Fri | Jan 18, 2019

Yaneek Page | Image as a driver of new business

Published:Sunday | December 9, 2018 | 12:00 AM

QUESTION: I enjoy doing garment construction/fashion designing, but I've always heard that you should dress for success, as in whatever your dreams are, dress for it and it will come to you. However, as a fashion designer I like to make clothing for persons who like to party and are willing to wear eye-opening stuff. Now to get my clients or that target market, do you think I need to attire myself like this? I am a just-starter in the industry so unfortunately, I don't have any money to pay models yet. Looking forward to your reply.

- Instagram User

BUSINESSWISE: You've posed a great question. In short, the answer is no.

How many times have you come across a hair dresser whose hair desperately needs to be styled? Perhaps more than you can recall. I can assure you there are also many shareholders of cigarette companies who would never smoke or encourage their family to do so.

Just as there are junk food manufacturers who are so health-conscious they'd never indulge in sugary or fatty foods that they sell to others, and I could go on and on.

The point is, you don't necessarily need to wear your own eye-popping party designs to make it in that niche; however, there are several issues to consider before deciding whether you should.

The first issue is what the business might gain if you model your own pieces. It is highly likely that by wearing your own designs consistently, posting and boosting them on social media using relevant hashtags - particularly if you have the 'party girl' image - you will be able to attract attention, interest and publicity which may lead to increased sales.

The advantage may therefore be that you exploit the most cost-effective way to promote the business by becoming the lead brand ambassador, particularly at this early stage when, as you noted, money is tight.

You could also strategically position yourself as a leading trendsetter in the space and become a fashion influencer, which would also augur well for street credibility, brand awareness and sales.

By being the face of your company, you also have greater control over your business' reputation. You are essentially mitigating the risk of using a model or models who may not always remain loyal to your brand or who could engage in behaviours that bring the business into disrepute in the future.

Imagine using a model so consistently that she becomes known as the 'face' of your company, but who later copies your designs and creates a competing business? It happens more frequently than you would imagine. Also consider the implications of your ambassador making reckless, discriminatory or inflammatory comments on social media that result in widespread calls for her boycott.

These are things creatives don't usually consider at the outset when they use the same few faces or models they can afford or easily access. However, this issue of risk management for brand ambassadors is increasingly important in this digital age, so as your business expands it will be critical that you manage this exposure.

Let's now consider what you may lose by dressing in your own designs. I may be wrong, but the fact that you've asked whether you need to dress to attract your target market suggests reservations on your part. It all boils down to your personal brand and your vision for the future.

The rule of thumb is that it is best if the ethos of the founder is well aligned to that of the business. Is 'eye-popping party girl' or 'party trendsetter' the image you want for yourself? Is this consistent with your personal values and the legacy you hope to leave? Is there a possibility that you may want to diversify in the future or possibly even transition from this niche to another?

What happens if you become the face of your brand and it flops miserably? How difficult will it be to pursue other opportunities in the fashion industry when your name and likeness are closely associated with a failed brand?

Of course, we want the business to succeed, but strategic planning in a business leader means careful analysis of threats and weaknesses. Again, the fashion industry is unique in that image is paramount. What I've outlined above are potential downsides to using your own image and becoming your own brand ambassador.

The upsides and downsides I've put forward are a start, but far from exhaustive. It is up to you to brainstorm further and make the decision that is best for the business and you.

One love!

- Yaneek Page is an entrepreneur and trainer, and creator/executive producer of The Innovators TV series. Email: info@yaneekpage.com Twitter: @yaneekpage Website: www.yaneekpage.com