It's not easy starting your own fashion brand from scratch. Many of the biggest brands have been around for decades, even centuries, whilst younger brands take years to earn even a cult following.
The rise of online shopping, or eCommerce, has clearly been a game-changer. Many startups have seized on the opportunity to launch their brand online without the prohibitive costs of running a high street store.
Spangled is one such brand. Their unique and colourful print designs span a range of clothing, including bodysuits, and accessories, living up to their mantra: what's the point in dressing like everyone else? We caught up with Spangled founder, SJ Cook, to find out what's involved in launching a startup fashion brand.
How would you sum up Spangled in a sentence?
Spangled is a London-born print and design house producing bold garments and fun accessories.
What was your background prior to starting Spangled? Have you always worked in fashion?
My education is actually in architecture, not fashion. After working in architecture for a couple of years I began to feel it was too restrictive and the design process to be too drawn out. I like to design, create and see results. I guess I’m creatively impatient!
After leaving my architecture career behind, I found myself drawn to odd jobs. I was offered roles assisting on film sets and fashion shoots, which soon became my main job. I went on to freelance in the fashion industry as a stylist. This gave me a great insight into the workings of shooting and producing a fashion brand.
What was the inspiration behind Spangled?
I’ve always been interested in fashion and making my own garments and accessories. When I couldn't find items I wanted to wear in stores, I started making them myself and it struck a chord with my peers. I guess I was my main customer and inspiration!
Was there a lightbulb moment when you realised this could be a successful brand?
My lightbulb moment would probably be when Cara Delevingne wore more my dinosaur glasses to a Mulberry bag launch. The photos from the event were in the press for the whole summer which made me realise I might have a brand that could grow.
That was obviously a big PR success. How important is it to get people endorsing your products? Is it hard to do?
I've been lucky to enjoy unexpected free PR from people that love my designs, however, marketing and PR is a challenge as the industry is so saturated. It is difficult to compete with large brands who are able to afford large PR campaigns and sell at low prices. I do feel though that there is a space for niche brands. My customers often tell me what I do is different which is refreshing.
In terms of the manufacturing your products, what challenges have you faced?
Finding manufacturers has been a big challenge for me. I’ve had a few bad experiences which always feel like a huge waste of time and money. However, with each mistake and failure, you learn. It’s important to find the right production partner in order to grow.
You've obviously learnt a lot along the way as the business has evolved. What have been your major milestones since launching?
Spangled grew from being a festival stall to a brand. The first major milestone was officially branding the business with a logo. Following this was becoming a stockist in well known online and high street stores and being featured in the press.
As with any business, times change and fashion moves especially quickly. I am having to evolve with changing trends and expand the products we offer.
Being an online-focused brand, having a good website is massively important. What advice do you have around this?
The most important thing is for people to buy from you. If you're only selling online, as I am, then your website is your store front. Creating a simple pathway to payment and communicating everything you have to offer is key.
We've talked about your PR success, what about your wider marketing and social media strategy - what are your tips for boosting brand awareness and ultimately sales?
There are many things you can do. Running competitions, email marketing, gifting bloggers/artists to wear/use your product and pop up sales and press events are all good ways to stay in peoples minds. All these activities remind customers of who you are and what you have to offer.
Updating content regularly, showing how your products are used and creating a desire for them through imagery are also good tools. You want to encourage customers to buy into your brand and need your products.
Utilising social platforms and tools such as Google AdWords is invaluable. With all our marketing activity, I'm learning every day.
On a personal level, what's it like being your own boss?
Well, I’ll be honest, it's not easy. It’s 24/7. You never really ever switch off but this is probably what led you to start your own business; a desire to do something that interests you. If it was easy everyone would be doing it.
What are your proudest achievements?
My proudest achievement is always seeing customers with beaming smiles wearing my garments and accessories. Nothing beats it. However, my biggest moment so far was designing a bespoke print and bodysuit for British Vogue, which was featured in the 100 years special edition. That was pretty special. I am still working on the rest.
What are your top tips for someone looking to launch an eCommerce business and fashion brand?
Here are my key tips:
Spangled is the London born print and embellishment brand for the fun-seeking, free and fabulous people. For a comprehensive guide to getting your business up and running, download our how to start a business in 20 days eBook.
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