5 pearls of wisdom for anyone wanting to build a fashion brand, as told by someone who did it


So you want to start a fashion label? While the internet makes things seem easy (just sign up to Shopify and market yourself through Insty!), it’s not really that straightforward. 

For those of you who genuinely have the determination to go solo with your own label (congrats btw), it pays to get some advice. 

Here’s a little to get you started, courtesy of Luke Portelli. Luke is the brains behind streetwear label Slum Royals and a student at Karl von Busse Institute of Design.

1. You need to be passionate

We don’t need to tell you that running a label is a full-time job. But unlike your stint in hospitality as a dish bitch, you’ll want to enjoy it. Business management is a lot of hard work and you’ll spend ample time doing it, so it pays to feel good about what you’re developing and what’s being presented to the world.

Confidence in yourself and in your work is one of the biggest advantages you can give yourself,” says Luke. “It’s an asset that can help you remain determined and drive your success to higher peaks.”

2. Time management is essential

Sure, being your own boss sounds great, but it doesn’t mean you can start work at 11am and finish up at 2pm. In reality, a start-up label is likely to see you bearing most of the costs and the workload. 

“As a start-up, most processes are in-house and let’s be honest ‘in-house’ is usually just yourself for a while until slowly the team grows,” explains Luke. 

“Needless to say, any new business owner needs to understand and be able to manage all processes at the start, solely on their own.” 

Getting some advice on the best and most efficient ways to complete your processes can really help. Especially when it’s not just your own timelines you’ll need to meet.

Everyone knows the fashion industry is driven by deadlines. This is the reality that all designers need to practise. It was a skill I had to learn in order to manage my brand from the start and meet my initial targets,” says Luke.

3. Learning to budget is more important than you’ll care to admit

As every 20-something with a bank balance teetering on $0 will know, budgeting is kind of essential. And this becomes infinitely more important when you start a label.

With a small brand comes small production. Everyone in the industry knows budget is constantly being strained and tested,” says Luke.

It will pay to learn skills like budgeting and business management, or complete a course that covers it. 

“Being a student meant I was balancing costs of education, rent and living expenses, all while trying to manage my overhead costs,” says Luke. 

“The balance is challenging but was truly a skill that I needed to learn, to enable my brand to have the freedom to grow and succeed.”

4. You’ll want to get social

How many times have you heard the phrase ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know’? There isn’t a more truthful statement when it comes to the fashion industry. 

“Putting myself out there as a designer and meeting fellow creatives in the industry has been invaluable in my process, and has led me to wonderful opportunities,” reflects Luke. 

One easy way to network and connect is through study. It gives you the chance to rub shoulders with industry professionals, your peers, and an endless line of tutors, mentors  and lecturers. You’ll also be getting access to *their* contacts, which can be as valuable as gold (seriously).

5. It helps to have formal education

When it comes to Luke’s number one tip for successfully launching your own brand, it’s that formal education makes a big difference.

“In fashion especially, training and study is highly important. A lot of people rely on being self-taught but this will only hold you back. Higher education will leave you with professional-standard skills that will give you the ability to move straight into the industry and launch your own label, while clearly understanding all the processes.”

Studying is also a good way to make sure you like the industry and can hack it, as you’ll be getting real-world experience.

“KvB mirrors its courses with industry standards. This means it’s not just a joy ride, it’s real projects that mimic those present in the professional world. It enables you to train yourself to cope with the stress and workload required to succeed in the industry, it also gives you the ability to make mistakes while you’re still learning, without them having an effect on a real business.”

If you’d like to learn a little more about launching your own label, head over to Karl von Busse Institute of Design’s website. Its Diploma of Fashion Design helps students develop the necessary skills for employment in the fashion industry. You can learn more here.


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