Motivation Monday for Fashion Designers: Failure is the Key to Success

motivation for fashion designers

Every entrepreneur will fail. It’s inevitable.

And yet many of us are so petrified of failing – and looking foolish – that we don’t try our best. We think we do. We work HARD. But sometimes we work hard on the wrong things.

The “safe” work. Like the patterns, the production, and our technique. Things we’re comfortable working on.

For most of us, the “product based” work is why we went into business – rather than the “scary” work of getting more customers and selling more.

Did you ever hear a designer or creative entrepreneur say she started her business so she could get out there and sell a crap-ton of it? More likely, it’s about making a product we feel people need.

But here’s the thing. The designers who make it are the ones willing to do the HARD work. I’m talking about the uncomfortable work.

We’re all going to fail sometimes…

  • to get that order
  • to close the sale
  • to book that appointment
  • to convince that investor
  • to take a risk

So you’ll fail sometimes and you’ll hear your share of NO’s. Is failing at something the worst thing in the world? It doesn’t mean you’ll be out of business tomorrow. I promise you that.

If it did, I wouldn’t have made it past the 6 month mark. A whopper of a mistake I made is right here. And take a look at this article from the Huffington Post about 7 influential women who failed before they succeeded (my favorite part – Arianna Huffington’s second book was turned down by 36 publishers. And that’s AFTER her first book was well-received! Go figure.

You can also check out the story of fashion designer Nanette Lepore in this video from Forbes. In the interview, Nanette tells about getting $250,000 in orders at her first trade show (yeah!). The she explains how her Dad mortgaged the family house (whoa!) to help her do her production, the challenges she faced, and how she got through it and became profitable.

Success is NOT a straight line up. 

“Successful people will always tell you you can do something.
It’s the people who have never accomplished anything who will always
discourage you from trying to achieve excellent things.” – Lou Holtz

So here’s my challenge for you…

Is there ONE thing you’ve been putting off because it’s “hard” or “scary”? How bout you do ONE thing today that scares you a little but you KNOW will move your business forward? Let me know what it is in the comments below. BONUS POINTS for coming back and telling me you did it!!

Thanks for reading,


P.S. It’s OK to keep this challenge really simple. Like, send ONE email, make that ONE call you’ve been putting off. Don’t overthink it, OK? Just act! Do it now.



18 Responses

  1. Thank you for posting this! I’m currently still in my pjs and sewing like a mad woman to get Christmas orders out the door! I’m struggling with the fear that everything will not get done and I will fail. I really needed to hear this today!

    1. I’m rooting for you, Angela!

      P.S. Is there anyone who can help you get those orders out the door? Perhaps it’s time to reach out for help.

  2. I LOVE that you’re relentless about encouraging us to keep pushing forward. It’s so obvious to me that fear is my greatest hurdle. It’s almost laughable. The thing I’ve been putting off for what seems like FOREVER is moving from sketches to pattern making. Why? Not sure, except that this world of apparel design is new to me, so I don’t have the confidence that I’m used to having in business, which makes it scary, which makes me prone to focusing on everything EXCEPT what I need to do to move forward. So there you have it.

    Oh, and before I created this comment I just sent an email to a pattern maker in the Bay Area who I’m pretty sure can help me. So, again Jane, thanks for the motivation. This program is making a difference!

    1. Related to your comment, Michelle. I’ve been considering looking into bay area pattern makers, as well, after having lingered in sketchville for far too long. Always kinda felt like I had to know how to do everything myself, regarding production. If you happen to see this post again, would you mind sharing his/her name? If not, completely cool- either way, is nice to see others in the same dumbass-fear-laden boat. Ready for a new boat.

  3. Yesterday I met with a distributor and -scary- asked her a bunch of hard, pointed questions when it’s not in my nature to do that at all! Thank you for the support, Jane. It’s hard to keep up the momentum of moving forward when faced with such seemingly insurmountable obstacles- but I have to, otherwise the stock I ordered of my product will continue to gaze accusingly at me from the corner of my bedroom. I just chip away at it, everyday. You’re the best- Thank you!

    1. Good for you! “A person’s success in life can usually be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations he or she is willing to have.” ― Timothy Ferriss,

  4. Oh yes, I hear you, Jane! I was so anxious to get my order from the manufacturer(after 6 months) that I approved the TOP sample even though it was the wrong fabric weight(custom fabric). It was thin enough to show small holes in the weave here and there(didn’t notice that until after approved sample). Inspect the fabric you order and the top sample carefully, with a light behind it!

  5. This was the motivation I needed! I just got two huge opportunities coming in 2015, and to be honest, it scared me to the point of complacency. I’m a tad intimidated that I might not be ready to have a business so soon. However, you inspired me to get off my tush and not only TRY, but to my absolute best, and take my time to do so! Thank you, Thank you, THANK YOU!!!

    1. Catherine, good for you! OF COURSE it’s scary. That’s to be expected. Wishing you all the best with your business in 2015!

  6. Your motivation email is exactly what I needed. I have started my own label but have found it so hard make sales and to drive people to my website. Two things that scare me are letting go of doing almost everything myself (perfectionist) and sending an advertisement of my collection to magazines. Many out there have open submissions but I have heard the word “NO” so many time in different situations when comes to my business that sometimes I feel like giving up! I am just going to do it, what’s the worst that can happen!! 🙂

    1. Thanks for your comment, Fernanda. We all feel like giving up sometimes, it’s just a question of whether you actually do it or not. I vote keep trying, put up with the no’s, and go after what you want! And you’re right, what’s the worst that could happen? it’s also worth thinking about, what’s the best that could happen?

  7. Oh Jane, This really hits home for me. Why do I put the most important things off? I am so close to launching my line of designer throw pillows, and I just need to price them and put them up for sale to the interior designers that follow me. However…WHAT is the right price? How to make enough, but still sell them?? Thankfully I went to DGExpo SF, (Where I found YOU- yay!) and Frances Harder and learned just how to price my items. NOW I just need to be bold enough to price my high-end pillows high enough to allow enough profit for me, and not sell myself short. Working on the costing sheets today….then will contact a few of my key Twitter designer friends to pick their brains on proper/attractive pricing to interior designers. Want to launch the Etsy Store first of the year!

    1. Hi Kathy,
      Why do any of us put things off? Usually it’s fear – and not wanting to do unpleasant tasks. In this case it sounds like fear. “If I price my pillows too high, the interior designers won’t buy, then I’ll be out of business, have to get a job, and likely end up homeless”. OK, that’s the nonsense that might go through MY head! For you, just take a risk, price your things fairly, believe in yourself, and DO IT. “Perfect is good but DONE is better” -Jane Hamill. Go get it done, Kathy, OK? And let me know how it turns out!

  8. I just pitched a boutique for my jewelry! It’s a store where my line would “hang” well because we have the same ideal customer.

    Now, on to the next store! (in a different town.)

    1. Elaine,
      I have a big smile on my face just for YOU! Go go go! Go out and get some NO’s and you will surely get some YES’s too.

  9. Today I met with someone who has a vision for a photoshoot(portfolio builder for both of us) I have been out of the sewing game for a few months because of my failed attempt of having an online boutique(I got stiffed out of a lot of money I spent for my line) but I told myself I would get back up an try again. This time I want to be a business person first and a creative person second(as you said in your podcast)

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