Boom or bust: The challenges of launching a fashion label today
House of Slay Credits: Image: CFDA

Boom or bust: The challenges of launching a fashion label today

Business Fashion

A handful of respected and previously successful brands, including Mara Hoffman, Dion Lee, and The Vampire’s Wife, have recently ceased operations. Their struggles underscore the formidable challenges faced by independent fashion designers in today’s market. Competing against well-oiled conglomerates, the market is saturated with brands and products that often mirror what smaller designers offer. Without the backing of larger retailers—many of whom, like Matches and Farfetch, are struggling themselves—the outlook appears bleak, with little chance of respite. The pressing question remains: why would anyone in 2024 want to launch a fashion label given the high risk of failure and myriad challenges?

The lack of support, structure, and high financial barriers are significant obstacles for today’s young designers. Fashion schools often fail to teach the essential business fundamentals required for production, marketing, sales, and growth strategy. No brand aspires to tread water for a decade, yet many never progress beyond the sink-or-swim stage to truly reap rewards.

The fashion industry is fiercely competitive, with a high failure rate for new businesses. Many new labels struggle to gain traction and visibility amidst established brands. Starting a fashion label necessitates substantial upfront investment in design, production, marketing, and distribution. Managing cash flow is challenging, especially when navigating production cycles, inventory management, and fluctuating sales. Additionally, establishing and maintaining a reliable supply chain is complex, involving sourcing materials, managing production timelines, and ensuring quality control. Finding a factory willing to produce small quantities of garments at reasonable prices is akin to finding a needle in a haystack. Marketing is another significant cost. Unless a brand is picked up by a celebrity, building brand awareness and a loyal customer base requires consistent and often costly marketing efforts.