The fashion industry, just like any industry, is attempting to merge with technology at a fast rate. This combination has to be extremely functional, subtle and be something the consumer would potentially need in his/her daily life- that is simply what good design is all about, right?
The most common commingling of fashion and technology we've seen in recent years is various methods for charging your electronic devices, such as your tablet, smartphone, gaming systems directly from your clothing, without the extra need to carry cables or portable chargers with you. How do you do that? Using solar panels. Sounds like a great idea right? So why doesn't every jacket, dress and blouse have this useful technology installed already and why haven't we seen these items invade the market yet? The answer to this complex design problem is simple, and we'll go into some detail explaining why we think so bellow:
1. It Is Expensive
It really comes down to the price point. When you weigh the dollar amount to the need for the product it becomes not-worth-it to the consumer. In other words, as much as I like the concept, why would I spend over $500 for a regular clothing item that charges my phone when I can get a portable charger for $8 at the drug store. Yes, it will take some extra effort on my part to charge the device but it is a smarter purchase when you think about the odds of your phone loosing battery. In addition, there is huge competition with Apple's Iphone and other devices that have already introduced a Battery Save mode which works pretty well in maintaining your smartphone's battery throughout the day, minimizing the need for outside charging devices- and, it's technically free!
There is definitely a pricing issue with technology infused apparel and it is not the product designer's fault either- It's nobody's fault really. the problem is that we can't get discreet, solar panels at a reasonable wholesale cost yet, and the manufacturing cost of these clothing items is through the roof. By the time it gets to the consumer, the cost has tripled and many people cannot afford the luxury of purchasing an item as such.
2. It is not aesthetically and functionally easy to wear yet
If we're going to spend a lot on techno-apparel we want it to offer top-notch comfort and make us "look good" for lack of a better term. The fact that clothing should increase our confidence and be flattering will always be a reality as long as we remain human. This factor has proven to be true throughout history, it is today, and will be for as long as we wear clothing. The issue with solar panel clothing at the moment is that the need for larger panels creates a bulky, almost overly-futuristic look the average consumer is not yet comfortable wearing. We simply don't have the right developments to incorporate solar panel technology into apparel in a discreet, extremely functional way. For example, if we had access to a small chip technology that used solar energy to build enough power for charging our devices fully, and this chip technology would come at a reasonable cost, we would most likely see this used very often across the market. We are simply not there yet. Instead, we have to settle for the use of a larger solar panel surface in order to achieve full charge. As a result, we have to settle for heavier, bulkier, and less comfortable clothing.
3. Other industries can offer a more affordable, reachable solution
We mentioned the Battery Save mode on your smartphone as a solution for fixing the battery problem. This comes at an all-inclusive cost to the smartphone user, and in fact, works pretty well. There are also simple solar charging tablet and smartphone cases that also come at a reasonable cost and can actually get rid of the need to ever charge your phone by cable. Unfortunately for the solar apparel industry, the probability that these will be the norm for charging our devices in the near future is very high- the clothing industry simply cannot compete. It is very likely that unless tech science comes up with a very subtle but powerful solar charging method that can be incorporated into apparel at a low cost, the idea of charging your devices with your clothing is slowly going to be overtaken by other industries. That is not to say that the apparel industry can't bounce back with advancements in product design and customer satisfaction. In fact, the clothing industry can simplify and solve problems in the consumer's life by more mechanical means. For example, a good convertible clothing item that is comfortable and wearable can sometimes be a simple answer to a complex problem. Every industry has its own strengths and weakness, but the apparel industry will always have an upper hand in the art of textile use.
It is truly a challenge to maintain a good steady flow of income when you first open your clothing boutique. You've worked really hard on your vision and invested a good chunk of money in your dream, but getting lots of customers to walk through that door is easier said than done. Of course, location is everything, especially for a clothing boutique. Naturally, if your store is in an area with lots of foot traffic and locals love to shop at smaller specialized stores, you're in luck! You wont have to invest too much time in outside marketing, although you should always attempt to build a strong brand even with a good location. On the other hand, if your store is located in a town where boutique shopping is not a common practice and huge department stores take the lead, it will take a little while to get a following. Even with all your marketing efforts, you have to be very patient because they wont pay off right away. Sometimes it can take up to 3-5 years to really become established and build a strong, regular clientele.
We've put together a few ideas of some extra marketing steps (that will cost you little to no money) you could take to further advertise your store and increase word of mouth in your area.
