Alex McLeod has years of fashion industry experience; she’s worked with some of Australia’s leading fashion brands and national commercial businesses, and after working in a corporate environment, she knows how a well-oiled label operates.
When Alex decided to leave the corporate fashion world and launch her own label though, she found herself challenged by the task. Industry experience is one thing, but when it comes to starting and scaling your own business, it’s an entirely different ballgame, and Alex recognised she needed to seek external help.
What industry experience do you have?
I come from a corporate fashion and commercial design background, and when I decided to go into business for myself, I was craving one on one time with a consultant who really understood the fashion industry. I had mentors who were experienced in finance, branding and marketing, but I had no one who really knew the ins and outs of running a fashion business. The ‘fashion business’ is a unique beast, and you need a lot of support in so many different areas, from production and design development, to finance, marketing and sales. You need support, guidance and mentoring from people who understand the industry – it’s absolutely key to your business’ success. After coming from a large team, I missed that kind of support; bouncing ideas off each other, culling concepts, discussing colours and trends. I’d worked in the industry, but it didn’t necessarily mean I was ready to launch my own business by myself.
How do you define ‘smart business’?
Smart business is knowing your strengths and weaknesses, and making sure you have a strong support network. Find a business mentor that you click with, and get one on one consultations. Working with Elizabeth at Fashion Equipped has enabled me to think outside the box, and it’s helped me to think about categories that I might not have otherwise considered, such as accessories. Working with Elizabeth and Manuela, who specialises in Product Development and Sourcing, has pushed me to think about different design aspects, different proportions, and it’s pushed me in areas I might not have pushed myself. Having a mentor has become the business team that I was so used to having around, so we’ve been able to thrash out ideas about collaborations with different artists, about people who can support the story of the brand, through textiles or through branding or through both.
“My number one tip for entrepreneurs is to find a mentor like Elizabeth that you can connect with, and really build a strong support network.”
What struggles have you faced launching a business by yourself?
I struggle to meet deadlines; when you’re accountable to only yourself, you tend to let things slip over to the next day, but working with Elizbeth and her team has helped me meet deadlines and stick to my business plan. In my previous working environment, I had a team that I’d meet with regularly to sign off the development process, but when you go out on your own, you don’t have that. When you have someone you have to report to, you tend to be more organised, it keeps you to a deadline, and it helps you to progress further, faster. Elizabeth has been my consultant, but she’s also been someone to talk to, someone to discuss the highs and lows with, and someone to bin the ideas that really need to be thrown out.
What’s your top tip for launching a fashion business?
Get a mentor from day one. The guidance, reassurance and support that a mentor or consultant can offer are invaluable. Elizabeth and Manuela have helped to manage everything from my communication with suppliers and sending them briefs, to developing my range plans and establishing industry relationships. Making use of the support that’s out there from businesses liked Fashion Equipped, has really helped my business to move forward and it’s given me the reassurance to progress into the next phase of selling my product. I feel so much more supported and confident to just go for it!
Alex McLeod is in the process of building her fashion business, and we’ll be following her journey on the blog – so stay tuned!