring question.

When I sit down with a lot of new companies, this issue comes up quite a bit.

The challenge new brands have is they are not doing enough business to reach production minimums in order to get competitive pricing from factories. So the question becomes “Do I set my retail price based on the current cost of goods, or, do I work on a short margin and retail based on future quantities?”

I encourage you to follow the steps I have all my clients take.

When I start working with an emerging designer, the first action I have them follow is to conduct a competitive analysis. One of the reasons I have them do this is to learn what the prices are of their competitors’ collections. This serves as a guide to help us establish their pricing. Through this exercise they find out more or less where they need to be.

The next step to pricing is for them to decide if they are going to sell directly to customers, or wholesale, or both.

If you sell directly to the customer you have only one margin to worry about. The difference between making the garment and what you’re selling it for at retail. However, if you sell wholesale you have to have the margin between your cost of goods, what you sell to the store wholesale, and then the margin between the stores and what they sell it to their customers for.

The decision on what to do is unique to each entrepreneur.

Ideally you want to retail your line competitively in order to maximize sales. However, if your costs are 10-20% higher you can sometimes start a little higher than your competition.

This isn’t always possible. Sometimes your costs are so much higher that you are not even in the ballpark, and then you have to bite the bullet and take the shorter margin.

In the end, you shouldn’t expect to make as much margin in your first two seasons as you will further down the road. Part of being new is tightening your belt and assuming the upfront costs of starting a new business.

If you’ve done your homework, you’ll have a financial plan in place that allows you to tackle these beginning seasons with enough certainty to survive.

If not, give me a call and let’s work on your plan before you find yourself in a dangerous pickle!

Feb 13

Ever Feel Discouraged?

By Maria Pesin | Business , Fashion , Vibe Consulting

Sometimes it’s hard not to get discouraged.

Deliveries are delayed, samples come in wrong, stores are late making payment. Believe me, I know that sometimes things happen in my business that are out of my control and I also get discouraged. It’s just human nature.

Running a business is not always smooth sailing and it is often harder than you ever expected. (similar to marriage and raising children, lol).

For entrepreneurs, being discouraged from time to time comes as part of the gig.

Entrepreneurship is filled with peaks and valleys. And from experience, I know the valleys can feel like someone has trounced on your spirit. Someone wearing big heavy military boots.

This can lead to questioning and self-doubt.

So what is the solution? Sometimes you just need to step away. Read a book, see a movie, or go to the gym. But what do you do if that is not an option?

Listen closely, because I have a multi-step sure-fire solution that works for me:

Step 1: determine what the exact problem is…without blowing it out of proportion. For example if a delivery is delayed, rather than thinking I will go out of business, I slow down and state the exact problem. Many times it is not as bad as I thought.

Step 2: make a list of possible solutions. For the delayed delivery I may ask the factory to give me a discount, or send by air rather then boat if they are coming from overseas. There are always viable alternatives if you breathe calmly and look closely.

Step 3: take action. In our hypothetical case of the delayed delivery, I get on the phone and start negotiating. The key step is taking action.

To me the cure for discouragement is activity.

Movement always beats sitting there in the dumps. I totally understand that when you’re in the thick of the problem it can be difficult to see a solution as you get so emotionally involved. You just can’t think straight.

When that happens get your team on board. This is when your business consultant is worth her weight in gold.

Contact them to talk you off the roof and brainstorm solutions.

And remember, a month from now today’s mountain of despair will seem like just a bump in the road!

Feb 07

Is Your Website Stuck in Traffic?

By Maria Pesin | Fashion , Sales , Vibe Consulting

Over the last several weeks I’ve spoken with four new clients, and they all seem to have the same nagging ache: converting online traffic into sales. For some reason, this is a recurring theme with many fashion brands out there.

You see, all four had great products – that wasn’t the problem. Their prices were reasonable and they mostly had good images too. So, what’s the story?

The story’s the story – that’s what!

The truth is you have about 8 seconds before the majority of visitors leave your site. And in that short span of time you have to achieve a whole lot. Most importantly you have grab their attention and reel them in by giving them a compelling reason why they should stay on your site.

Does your landing page clearly show visitors who you are and why they should do business with you? Is there a clear call to action? Is it easy to see what their next step should be?

If not, you’re leaving money on the table.

One of the four clients had a very confusing website. I didn’t know where to go or even when I hit a button it didn’t do what the button said it would. That kind of sloppiness causes a really bad impression.

Also, how good is your photography? Are you products shown to their best advantage? Sometimes it is as simple as using a steamer to press your clothes.

Is your traffic the right traffic?

Acquiring the wrong traffic is one of the biggest reasons your website isn’t converting. Make sure you are focusing your marketing on the right demographic for your line. Believe me, it is better to have 1,000 raving fans on your list, than 10,000 lukewarm ones.

Does your website load quickly? Have you ever gone to a website that is incredibly slow to load? Most people just bounce away when that happens.

Do you require too much information to check out? I find it very annoying when I am required to set up an account in order to check out. I want things to be speedy (It seems I am always in a rush).

Make it easy for a customer to seal the deal.

Competition for customers on the internet is high. Make sure your site is as effective as it can be.

After all, you may only get one shot at that potential buyer!

Feb 02

Is Fashion Customization Here To Stay?