1. Build google places and yelp profiles right away and encourage the customers that had a good shopping experience to write a good review for your store. As an extra thank you, you can do a free giveaway or offer a discount for the customers that write a review. Remember of course that the review should be genuine, so if you feel that one of your customers has truly had a pleasant experience in your store and found exactly what they were looking for, kindly mention how much a review would mean for a small, local business like yours. People love supporting small businesses in the community and they will most likely support your request. Google places is important for your online local listings. When someone searches for "clothing boutiques" or "gift shops" in your area, your store should be one of the names that pops up. It is no secret that customers are relying more heavily on the internet and you should use it to your advantage.
2. The Products you carry should be part of your marketing and advertising strategy.
You should think of every decision you make in your business as directly or indirectly affecting your store's reputation and advertising. We're not just talking about exceptional customer service but also the products you carry. You wont know what works well at the beginning so you should try different apparel styles, accessories, a good mix of gift products and see how your customers react. However, don't forget to stay organized and create a pleasant environment for every person that walks in. So where does the advertising come in? Well, once you find the brands or products that fit best with your customer base (you'll know what it is because they will buy it), about 60-70% of your inventory should be a similar assortment to what is proven to sell best: this will be the bread-and-butter of your boutique. The other 40-30% should be very unique products from new designers or experimental, innovative brands that will add a sense of discovery to your store (try the 11:11 Convertible Jacket, a jacket that transform into a bag). You should also replenish your assortment often so that people simply don't get bored. It is these innovative products that will keep your clients coming back to see more. Be consistent in adding new, unique products monthly. It will take some time, but eventually you will benefit from the positive word-of-mouth swarming around in your area. Your products and daily operations can eventually become a free form of marketing and advertising if you're passionate about your products and play your cards right.
3. Come up with a unique free gift or gadget that has your store logo and info on it and give it away for free at the register. Yes, this will take a bit of time and financial investment on your part but people love free stuff! We're not talking about giving away just anything... the trick here is a small, inexpensive object that could serve some sort of daily purpose for all customers. Surely you've seen many new restaurants already use this concept by giving away either branded match boxes or branded small bottle openers- whatever it is, customers wont throw it away and will always remember the business. Retail stores haven't been too keen on this idea but it actually is a goldmine for marketing over time. We suggest you start doing some research on what your giveaway product would be? Think of something small but useful that you can put your store logo and information on. Perhaps its a little stand for a smartphone, a small game, or maybe a unique wine cap... Do some research and see what you can find at a reasonable price (don't forget to buy these items wholesale in bulk). Once you've chosen your giveaway product, do some research on a local digital service that could get your info printed on every one of the items. Kindly, offer them to your customers once they have completed their purchase at the register. Not only will this help them remember your store, it is also a great way to add a personal touch to the conversation.
4. Team up with other businesses in your area and host an event at your store. In the small business world, small business owners should stick together. You should always be open to building a strong relationship with the small stores in your area, even if they sell a completely different product. You should also build a relationship with your local schools, yoga studios, gyms etc. Why? Because chances are, the customer that shops for clothing and accessories at your store is probably a regular at your local gym and buying food at the organic shop next door. If they have been in business longer than you have, they probably have a larger following. You should team up with the businesses in your community and brainstorm some mutually beneficial events you can host at your establishment merging the two industries you both cater to. For example, you can team up with the wine store across the street to host a wine tasting and fashion event at your store- offer a small discount for all new customers! Everyone will love the free wine and you'll get many new faces browsing your shelves at the same time. This of course takes some planning and dedication on your part. The first event is always the most nerve-raking but we promise, it will pay off in the long run by increasing your presence in the community.
It doesn't matter whether you own a small clothing boutique or a big department store, you should always be on the look out for something unique to offer your customers. It is true that often times in the clothing industry, it is difficult to find something that really stands out at a good price point. Clothing manufacturers are always attempting to reach the masses by focusing on more trendy, fast fashion markets while the indie brands offer innovative products that, due to manufacturing costs and low production minimums, are very expensive. So does a savvy store/boutique buyer like you do? Get a little creative. We understand the challenge of maintaining low costs while still offering top notch quality and innovation in the apparel industry. Although you already have your go-to brands that you know work with your customer-base, it is highly recommended that you bring in a new product(s) or a new brand(s) at least once a season. This not only adds freshens to your assortment, but it keeps the regular customer coming back to replenish your closet. If bringing in a new clothing line is too expensive because of their minimums or you simply can't afford the risk or don't have the space, we recommend bringing in one or two innovative products that will truly stand out (do this especially around the holiday season!). To make it just a bit easier for you, we've put together a list of 6 products you should consider carrying in your gift/clothing store or boutique this year!
