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12 creative ways to sell more of my accessories line, clothing line, or jewelry collection

 

Deciding how to sell your clothing, jewelry, or accessories line can be daunting. Gone are the days of just selling wholesale because that was the only option.

I get asked this question every week, “Jane, what’s the best way to sell my clothing line/accessories line/jewelry line/ baby product /artwork/candle line?” It all depends on you (and yeah, I get that makes it harder for you to decide). If there was a magic formula, I’d give it to you.

But deciding how you’re going to sell your line really depends on your financial goals, your personal goals and vision, what product you sell, and your target customer.

I put together a list of 12 ways you can bring your fashion product to market.

Sell Your Line Online

You can set up your own online store, of course, sell on Etsy, or sell to online stores. A lot of designers I work with are setting their site up on Shopify, which is a great platform. The problem comes when entrepreneurs have a “build it and they will come” mentality. You need a lot of marketing to get eyeballs on your site, and then you need to know how to turn that traffic into paying customers. I love, love, LOVE this business model but it’s not as easy as it looks.

Sell Your Line at Home Parties

These are NOT your Mama’s Tupperware parties. Check out Worth NY – last I heard it was a $95 million dollar company. That’s a lot of Tupperware. Other big players in the direct sales market are Stella & Dot and ETCETERA.

Sell to Boutiques

The great thing about selling to boutiques is that you can really build a relationship with the buyer because she is often the owner. This type of continuity can make you and the boutique real “partners” in this business which can help in a few ways; if you deliver late one season, for instance, they’ll still trust you and also the ability to get valuable feedback from the buyer about your line. (For tips on increasing the size of orders, watch this video). Online stores like Nineteenth Amendment can also be a good option for emerging fashion designers.

Sell to Department Stores

I put this one in a different category than selling to boutiques and that’s because I see them as 2 completely different things. Selling to big box stores is definitely not recommended for new designers. The water is shark-filled and this sales avenue should be avoided until you get your sea legs – after a few seasons.

Sell Through Trunk Shows at Boutiques
I love trunk shows as a way to sell your line. In this case, when I say trunk shows I’m referring to selling at a boutique for 1 day or even a few hours. Retailers like trunk shows because they don’t have to place an actual order up-front which means there’s less risk for them. The advantage of a trunk show to clothing and jewelry designers is that you get access to all the store’s customers without having to do ALL the marketing. And even better? You get to meet the customers and get valuable feedback from them about your fit, style, colors, etc.

Sell at Art Fairs or Craft Fairs

Selling your clothing or accessories line at a street fair will give you instant gratification. The customers pay retail prices and you get the money right away. You also get the interaction with your customer which is hugely important.

Open a Retail Store

This is how I started my business but I wouldn’t recommend it to too many designers in the beginning. Why? Because the overhead is very high and you really want to get a sense of IF and HOW the market is responding to your line. I suggest you work hard to get proof of concept before you invest in a retail location.

Sell Through Private Label

Private label means that you produce your product and put another company’s label in it. For instance, Macy’s house brand is likely produced by another company that has their own branded line, and then they make separate section of their line to be used exclusively for Macy’s with the Macy’s branding.

Sell Your Product Using a Moving Store

Le Fashion Truck is a mobile boutique - a store on wheels.
Le Fashion Truck is a mobile boutique – a store on wheels, www.lefashiontruck.com

 

I think the people behind Le Fashion Truck are pure genius. What’s cooler than a truck full of fashion items that will come to your door? There are a lot of different ways this could be re-invented for different niches. A student in my retail class designed a truck that sold ices cream + funky ice cream themed T-shirts. It was kitschy and hilarious

Sell Your Line Through Subscriptions

Think Birch Box for clothing. If you’re not familiar with Birch Box here’s how they describe themselves; Combining “monthly deliveries of personalized makeup samples with original editorial and an exciting ecommerce shop. It’s easy, efficient, and fun—a monthly delivery of surprise and delight.” I’ve seen apparel companies try the subscription model but I’m not convinced anyone’s having real success with it – yet. I believe in this model 100% and maybe it’s YOU who will be the one creative and resourceful enough to make it work.

