This is the 2nd part of our deep dive interview with the Founder of KRSTN NDRSN Design Studio, Kristen Anderson.
In Part 2 – Kristen continues to discuss a range of topics that are current and critical for fashion startups. Find out her approach to facing a crisis situation like the Covid-19 pandemic, going green and staying sustainable, raising capital and much much more.
And in case you haven’t already, you can also read Part 1 of this interview here.
Given the current situation in the world, how do you recommend startups should look at a crisis situation like the coronavirus pandemic?
One of the coolest things to come from the pandemic has been the rise of people interested in starting their own thing. It was a good time for people to reflect on the things they lacked in their careers and refocus on new goals and dreams.
A good thing to remember is that the economy is always shifting and fluctuating. Nothing is permanent. The same is true of this moment in our history. It will not be permanent, so we need to hold onto the hope for a better future. It’s sometimes hard to remain positive in times like these, but shaping new goals and moving outside your comfort zone can really shift your life.
Some startups are in the unfortunate position of being BRAND new during this pandemic. This is a HARD place to be in. If you’re new and struggling, I urge you to try and find your voice. It’s important to have beliefs and values in this day and age, bringing them forward and making it loud. Be authentic in everything that you do.
Make content that feels raw and real. People appreciate the truth. Don’t give up if it feels bleak. Sometimes there are different ways to attack a problem, so it’s always a good idea to think of some wild solutions that *just*might*work*.
There is also an amazing part of COVID, which allowed us easy access to people we might otherwise not connect with. USE that to your advantage. Seek people out and ask them to help you. Many are willing and happy to oblige.
Another great thing is this has created opportunities in the market that used to not exist. Brands are creating new business models around how we will be living in the new future, not just how we live right now.
Many of the best and brightest companies are formed during downtimes in the economy. Stress and strife often lead to new ideas to be created despite how it feels while we’re struggling.
What are the key traits of a founder that make a fashion startup successful?
- Decisiveness – this is a big one! You can’t be successful as a founder or as a company if someone isn’t willing to make some hard decisions.
- Drive – Because you can’t get somewhere if you don’t have the gas or direction. Founders need to know where their company is headed, how to get there, and how to push the gas.
- Resilience – Getting knocked down is just part of getting back up again. You have to be willing to hear NO over and over again. You have to be able to take constructive feedback and roll with it. Having thick skin is just part of the game.
- Patience – Sometimes, it doesn’t happen quickly. You need to understand how things grow. Usually, it is little by little at first and then all at once.
It’s interesting that you highlight the importance of having your own unique voice and values and making them heard to your target audience. In that respect what are some key methods for startups in the fashion industry to truly engage with the customer?
- Speak directly to their wants, needs, and desires! Ask them if you don’t know.
- Be authentic with your approach. It’s often very obvious if a brand is disingenuous.
- Ask customers for their feedback and actually action it!
- Give them a platform, allow them to help decide the product via crowdsourcing.
- Actively engage with them, don’t do it as an afterthought.
A common thing you see with a lot of up and coming brands is that they have embraced sustainability. It is built into the core of their brand. And on that note, do you think that young startups in the fashion space can compete with the costs involved with responsible sourcing?
New startups have to remain lean, but being green is also part of the future of fashion.
Runway Kit is an excellent resource for brands that want to embark on a more sustainable design journey. The platform incorporates digital fittings via 3D modeling and helps enable a more perfect fit from the first sample onward. Ideally, every company would employ these techniques to reduce the wastage created by sampling 5-6 rounds.
MAS and Runway Kit have created such a valuable way to facilitate the design and production process. It’s a worthwhile investment for brands that care about developing in a resourceful and sustainable way.
They also make it easy for the average person to create something unique. Using their platform and enabling people who otherwise wouldn’t be designing garments, Runway Kit has created a unique product that allows everyone to build their own brand.
How important is the startup ecosystem for the fashion industry?
Startups are so imperative to the fashion industry! They keep the big players on their toes.
Look at Victoria’s Secret, for example. They were a DOMINATOR in the intimate apparel space for SO long, and now this trickle in of new brands has started changing the game.
The fact that they were so big, to begin with, should have allowed them to remain ahead and keep their dominance, but oddly enough, new brand emergence has changed their positioning and allowed more room for other brands to succeed.
Fashion startups also allow us to see the need for change. Especially when brands are started from a strong WHY, we see that change becomes easier to see and accept.
For example, looking at what Everlane has done is a great way to see that there has been a massive problem in fashion for a long time.
Everlane illuminated the concerns for worker safety and transparency in the fashion industry. We need more brands shedding light on the downside of fashion if we are ever going to truly fix it.
How can potential entrepreneurs raise capital for their fashion labels?
BE COMPELLING!! There has got to be a reason for your brand to exist in this day and age. You’ve gotta have your own point of view. You must say something meaningful and worthwhile.
Raising capital is a long game. Most likely, you aren’t going to be successful right out of the gate. Building the right relationships and creating room for you to ask when the time comes is part of it.
Don’t expect to sell your business to the first investor you meet. Don’t expect you won’t, either. Confidence is part of any entrepreneur’s journey, and you have to have enough to survive.
Know the facts and figures. The numbers DON’T lie, and investors know that. Don’t just go at them with an idea. Give them hard data on where the growth lies in this category and how you plan to achieve it.
Give them something to hold onto if you can. Having an MVP, a working product in the market, is much more interesting than just an idea.
Also, be relentless. Every time you hear no just means you are closer to yes!
If you haven’t checked it out already, you can read Part 1 of this interview here.
KRSTN NDRSN Design Studio is an inclusive design and development venture for startups that specializes in swimwear, activewear and lingerie. They offer a range of services that include startup coaching, garment and tech design, trend direction, print and production.
Runway Kit offers fashion businesses the option to design, sample and manufacture in smaller, flexible quantities – be it to start a new business or launch a new clothing label, we give you an extremely efficient path to market.