your clothing line sucks

It’s that time of year when you’re probably out selling your line at Holiday markets and events. You’re bound to hear negative comments about your work – which can be tough since you’re not just the salesperson, you’re the designer too.

Sometimes it’s merely annoying and sometimes negative feedback can really sting.

A while back, I was looking for a different New York showroom to rep my womenswear collection. I’ll never forget what happened and how one particular rep had the courage – the nerve! – to tell me the truth.

It went like this…

Sales Rep: “Jane, the best thing about your line is you.  You’re easy to work with and very professional.

Sounds great, this is promising…

She continued, “I talked to my main sales people about your clothes. “

Great, she’s really working it for me…

“And they told me they can’t sell it. They said it’s “nice” but it lacks a certain, weeeeellllll, coolness factor that they need.”

Ummmmm, what?

I was crushed.  And a tad humiliated. I mean, I’m cool, right? Like a cucumber. Like an ice cold beer in a frosty mug. 

But the worst part was that I knew, deep in my core, that she was right. The collection was nice. It was good. But it wasn’t GREAT. It wasn’t super fly enough for the cool kids.

While I didn’t like hearing her truthful criticism, it was the best thing that ever happened to me. I re-doubled my efforts and my next line was much, much better. In the end, that rep did me a huge favor!

Part of being GREAT at what you do is being able to recover from difficult times and harsh criticism. I like this perspective from this article in Inc. magazine…

“Instead of telling yourself, ‘I failed, the business failed, I’m a loser’, look at the data from a different perspective: Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Life is a constant process of trial and error. Don’t exaggerate the experience.” psychiatrist and former entrepreneur Michael A. Freeman, who is researching mental health and entrepreneurship

Here are some tips to help you handle criticism:

1) Don’t take it personally

I know this is hard because you designed the pieces yourself. However, you must find a way to separate yourself from the product and focus on business. If you’re too emotionally attached everything is harder, believe me. I’ve been there.

2) Make a distinction between Feedback and Insult

It’s possible that people are not actually criticizing you, they just disagree with you.

In many ways, we are conditioned to think we’re right, so we treat feedback as criticism every single time. Try to keep an open mind.

3) Know that is criticism comes with the territory

When you take a risk – like starting a fashion business, showing your line, putting yourself out there – it’s going to happen. Period. Criticism won’t kill you, even when it’s harsh or unwarranted. Success = Criticism and the better your business does the more you’ll hear! Let it roll off and keep your focus on your business and you’ll do just fine.

What about you? Can you share one experience with how you handled criticism? What happened and what did you do? I’d love to hear your story in the comments below!

As always, thanks for reading, 





8 Responses

  1. Dear Jane,
    I am working really hard to get my knitwear line brand known and recognized
    I knit all the pieces myself so it takes both time and money to make each piece
    I have run out of money time and support and things are looking hopeless
    i’m sitting writing this surrounded by piles of yarn and knitwear with no buyers
    luckily i negotiated my 100% wool at wholesale prices
    and thats just a small section of my business probs.
    what should i do??

    1. Hi Anna, I understand you’re in a tough position so thanks for posting. It’s a big questions but I’ll give you a place to start. 1) What do you LOVE doing? Make a list and don;t censor yourself.. 2) What will people pay MONEY for? Make a list… 3) Look at the 2 lists and find the CROSSOVER between them. The crossover is the business you want to be in. I know that’s quick, bu I hope it helps. -Jane

  2. Hi Jane, I agree this past season I went by foot to 70+ stores myself for market research, to show the line and ultimately see which stores are a good fit, along the way I heard “your line isn’t edgy enough” out of all the comments that was the only one I took personally, next season I’m coming back for her with my edge 😉

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