Instagram

Lots of businesses are using Instagram well for business, including this one, this one, and this one. Many brands are using Soldsie to make it easier to shop directly from Instagram. But recently I heard of a designer who ONLY uses Instagram for her clothing line. And I mean only – as in, there’s no website, no blog, and no Facebook page for her business. Just Instagram. She makes a sample, posts it up, and takes orders. Then she produces what sold in small batches. She has a loyal following on Instagram and it’s growing steadily. My only warning to her is not to put all her eggs in one social media basket.

Sell Your Line with a Pushcart

Before you roll your eyes, consider this true story. A designer I met a while back was selling a $45 item through a cart in a mall. Her sales were $10,000 per month from 1 cart! Imagine if you rolled this out to more malls.

And That’s Not All…

I see designers crushing it with other selling avenues too, including:

  • Events – like La La Palooza
  • Making uniforms (for hotels, restaurants, airlines)
  • Catalogs
  • On TV – QVC, HSN
  • Licenses
  • Discount websites (The Outnet)
  • Flash Sales (Your own or Ideeli, Gilt, Rue La La)
  • Fashion crowdfunding sites (Before the Label)
  • Email list ONLY – get on the list if you want to buy, no website

Confused about what to do first?

If you haven’t started selling yet, I urge you to do your research, get an education, and get some contacts in the industry. You can make a great business using any of these selling strategies. It all depends on your goals for the business, your product category, who you want to work with, and HOW you want to do it.

I started my business when I was 25 – with very little money, very few “connections”, and very little life (or business) experience! I made a great living using my creativity for over 14 years (until I sold the wholesale and retail sides of my business). Believe me… there’s nothing so special about me – I’m no smarter or more creative that YOU!

If I could do it, you can do it.

So tell me this…

1) Which is your MAIN sales avenue?

2) Which of the options on this list intrigues you most?

Let me know in the comments below. Stop lurking and start talking back to me! I’m listening…

As always, thanks for reading!

Jane

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38 Responses

  1. Using an online shop intrests me more. I have an Etsy shop and use Instagram, Twitter and Facebook to promote but not successfully. I find a huge success doing home shows when they can see and touch my jewelry. I’m shy about asking people to host shows for me so I’m working on that 🙂

    1. Hi Feliz, thanks for your comment. Definitely work on it – if people love your product when they can touch and feel it, why not spread the word and get it into the hands of more people!?? You can do this – just pretend it’s not your own product. If you weren’t the one who designed it, would you have any trouble promoting it?
      -Jane

  2. Hi Jane,

    I am wondering what you think of online wholesale platforms, like Joor and Modalyst? Modalyst sounds really good in that its mission is to connect the emerging designer with buyers looking for someone new, but it is pretty expensive (annual fee but no commission on sales). Can you speak to the efficacy of these kinds of sites?

    Thanks for the post!

    1. Hi Colette, A lot of bigger designers use Joor and they love it. I hear complaints from Retailers about it, however, because when they place an order at a show and the vendor uses Joor, they don’t get a copy. The vendor telss them “we’ll send it online”. Retailers like to collect all their orders at a show, go back to the hotel, and add them up. I see this as a huge drawback to Joor. I don’t hear much about Modalyst. At least not yet.
      Jane

  3. Great post Jane! It’s so easy to forget that there are so many options.
    The links on the Instagram blurb don’t seem to be working? (Here…here…here)
    Would love to see those examples, as well as the woman who only sells on Insta.

    Thanks!

    1. Thanks, Maria! Thanks for the heads-up about the links. All fixed now. For the life of me I can’t recall the name of the Insta woman – I’ll keep searching my brain til I remember!
      -Jane

  4. Hi Jane, my main selling avenue is my website but I don’t get as much traffic as I would like (need to step up the marketing). Trunk shows and home parties have me intrigued. I will research into these. I am in Australia and I have never seen a trunk show in a boutique here, so it will be interesting to research. Could you explain a bit more about the pushcart selling…is this a cart like the ones used for grocery shopping?

