Fashion Industry

Project Runway – Good Industry Image or Bad?

7127418127_322e2305ae_oIt appears that a lot of viewers think that Project Runway is a great show on tv. Well, I have to disagree. I am one who thinks that the show has in fact been a very bad example of what a fashion designers real job is realistically all about. Project Runway, in my opinion has served as a major bad influence for the industry as a whole and to the thousands of young people who have been swain by the show to study fashion design. While, for the MANY colleges, universities and other further educational institutions who offer fashion related degrees around the country, I am sure it has been a major boost in enrollment the fact remains there are not the jobs to sustain the graduates. Many have to take student loans that they will be paying off for many years to come. Or, once they have exhausted job interview opportunities, or worked for a while in the industry and become disheartened they are force to go bankrupt, and then it becomes the tax payers’ debt.

I deal daily with professionals in the apparel industry and I am also fortunate to guest speak at many fashion college events. I understand the industry and what are the many changes taking place on the Global platform. I can assure you that Project Runway has nothing to do with the real industry. I have had four of my ex-students, or Fashion Business Incorporated members who have been on the show. My feedback from them has not been positive. Project Runway is nothing more than entertainment and I would have no problem with it as a show if it clarified this. But, to watch continuously these mean spirited reality shows torture their participants’ is to me very distasteful. The industry has for years had a bad enough reputation and to add another layer of negativity is a shame!

Anyway, if anyone is reading this and wants to get in to the fashion industry first take the time to educate yourself about the many different job opportunities and the different colleges and what they offer. They don’t have to be private colleges that cost a fortune! There are some really good community colleges and state universities that offer good degrees. Personally, I have been very impressed with Cal Poly Pomona’s courses offered and their graduates. But, for the most part it is up to the students themselves to take what they learn and use that to network into a real job. Paying $35,000 a year for four years and then not getting a job is a financial tragedy.

The fashion business is an amazingly interesting and exciting industry that has been very good to me! I have had so many great adventures and opportunities. But, maybe I got a head start in my own reality and it is in my blood! I started sewing at twelve and learned from my mother, who was a designer for her brother who had a factory in Nottingham, UK. Her mother, (my grandmother) was a lace maker in Nottingham. My father was a chemist who specialized in textiles. My aunt had her own dress making business…. My grandfather on my father’s side had their own brewery…!:)

Fashion Industry

The Cost of Clothing is Ridiculous!


First you plant and grow the cotton, or grow and tend the sheep. Or, with synthetic fabrics, process the oil/wood/bamboo into filament.

It is then spun and woven, dyed, printed and finished into textiles that can then be shipped to manufacturers to be then inspected, laid out for cutting, cut and bundled for sewing. The machine operators then sew the cut goods into the finished style using a number of different machines depending on the final design; overlock, straight stitch, hemming, embroidery, and many other specialized machines are put into operation. The goods maybe ironed, labeling attached with hang tags, which may also include EDI (Electronic Data Information) for tracking. The goods are again inspected and they are then warehoused to be sorted for the different customers’ locations. The orders are picked and packed, and distributed per the stores instructions. The retailer receives the goods then again inspects the goods to be placed in the store for sale. The retailer will then price the goods up to their retail selling price which is usually around 55% above the price they paid the manufacturer. Example: if the retailer paid the manufacturer $20.00 for the goods the retailer will price for the final sale at around $45.00.

Now, the manufacturer has also marked up the goods for their own profit margin. For simplicity of this example could have been keystoned (doubled). So, the $20.00 price the manufacturer sold to the retailer means that the Cost of Goods to produce that includes all the material, zippers, buttons, and then the labor was around $10.00 to produce!!!! Now also consider, the final wholesale selling price has not included the development cost, from designing, sampling, marketing, sales representatives, grading the sizes and marker making for the cutter. Then there are the overhead costs, rent, salaries, telephones, etc. that are also not included in the cost of goods.


Now who can tell me that clothes are overpriced!!! Clothing has not increased in final selling price for the last 20 years. A pair of jeans at Target can still be purchased for $29.99 2010! I remember in the 70s when I paid $70 and above for a nice pair of California designer jeans.

The industry is also looking for speed to market and domestic production. Some ask why it should cost so much to make clothing domestically. Please tell them!

Fashion Industry

Opening a Fashion Retail Store


Opening an apparel related retail store in order to sell directly to customers is attractive to many designers, lured by the promise increasing sales and building a brand. However, like manufacturing it should be fully investigated before making a final commitment. Many fashion designers, both large and small, have become successful retailers. With the addition of a retail store the business now becomes a vertical operation; from the first sketch to the point of sale, the designer/manufacturer has control. Once you open your store, it may also be a good idea to include other product lines within the store, which would complement your own creations. These other lines could be sold on consignment, which would help cut back on the direct costs of investing in inventory. Having several options will empower you and help you to make the right decisions. Opening a retail establishment demands a significant amount of time to properly oversee every aspect of the fledgling business. If you are a designer/manufacturer do you have that time available?

Finding the right location and understanding your customers’ needs are key elements of owning a retail store. It is helpful to sell what you know! However, if you are not familiar with basic marketing principles or the fashion industry, it will be critical to learn about and investigate the market. Becoming profitable will require continual upgrading on a weekly basis to improve and refresh your retail operation.

All of the information in my soon to be published Fashion Retailing for Profit will be very valuable information to you when planning to open any retail store. Even if you are not going to manufacture clothing yourself, it is important to understand all aspects of producing a garment, from concept to the consumer. Some of the most important issues that will influence your success as an apparel store owner will be the same as the components necessary in becoming a successful designer/manufacturer; both your discerning good taste and your business expertise.

Fashion Industry

The Innovated Mind Is Nurtured By Experience, And Real Life Education


I believe that on the whole most people wishing to start their own business feel disconnected to conventional further education. Much of the courses taught in traditional institutions have major gaps when it comes to both life skills, business survival and to entrepreneurship. Conventional further education seems to be diluted and detached from the real world of business and from major commerce. This leaves the majority of people, who in fact run most of the businesses in this country, or soon hope to, less likely to survive their first year. According to research conducted by Dunn & Bradstreet, there are hundreds of thousands of small businesses started each -year; minorities and women start over half. The emergence of women in entrepreneurship in America and indeed globally is perhaps the greatest advantage to our economy, and to the world’s economy. It is therefore important to the survival of these small businesses that we teach modem business practices and incorporates this into university and college curriculum.

My 30 plus years of further education within the fashion industry has been such that for the most part college curriculum does not change at the same pace as the industry. Tenured professors and instructors don’t have real the real world experience needed to instruct students today. We are a Global industry with a Global economy and this should be an important part of the curriculum. Often making any changes to a curriculum requires extra work and effort and this is often rather over looked than addressed.

It is my belief that you don’t need a four year college degree to learn the art of entrepreneurship. For most it is in their blood and for others it cannot be taught. However, for trades I really believe we have to return the old method of education through learning on the job rather than in a class room. The Germans still educate through apprenticeship, which is a system of training a new generation of practitioners of a skill, e.g. patternmaking, draping, sewing, woodwork, and electrician. Short term training and retraining is the future for trade education…. Well that is my thoughts of fashion programs that turn out too many graduates with no job openings available to them. Most are left with large student loans and end up working in a retail store to pay them off.