Kristen Anderson is the founder of KRSTN NDRSN Design Studio. They are an all inclusive design and development venture for startups that specializes in swimwear, activewear and lingerie.
Putting Kristen Anderson’s extensive design experience at popular brands such as Adore Me, SwimUSA and Victoria Secret into good use, KRSTN NDRSN studio takes utmost care in helping startup brands reach their full potential. They offer a range of services that include startup coaching, garment and tech design, trend direction, print and production.
Of late, Kristen is part of the 3 team judging panel of Runway Kit’s Next Top Swimwear Label competition.
We caught up with Kristen recently and asked about her experiences in building fashion startups from scratch. You can read Part 1 of the full interview below to gain some top level insights from someone, who has been there and done that.
And what’s more – if you are one of the contestants in the Next Top Swimwear Label competition, you are sure to find some useful tips that will help to hone your pitch and make the judges sit up and take notice in the coming rounds.
What are the key things you look for in a startup?
And from your experience, what are the most vital factors a fashion startup should have going for them at the beginning?
The most important thing that a startup can have is white space opportunity and a strong reason why they are starting it in the first place!
By this, I mean, why you? Why is this YOUR brand to create?
Having a strong sense of – why you’re getting into this – is imperative for long term success. There will be many highs and lows, so you need to prepare for it by having a genuinely passionate purpose.
Other things that I ask myself when deciding whether it’s a good fit:
- Does this person have a strong enough passion for the project they’re working on?
- Will the founders put in the work that is necessary to make their business succeed?
- Have they done their research? Do they know the space?
- What kind of experience does the team or individual already have that would contribute to a winning concept?
- Are they looking to grow their business quickly?
- Are they willing to take direction, constructive feedback, and possibly pivot if the time comes?
- Do our personalities seem to mesh?
Where do most startups go wrong?
Trying to do too much at once, suiting too many customers and not really suiting anyone, just right. Don’t offer 20 products in 5 different categories for your first launch.
Keep it small and tight and in the light of your vision.
(Also) Lacking a clear purpose or reason they exist (as a business) and their unique value to the market (not being well defined). The market is flooded with lingerie and swimwear brands, so it’s more important now than ever before to differentiate yourself and stand apart.
Being too precious with decision-making, money and growth and getting stuck in the mindset that you could make a ‘wrong’ decision can often lead to making no decisions at all.
Not understanding their competition and, where they fall in the market landscape (is another reason). Understanding the other brands in your space is incredibly essential to sustainable growth as the market is continually shifting and changing.
(Finally) Working with the wrong business partner. Friends can especially be challenging unless you’ve worked together in a similar setting in the past.
Even then, it’s rough to build businesses with your closest friends because things will always go wrong, and you need to have a really concrete foundation to keep your relationship working effectively.
What can startups learn from big brands and how they go about their collections?
Big brands usually know how to balance their collections very well.
This can be challenging for smaller startups because they don’t have the same buying power. Understanding what big commercial brands offer and identifying their best sellers can help you plan your assortment and estimate how deep you should purchase.
These companies are also very good at determining the product pipeline and development schedule.
It takes a long time to develop foundational garments, so more prominent brands are often working 18 to 24 months in the future.
Knowing the cadence for development is so long, larger companies often add extra products to pad the offering. This allows them to pick the strongest and best styles instead of buying everything they developed.
Trend resources are also much more easily accessible to larger brands as they have the funds to invest in resources like WGSN and Fashion Snoops. Where small brands will have to dig into trends based on what they see in the market alone, larger companies have the luxury of using data already gathered.
Their planning teams are always working to identify the most prominent trends that will be happening in the future seasons. Sharing this information with the design team creates a loop that allows these brands to both follow and create the trends.
What are the most common questions you get from startups that come to your studio?
How do I get started?
That is probably the biggest one. People often have an idea, but the execution is everything.
The first step in getting started is most often to do the research, learn your space, understand where you can begin to exist with a unique positioning that you cannot find elsewhere.
Understanding your competition intimately and what you can improve upon is a huge start. Getting your designs drawn up is another huge hurdle to cross, but you really need to know your space before you ever sketch anything.
Other questions I hear quite a bit are:
Do I need to hire a patternmaker or a designer? What do you actually do? How do I get my samples developed? How do I find and decide which factory to work with? How many items should I put in my first collection? How do I know how much to buy of each item?
And the list goes on…!
Given those questions, usually, what is the readiness level of startups that work with you?
Usually, startups that come to me have either already started to establish themselves or have done some legwork to understand that market space.
They are committed to seeing their concept through at least the sample stage, and most are even interested in self-funding as the primary method.
They are 100% in it and ready to see it come to life. It takes a lot of work to build something special, and we are very selective about the startups we take on.
It’s essential to have a mutual understanding of how things come together, and readiness is a big part of it.
Decisions need to be made in building a business, so it’s not for the indecisive. We look for companies that are ready to start creating cool things, people that are passionate about their why, and a strong customer perspective.
So from there, what does KRSTN NDRSN Design Studio bring to the table for these new brands?
What we help startups and new brands do is bring together these ideas. They have a vision for what they want to bring to the market, how they might do it, and what that will look like.
Depending on their plan, we help them create a path forward, we build upon their concepts to maximize the potential for success, and most importantly, we help them execute it! The most crucial part of any plan is actually doing it, and we help our clients get it done.
With our expansive network, wide-spanning experience, and resourceful attitude, our team is committed to creating incredible products that people can’t help but love.
To be continued…
Part 2 of this conversation will be released in the coming weeks. Subscribe to our newsletter below and Runway Kit Instagram for the latest news and updates.
Runway Kit offers fashion designers and entrepreneurs the option to design, sample and manufacture in smaller, flexible quantities – all at some of the world’s most renowned sustainable factories.