    1. Hi Fernanda! I should really just call it a cart, like this one: http://www.macerich.com/leasing/specialty.aspx?id=216&s=. Probably too big to actually push! But there are many different kinds out there. To get more traffic to your site, I suggest taking my Marketing course – if you do what it says (consistently), it will change your business. You could also consider the Trunk Show course – all the courses are here: https://fashionbrainacademy.com/training-courses/

  5. Hi,
    I’ve recently taken some time off to explore alternate methods of selling and for me trunk shows have been the best route. I have the clothes available online to shop but I haven’t sold very much. It seems that the trunk show format works best because it’s a captive audience. They are there because they are curious about small designers and are ready to be sold and take a chance on us. Honestly, I’ve tried cold calling and sending postcards/ email what have you to boutiques and have had zero return. I’ve reached the point of having to spend money to make money. I’m buying a spot into to group shows and I’m covering my costs but not yet covering things like rent and initial manufacturing. My next move may be to try out some trade shows. I’m pretty confident that with a few years of collections under my belt, my line with be seen as something reliable. And at the very least I will clear expenses of the show and meet some new connections. Great article Jane! Thanks for the info.

  6. Love these ideas; thanks Jane! I’m ready to reach out to boutiques, but I feel like I need to wait until my latest inventory arrives . . . I kind of don’t want to show what I’m really moving out of. BUT, feel like I need to be doing something – so blog, insta, twitter – online it is.

  7. thanks for the suggestions. I am working the ONLINE option pretty aggressively. Some successes and more to learn. Also love the Fashion Truck. So cool! Would love to try this with my jewelry line.
    Have tried craft shows and feel they are way too much work and time invested for the payback. (just my opinion)

  8. Hi Jane,

    My name is Gemma Sole, cofounder of Nineteenth Amendment. Thank you so much for including us in the post!

    I noticed that you had us as a boutique but we are actually so much more! We are both a marketplace and manufacturing platform for independent designers. Designers upload their collections, we vet their tech packs and patterns and coordinate manufacturing, and then sell their collections in 45 day pre-sales (think 22nd century trunk shows – one collection launched every week). Nothing is made till it sells (either direct to consumer or to a designer who wants to purchase to fulfill a wholesale order)!

    By reversing the traditional retail model, we can ensure sizing and quality across designers, maintain the design integrity, and allow talented brands to launch with little upfront cost.

    We’d love any thoughts or feedback on our re-launched site:
    http://www.nineteenthamendment.com

  9. Great article! Thank you…love the detailed explanations. The first prototype for my designer sunglasses is almost complete and thankfully I have an investor lined up. I’m initially leaning towards a licensing deal, however, I realize that existing sales help the seal the deal. So with that said, I feel like I have to start selling via private label and trunk shows. I recently attended a Vision Expo and NY and I’m convinced that I’m either WAY off the mark or I’m a GENIUS because there’s nothing, I mean nothing on the market like it. That’s scary, but exciting at the same time. It was also suggested by a designer (sunglasses) from Germany to launch my product in Europe (Paris) because the US is so stuck on existing designers (Gucci, Prada, etc.) and the knockoffs, so new designers don’t have a fighting chance. I’d be interested in getting your feedback. Thanks in advance!

  10. Hi Jane, I love reading your articles watching your videos and signing up for your webinars.
    I have a online boutique but sales are not really coming in there, now renting a space in a store to display my items for sale and that’s doing well. I do have all social medias but no sales there, signed up with nineteenth amendment and but have to re submit a new line.
    After reading your article, i plan on trying a few other avenues. Thinking of trying some craft fairs, getting into boutiques, Trunk shows at boutiques, and maybe using my SUV for a moving store.

  11. Hi Jane,

    Such a useful article, thank you! We’ve been wanting to expand our fashion blog into selling of ladies’ apparel. We’re based in Africa (I am in Tanzania and my sister is in South Africa) so we were looking to bring South African labels into Tanzania as the choice of apparel in Tanzania is slim to say the least. We have given online selling much thought but before we go to the expense of developing this web capability we thought about getting the customer following set up using a bricks and mortar approach – private sales for example, I like the Email list only tip given above. I also think that the Instagram store is a way to get online without the sunk costs of bespoke online store development. I think the moving store is such a fun idea although for us the investment in a vehicle would be quite a financial outlay. If we wanted to create a private clientele base to sell the apparent to directly, what’s the best way to do this? Word of mouth?

  12. Hi Jane,

    Thank you for sharing your wisdom of selling your wares.

