This is a business.  Most people think that fashion and clothing design is all glamour.  It can empower you, it might bring new friends, and you do get to be creative in coming up with new wares.  Take some things from your mother and your grandmother, and change them and get them into stores. 

A young woman sports the Retribution hoodie at one of their recent events

Starting a new line is about glamour.  Most lines don’t survive past their first season.  You need suppliers, distribution.  You have to market, shake hands, smile, and glug down a lot of drinks.

The toughest part of the business is not actually getting the clothes into the store; it’s getting the customer to go in and buy your particular product.  When that happens, the store can re-order your product, and at that point, you know you’ve begun to do something right.

Make your brand a household name.  We performed well in some of the stores to which we shipped, and in other stores: bumpkis.  At Kitson, for instance, we’ve become a household name.  On the other hand, M.  Fredrick—only five miles away—blew our line: they didn’t know how to merchandise it correctly, and so it failed. 

From the outside, everything seems cool.  There are housewives this very moment sitting in their mansions, bored, thinking, “I have some time to spare…let’s make a clothing line!  And, at the same time, I can prove to my husband that I’m actually capable, too!”

It takes work.  You have to get your ass into Compton; you have to deal with Mexicans who don’t speak English and are probably here illegally, and government agencies sniffing down your neck.  As many headaches as they create, the reality is that these are the people who are going to physically produce your clothes.  And if you don’t respect them, you will fail.

There are minimums you have to meet.  If you have no experience in the business, and you have children at home who need caring, and you only have spare hours to put into this venture, you will more than likely fall on your ass, regardless of the amounts of money you have to invest.  Even the brands that do get a lot of attention risk failing because of overexposure.   

The Retribution Clothing boys, Omid (left) and Amir (right)

Our goal is to make a product that will be identified by the public as a specific brand.  You have to start with high-end boutiques, celebrity clientele; there’s literally a formula to follow.  As with cooking, all the essential ingredients must be added at the right moments.  The fire is the marketing.  The timing must be correct.   

Everyone’s goal is to go from Kitson to Barney’s to Neiman’s to Macy’s and then to Bloomingdale’s.  After that, it’s off to Wal-Mart, because the masses make you money.  Neiman’s and the stores before there are great, but you don’t make any money in that phase.  My partner and I started with nothing.  No experience or money, just dedication and heart.  Private labels only make real money selling to the majors: Macy’s, Target, K-Mart.

Mass production means more risk, requires more money for labor, more experience, and less room for error.  The mega-chain Target has a bible three-hundred pages thick, detailing the specifics of how they want your product delivered.  You must follow this rubric or your order can be ruined, and you might get stuck with a million dollars worth of product.  If you’re big enough, you can survive that kind of hit; if you’re not, you go under, and the only phone calls you’ll be receiving are from the creditors.

This market is a launching pad.  We keep our quantities low.  We move thousands of units per skew.  Again, overexposure and expansion can very easily cripple your line, as with any company.  Manage your cash flow.  Try to pay everyone on time (even though you may not always be able to do so).  The fun, the glamour?  You don’t get to taste it yet.  It’s a lucky day if I can go to the gym and actually sit down for dinner before passing out with a bottle of wine on my couch.

Everything is about exposure.  Because of my position, I was able to get into good stores, where they support the line and me.  The buyers actually push my line.  Every picture taken with a celebrity like Lindsay Lohan wearing your product yields a certain amount of sales.  When kids see their favorite celebs wearing your clothing, they want to know where to go get it. 

The fashion industry, perhaps more than any other, is about the quick and the dead.  There is no room for hesitation here.  Good luck…