The glow in the dark dress
Although this is a product for a younger audience, there is no reason why you shouldn't be able to sell them in a store that caters to the more mature woman- The key is to focus on the garment's quality and its style. Here's the thing, every woman attend events or goes out every now and then and needs a fun cocktail dress in her closet. This dress just takes it to the next level and if you're the girl that loves some (positive) attention, this is a must for you. The cool thing about this product is it can work both as a cocktail/night dress because of it's ability to come to life at night, as well as a more casual work dress (it only glows in the dark!) making it so easy to transition from day to night. It is fun and stands out, reminding us a bit of the technological influence taking over the fashion industry in the upcoming years. Anything that makes us literally glow is a winner for us!
The Garter Pocket
The Garter Pocket is perfect for the girl that isn't a huge fan of carrying her purse everywhere, especially when out grabbing a drink with friends (or out dancing!). It works with skirts and dresses and is subtle and sleek. This, logically, is not a product that you can use with pants. However, it's not something that you need when wearing pants anyways because most pants have pockets, where as dresses, not so much. It is also a product geared for the younger customer that enjoys going out and is smartphone-inseparable. If you're looking for something fun to offer your customers that wont break the bank yet make a good addition to any gift, we recommend this simple yet effective item.
The 11:11 Jacket: A jacket that transforms into a bag
One of our proud inventions, the 11:11 Jacket gives you the ability to transform your jacket into a fully functional bag during transitional weather. It is probably unlike any other convertible garment because it maintains its authentic look and function whether it's in bag or jacket form. The design is subtle yet its function is extremely effective. Unlike many other convertible clothing items on the market, the jacket is neither bulky nor too heavy, maintaining a traditional look with a revolutionary function. The transition steps are intuitive making it an easy product to sell to the masses. In a world where new convertible garments retail at over $400, the 11:11 Convertible Jacket is less than half that price!
These come from a company called SlapSee and it's a huge favorite of ours. It is not a secret we, at Doina Alexei, love functional design that is done well, and these awesome glasses fit the category perfectly. If you stop to think about all the instances we wear sun glasses and need to briefly take them off when we enter a building or the clouds move in temporarily, you will feel the need to own a pair. They transform from sunglasses to wrist band in just a couple of simple steps and come in both women's and men's styles. The secret is in the sprung steel arm of the sunglasses that literaly clips to your head and wont fall off- sheer perfection for any sporting activity. These flexible steel arms can then be claped to just about anything from hangers to bike bars to ankles and beyond. This is garanteed to be a well sought-after product in your gift or accessories boutique. Its highly funtional, universal nature will keep your customers coming back for more. Additional good news? They are affordable! Check them out at SlapSee
Yoga Work Pants
A must for every working woman. These are comfortable yet extremely flattering on any body-type and the good news is you can't tell they are made of the most deliciously stretchy and comfy knit fabric. Our winner when it comes to both quality and design is Betbrand- offering a collection of yoga work pants that will have everyone at the office fooled (in a good way!). The reason why we love Betbrand's work pants so much is first and foremost the attention to detail in their design process: They feature belt loops, a substantial waistband with a center button on the front, decorative faux welt pockets on the back and a v-shaped addition on the sides for added comfort and structure. They are the perfect imitation of work pants but because of the high content of spandex, they feel and stretch exactly like your favorite yoga pants.
The Flip Belt
This clever idea is a replacement for the traditional jogging/running arm-bands and pockets. It is a simple idea that has taken the active wear industry by storm with hundreds of retailers in the US in a short period of time. The Flip Belt is a stretchy and very durable tube-form belt that houses anything from your phone to keys, ID and wallet while keeping everything from moving around thus maintaining comfort. The construction and fabrication eliminates discomfort and chafing during physical activity, earning this product high points in our book. If you own an accessories, apparel and especially active wear store give this product a try- your customers will love it! Check it out Here
We often, if not always, find ourselves overwhelmed by our daily responsibilities. We carry so much stress and emotional weight with us each day, that unknowingly we hinder our success and ability to live a happy life. The saying "these mountains you are carrying, you were only supposed to climb" is true for every single one of us. Why do we allow our negative thinking to take full control of every aspect of our lives, and why is it so difficult to let go of it? Yes, we each experience heartache, financial stress and social pressures, but how do we stop them from completely taking over? The key to happiness is acceptance and living in the "now", but putting this plan into action is much more difficult than it sounds. It is human nature to be lost in thought and it is not easy to escape when everywhere you turn you are confronted by the hectic realities of life. That is not to say that true happiness is impossible to attain- start your journey to an emotional cleanse by simply taking a few days off and spending them in nature, far away from the sounds of the bustling city. Here are three things that you'll learn at the hands of mother nature:
There is something so much more powerful than what we are.
