Starting your own label doesn’t mean you can just sit in your studio all day long, spend all your time designing the most beautiful and in-depth researched collections, have a solid team of paid staff beside you to realise all the garments exquisitely, and at the same time nail the business side of your company. As Julie Zerbo of the Fashion Law said ahead of the LVMH Prize: “Nowadays, young designers are more or less going full speed ahead right off the bat. They show comprehensive collections, many of which consist of garments and an array of accessories. They are expected to be active on social media. They are expected to establish a strong industry presence (think: Go to events and parties). They are expected to cope with the fashion business that has become large-scale and international. They are expected to collaborate and expand their reach, and while it does, at times, feel excessive, this is the reality because the industry is moving at such a quick pace, one that some argue is unsustainably rapid.” Considering this web of necessary activities, what do the shortlisted LVMH Prize designers need the big sum of cash for?
That’s such a broad question, and it can be so different once you sit down and you research what you actually need it for. I think it’s just to push yourself in the direction that you want to go. For me it would probably be to research in a deeper way, spending more time on the creative process, while having people caring about the things that I’m probably not so good at. Say production or PR, or sales, all of that. So spending basically more time at things that I’m good at, and pushing myself at that.
Everything’s expensive, as you know. There’s a lot of compromise in design for a young designer, and I guess it’s about executing your ideas and having the freedom, the time and the facilities to actually do things in the way that you want. So it’s about an opportunity, really. About it being less of a compromise. It’s nice to work under pressure and to be clever with how you do things when you’re on a budget. It’s just really tough.
That’s a €300,000 question! Personally, for our brand €300,000 would suffice to manage the cash flow. We currently already have several sales, and the sales have been good, luckily. But the company has been going through a lot of cash flow problems – we are so short on cash with production, and all the bills and everything. €300,000 would give us the time to be able to expand a little bit faster in a way that we wouldn’t be able to right now. €300,000 seems like a lot of money, but once you’re spending it, it won’t be that much. Imagine the production: you only get 30% deposit, and a lot of people don’t even pay you the deposit, and then we have a big order and we have to find a way to produce it. So that money would probably sit in the bank and wait for the next big production to come along. Some of the money will be spent on recruiting a bigger team, or finding nicer fabrics, or just going on and doing a bigger line, and showing in different places to get more clients. But in the long run, you will be able to finance it in a different way, you will be able to use this time that you buy with this €300,000 to put up a better relationship with the bank, so they will allow you loans for your future productions and when you become bigger. As a small young brand without funding you just can’t be comfortable any time. You always have to seek financial help.
You need money for a lot of things – so it’s not enough, actually. It’s not enough an amount of money. The connection and the community that come with winning the LVMH Ppize are more important. So it’s not only the money, more like the people that are involved in the fashion world that you’d meet through the prize.
To enable you to have creative freedom without having a heart attack every time you try to design something, but you’re under pressure to create something that you don’t necessarily want to do, but you kind of need to. So what you need €300,000 for, is to be able to take that pressure of your back a little bit, so you can flourish as a better designer, I would say.
Feng Chen Wang
We need lots of things. One huge thing I can think of is everything you need to build up a team and then to improve the brand in another level. We need money to be able to do that. We are a completely new brand and we can’t get to the high level where we want to be. With ‘high level’, I mean the level in my mind. I want to be there, and then maybe I can have more money to get something we need to get. Everything is really important: production, visuals, everything. A brand is not only about clothes. It’s not only about design. It’s about everything included in the whole environment of the brand. Where you choose to sell, where to produce, where the fabric comes from, the identity in your brand, what you want to become in the future, who you want to be. And then the most important thing is about the soul in the brand. It’s more important than the technique or the fabric or the resources, and it’s quite hard to express.
It’s essential to build a strong structure. To structure the production, the business side, for my point of view, which is the more creative side – to build all of that.
I would be able to focus more on the actual designing, and also no to be so worried about something that shouldn’t make that much of a difference. To be able to not be ‘all over the place’, and instead focus on what I’m doing. And also to connect with other people in the industry requires money. It sounds like “Just go!” but actually, it’s hard work, and you need money for it. For example, you need a PR, you need people around you who understand things. You’re a designer, you don’t have this wonderful skill of having been to business school or something, you basically need people who understand the business-side. And you also need to search for those people, and this searching is also a trial-and-error kind of thing. So to be able to do that trial and error you have to have money, basically.
To develop the brand, obviously. There’s different steps, of course. Centralisation inside is one – we’re only three people doing everything. That’s of course a start, where it can be very helpful. But to grow you also need to understand your market, you need to revisit your marketing and have some guidance there.
I definitely need this support for development. It will help me to grow and to make things stronger, deeper, better. It’s the heart of the creative innovation. Sometimes you want to do things, you have it in your mind, but it’s not physically possible, because you don’t have the money.
I would like to increase the number of people I have working for me. I’d like to take a stronger team on so I have a bit more infrastructure in my business, ‘cause at the moment it’s just me and my best friend who are running it. It’s pretty full-on. I would really like to set up an online store, I think that would be very important for the future of my business, sales-wise. And I guess just invest it slowly and steadily into the company to build it gradually – it’s a bit touch-and-go at the moment money-wise. And then I’d probably go to Ibiza on a long holiday (laughs).
Words by Julia van IJken and Harri Welch
All images from designers’ Instagram
Feature image: studio of Koché
Grace Wales Bonner
Feng Chen Wang