By Maria Pesin | Vibe Consulting

Customization, or made to order apparel and accessories, is a growing segment of the fashion industry. In an effort to be more consumer centric, brands are finding that personalization is something their customers respond to. “Mass personalization is set to become a reality, with 36% of consumers saying they are interested in personalized products or services,” according to research by the business advisory firm, Deloitte.

By offering different colors, styles, designs, fabrics, and fits, companies can truly empower customers to make their products feel unique and special. This allows the brands to differentiate themselves in the minds of their clients.

While it’s great in theory, it’s definitely not always so easy to deal with in the real world.

“The self-service, online customization experience is still very, very broken. The shopper is asked to configure their apparel by selecting from a vast array of options like collar types, pocket types, fabric materials and colors, etc. One custom dress shirt company used to boast that they offered over 7 billion possibilities to choose from. That’s nothing to boast about; that is way more than the human brain cares to process, i.e., the ‘paradox of choice.” Wrote Dave Sloan of Big Talker.

Another example is Shoes of Prey, a company out of Los Angeles, that customizes shoes according to the features a customer chooses. Nordstrom carried them in several stores, but found that customers spent hours of a sales persons time on designing their custom shoes. While it might be fun for the consumer, this is not something a commissioned salesperson wants to do. In the end, it just wasn’t practical.

Perhaps the best approach is partial personalization. The customer can change some features rather than being overwhelmed with the task of designing the whole product. After all, that’s what good designers do, no?

Like many business questions, the answer is almost always in finding the right balance. Is offering your customer choices a good idea? Almost certainly. However, you must take into account all of the implications before launching into a venture of this nature.

Jan 23

Why Aren’t Stores Treating Curvy Women Right?

By Maria Pesin | Business , Fashion , Vibe Consulting

Recently one of my followers, Lisa Banks of Lisa Kay Banks Designs read a post I wrote “The demise of the department stores”.

She wrote me and stated’ “I wanted to also add that as a curvy woman going to the department stores to shop is fun but also disappointing. I would love to see more diversity in clothing brands that make apparel specifically for curvy women. I find some departments stores have the “plus size” area, next to maternity wear—REALLY—. I love the idea of the 3-4 way mirror, and to see sales personnel, that have training in styling and fitting, to help the shopper with recommendations while shopping for garments.”

She is so right.

I have a client that is making a foray into the plus size arena. While researching the market I found myself searching department stores in an effort to find the plus size department.

In some stores it was in the basement.

However, what was really disappointing were the assortments. Ill fitting, frumpy, and cheap looking clothing is what I found. Is business so good that stores can ignore or barely register a whole segment of the population?

There are designers who purposely don’t make past a size 12 because they don’t want to see large size women in their clothes. While this may be insulting, it’s their choice.

But then there are the ignorant people such as Chip Wilson, former CEO and founder of Lululemon who once stated, “Frankly, some women’s bodies just don’t actually work [for the yoga pants],” Chip Wilson said on Bloomberg TV’s “Street Smart” program. “It’s more really about the rubbing through the thighs, how much pressure is there over a period of time, how much they use it.”

I believe it is time to make fashion that is inclusive of all body types.

So why not think of including extended sizing in your clothes or adding plus sizes to your brand? Did you realize that over 60% of women in the US are plus sized? What’s even more important, they are totally underserved!

Plenty of these women are actively seeking clothes that help them look and feel their best. Plenty of them have the economic means to make significant purchases.

That’s why I recommend opening your vision to this huge segment of the market. You might find a whole new set of raving fans who are hungry to buy your products!

Jan 10

6 Tips for making your fashion website mobile friendly.

By Maria Pesin | Business , Fashion , Sales , Vibe Consulting

Let’s start with a confession.
I don’t know how people shop on their smart phones.

How can they see anything on those little screens? I have a big screen and I still have trouble. However, my 24 year old daughter shops on her phone all the time as a major source of entertainment.

And obviously so does the rest of the country.

I just read this: “Compared to 2015, total e-commerce holiday sales increased by 10.43%. Meanwhile, purchases on mobile devices, or m-commerce, surpassed 30% in 2016.” According to Chain Store Age.

So what does that mean to us old timers who thought having a great website was good enough?

Well, it’s time to join the new reality and make sure your website is mobile ready. I understand that keeping up with technology is hard since the rate of change is accelerating.

But as we used to say “Be there or be square”.

So here are 6 useful tips that can help you meet the bar:

  1. Make sure your website converts to a smartphone or tablet so that it is easy to see and nothing’s cut off.
  2. Simplify the site so that it is easy to shop. Simplify the navigation and eliminate links that can distract the shopper. At the very least move them further away from the call to action.
  3. Be careful that you don’t strip down your pages so much that you loose your brands personality.
  4. Make the shopping process on mobile a smooth experience. Make it as easy for the shopper to complete the order as as possible on a small screen using the phone’s keyboard.
  5. Provide full product details. Users favor retailers who show all available product information: stock availability, sizes, color choices, descriptions, photos, videos, etc. . Design your site so product detail features are clear and easy to understand.
  6. Customers want to be able to zoom in on details, but they must be able to zoom where they want and control the size. This is especially important considering how small the screen is.

Most important of all – test, test and test some more!

Every day new phones, operating systems and updates go out, and sometimes they break things that used to work perfectly. Be sure to visit your website on your phone regularly, and if you see something that needs fixing, call in the calvary!

In today’s market, where 65% of the traffic is mobile, you just can’t afford to neglect your m-commerce strategy.