    I currently have just launched a new collection of high end pieces at a fashion show in Australia. I know how to design and make beautiful gowns and garments but then when it gets to the selling, well it’s this area that I now need to develop. I currently do a lot of made-to-measure but I now need to start looking at the bigger picture, manufacturing and supply chains are now on my mind as well as looking for investors to invest in my label.
    I have contacted The Dress Collective which is a Melbourne based online independent designer’s platform for selling and feel that this is a good place to start. I am also in the process of building my website with photos of the current collection scheduled for the coming weeks. I know I have the talent now I just need to make the sales and find some Celebrities that would like to wear my gowns and other wears.
    My website is http://www.simoneellis.com.au I will be posting pictures and footage of the show over the next few days.
    I am also looking at finding a stockist in Brisbane and will start researching this in the coming week.
    I find that sales side a little daunting but know its the only way that I can take it to the next level.
    Thanks Jane.

    With love,
    Simone Ellis
    Byron Bay Australia

    1. Thanks for commenting, Simone! Congrats on your first show. You can do this! Selling can be daunting at first but it gets easier as you do it. Try to have fun with it. I’m rooting for you!
      – Jane

    2. Hello Simone your collection/s are fabulous and it has been a learning curv reading your experiences in the world of fashion.
      I have just started out with only a few pieces I have a long way to go in getting established.
      Jenny

  13. These are great tips, Thank you! I also find it hard to focus on one thing at a time….I’m always catching myself trying to learn something new, when I should be finishing what I have started. Again, thank you!

  14. Hi Jane. Thanks for the tips. Instagram and other social media platforms I believe, is very thoughtful to use. Especially because we are in a digital age, and the Internet makes it very easy.

  15. Jane many thanks for all this wonderful and useful information. I am just starting out and have only produced a handful of styles. I really want to get some feedback and constructive information on the range, I think i will have some friends round. Which is very good advice
    Thanks

    Jenny from the UK

  16. Hi Jane, it’s such a great article! I found it’s so hard to communicate with boutiques as normally the owners are not in the shops and the staffs didn’t even give the owners’ business cards. Do you have any tips about how to sell the collection to the boutiques? Thanks!

  17. Hi Jane,

    Thank you so much for this article. It has been insightful.

    I’m just starting out as a fashion design brand and wondering how I can make money when I’m making a single dress at a time by hand? I don’t have the revenue for a manufacturer or merchandise for boutiques. Do you have any advice or resources/articles for someone who is very new? I have dresses I’ve made and completed two small collections so far and trying to build up my social media.

    Thank you,
    Michelle

  18. hii jane ,i am a designer and i am running my own boutique since last 5 years costumized total ladies wear.but now i want expand my boutique by making my own designs n have started but how to build a customer?
    my boutique is not in market but interior . i am doing this at home .and its very far from the market, so please guide me what to do ?

  19. Hello Jane,

    My sister has her sketches of fashion dresses,shirts and pants. But getting starting has been hard
    for her, any ideas that will help her?

    Sharon
    from Bermuda

  20. Hi Jane I’m a fashion design student and want to start my own label … Please suggest me something about that ? As a student how I can do this and make it worth

  21. I’m a fashion Designer I want to start a business like fashion trunk only plz suggest me and any different ideas for business to do

  22. Hi I started a clothing brand many years ago but in the full throw of the financial crisis and fresh out fashion school with rose tinted glasses.

    Having watched the company fold after going too big too soon and taking a different career route, I have never been able to shake the desire to pursue having a successful fashion brand. I now feel mentally more mature, experienced and ready for a second but slower more steady attempt.

    I really like the idea of making my samples then putting them up on instagram and producing pieces as the orders come in. Aside from instagram, please could you give me any advice on the best way to get the clothes out there initially? (My first attempt was pre-social media so this is once again very new to me) many thanks

  23. Hi Jane, I’m Adam. I’m trying to get my clothing label off the ground here and would really appreciate any insight/advice you can give me. It’s a label that’s going to help a lot of charities, I design everything myself and honestly just need some help. I’m trying so hard to get it full throttle on the go. I’ve been through a lot in the past couple years with hospital stuff. That’s why I started all of this. Please get back to me when you can, thanks a bunch 🙂

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