7 Top Designers Give Their Best Business Advice

Benjamin Fitzgerald

The Business of Fashion interviewed seven top (yet relatively new) designers in the fashion industry who have unquestionably established themselves as an operational business.

Yes, starting a fashion business takes time (as well as talent and copious amounts of hard work). But according to the magnificent seven, it can be done. Things like staying true to yourself, patience and finding a partner "in crime" help.

Christopher Kane - Be true to yourself

“Don’t be something that you’re not. Do something else if you don’t want to be that big designer. It’s okay to dream, but realise what you’re good at and really focus on that. Like Louise Wilson said, there’s always someone better than you. It’s just human nature. So really work with what you have and prevail at what you’re good at, but don’t try to do everything because you’ll burn out.”

Phillip Lim - Use the power of creativity

“Here’s the biggest lesson I’ve come to realise. Creativity is not sequestered to artistic ventures. You actually use the energy and the power of creativity to create business — to think about what you’re making. You try and communicate with what you create, right? So imagine if you didn’t just put it in a creative box — take that energy of creativity and create a business dialogue. Creativity creates business, but business affords creativity. That’s my simple philosophy: you have to have both.”

Alexander Wang - Find clarity

“Having clarity. Knowing what you want. You don’t have to know how exactly to get there, but if you know exactly what you want, I think you figure out putting together the puzzle pieces and the layers. You figure out the journey, but you have to know what you want.”

Erdem Moralıoğlu - Be patient

"I think an important lesson is patience and understanding that growing at a slower pace is good — not to get too big too quickly. I think patience is important because you can control things. You can control how your product is made, you can control how what you do is sold. I think all of those things that are so important to get right from the beginning require patience. Understanding that controlled growth is a good thing."

Nicholas Kirkwood - Find a partner in crime

“Don’t start up alone. You need a partner in crime: someone who will invest the same blood, sweat and tears as you; a sounding board for ideas; someone you can implicitly trust. This is more than simply an employee. They need to be a partner, whether that is a co-designer or someone who looks over another aspect of the business. Getting a business off the ground is not easy and virtually anyone who has ever made it has had this person by their side. Not that it’s impossible without, but you run the risk of exhaustion and even loneliness without someone who truly lives it.”

Peter Pilotto - Define your signature

“Create a signature style that is recognizable but also plays to your strengths as a designer. It is important to build a vocabulary that runs deep throughout the brand.”

Thakoon Panichgul - Don't seek fame

“Ask yourself: Do you want be famous or do you want to be a designer? Be honest with your answer, and if you really want to be a designer — and nothing else will satisfy — then you will probably make it. If you want to be famous, hope for a lot of people and money to be at the ready to support the cause!”