It's gonig to be a while before I update my main website, but due to the phenomenal number of enquiries we are getting at the moment, many of the same issues keep coming up , so I thought I'd better write some fresh advice out here.
I hear from around one or two wannabee shoe label owners every single day!
If you want to start your own shoe label, it is an incredibly challenging thing to do. Why?
Well, the footwear trade has gone through a lot of change recently. For instance, here in the UK (which is where about 80% of the enquiries we recieve are from), the footwear trade is unrecognisable from just a few years ago.
There are fewer independant shoe stores, meaning far less places to sell your range to. Chain stores sell own label or the posher ones sell big brands (such as Mr Choo) because it is less of a risk and they know they are reliable and the deliveries will be on time etc. etc. All areas of the market are suffering because of the recession. Both the euro and the dollar are stronger against the pound, so it is a struggle to make shoes, import them, sell them in and make enough money to break even. Even I was surprised to see well established designers such as Emma Hope get into trouble, but that shows how tough it really is.
If you aim is to launch into the womens luxury footwear market, please be aware that it is an already overcrowded market and there are some amazing companies doing a fantastic job already - I'm thinking of Tamara Mellon, the business woman behind Jimmy Choo.
What do you need to succeed? Well, it simply isn't enough to have amazing designs - that is only a tiny part of a big jigsaw. You have to be able to sell these designs and manufacture them, deliver them on time. The quality has to be superb. The price has to be right. As a newcomer you cannot just go in there and charge £800 per pair. (Sorry!)
More often than not if you contact me I will suggest you do some further research first.
Put as much energy into a business plan as you do into your designs. Without a business plan and a vision for your company you will absolutely struggle.
Real life is not like the TV programme Dragons Den. The best order to do things in is business plan which you then use to get investment and once this is in place you can finally concentrate on designs. I know the design bit is the most exciting thing but from my 18 years in the shoe trade I know that with the best designs in the world, if you don't have the business acumen to back it up, you will fail, probably at the first hurdle.
You will need a lot of money to launch your own range. a few hundred won't do it, a few tens of thousands probably will. This is because you cannot expect to even break even until you have been in business for at least a couple of years. In the meantime, sales agents, shippers, the factory etc will all have to be paid.
I'm sure Tamara Mellon would agree with me when I say that, 'she isn't short of a bob or two!', the money she put into the Jimmy Choo company will have certainly helped oil the wheels of the business!
Until you have a business plan and some investment, then you may struggle to get a factory. Samples cost a factory alot of money to develop, far more than the charges that they bill to you. In other words they are investing in you. Unless they think you will give them reasonable orders, they will not want to be involved.
No factory will be interested if you only want to make 20 pairs of production. If we are talking sneakers, then it rises to about 5000 pairs per pattern. If you develop your own outsole, it jumps again to around 20,000 to 40,000 pairs. Its the only way they can recoup their investment in you as a business.
If none of this has put you off and you are willing to learn about business, then I wish you the very best of luck and I look forward to working with you in the future!