Do you ever think about how small we actually are? Think about the Universe and the size of our planet in relation to it- In the big spectrum of things we are quite unimportant, aren't we? That means that all our problems and especially our habit of blowing them out of proportion are also not as important after all. The lesson here is to look at the bigger picture, the vastness that surrounds us and teaches us that the problems that eat at us every day are negligible in size and meaning when compared to the infinite space around us.
There is a more meaningful (and powerful) life outside of work and responsibilities.
The truth is, if you don't allow yourself to have a life outside of work and your daily responsibilities, be it with your thinking patterns or physically, you get burnt out quite quickly and end up hurting both your health and your ability to ultimately maintain a quality work flow. When you retreat into nature it allows you to escape and recharge- after all, we are a product of nature and it is nature itself that can give us the energy that is the best for our mental and physical health. When you're surrounded by fresh air and the powerful sound of other living things around you, you realize that taking a moment to just breath and re-center will allow you to re-charge and see things clearer.
You can simplify your life.
Spending a few days in nature will prove that the simplest things in life are actually the most powerful. We spend probably about 80% of our lives worrying and thinking about things that, in reality, don't matter in the end. There is a great saying: "If it won't matter in 5 years, don't spend longer than 5 minutes worrying about it" - Unfortunately, the opposite is true for how we normally live our lives. When you observe the patterns of nature, you come to realize that all other living things grow and change along with their natural environment. Plants and animals adjust to weather patterns, and learn how to go with the flow. It is us humans that try to control nature (which is impossible to do by the way), to transform it into something that could benefit our material gain or simply disregard it. When you spent some time in the massive presence of a purely natural environment, you realize that it's unlimited power has the ability to overwhelm you in the best kind of way.
Take a deep breath, stop worrying, and plan a few days in nature- it is the most affordable yet best investment in your well-being!
We are now in the age of innovation- We are pushing the limits of technology and everyday you hear of a product or innovation you didn't even think could be possible. Every industry is now merging with some aspect of technology. Manufactures and designers are attempting to find ways to facilitate the consumer's life and get the most use out of every new product. Of course, the fashion industry is just as much affected by this massive surge in technology and smaller apparel companies along with bigger corporations are adopting a technological approach when designing for the future.
We've seen many apparel brands attempt convertible clothing, but there are a few reasons why we still don't see them on the shelves of big department stores: Curious to find out why? From the experience of designing and manufacturing our own convertible jacket to bag, the 11:11 Jacket, we'll tell you a little about the challenges convertible clothing faces both in the design and manufacturing process and in the final stages of distribution and customer satisfaction.
A good convertible garment starts with one important factor: The idea can be grand but the way it operates has to be extremely simple. It has to look and feel like what the consumer is already comfortable with. The hardware and elements used to make the conversion have to be simple and subtle as to not completely intimidate the consumer. It is here where many designers go wrong- they think in terms of their unlimited imagination and too much into the future. The final product then becomes something that we love to look at but we have a hard time using or wearing. Unfortunately, we can't look that far into the future, we have to lower the radius a little and take it step by step until more is revealed to us.
Along with too much ambition comes the need to make things as complex as possible- A dress that turns into 20 different styles is a great idea in theory but when it comes to the use of it, it becomes too complicated for the user. It is also something that is not easy to sell in retail. If, as the designer, you are the only one that can easily convert it to all the different styles and your potential retail partners can't, you will have a very difficult time getting this item into stores. Again, simplicity is key- every single person that gets their hands on your product should be able to easily use it to it's fullest potential. It is much better to have maybe 1 or 2 simple-to-use but effective conversions then a dozen options that are confusing to attain. We'll use the 11:11 Jacket as an example: It has only two conversions but both function well, are easy to transition, and look and feel authentic whether in bag or jacket form.
Another aspect of designing good convertible clothing is the use of trims and hardware. Not enough attention is paid to minimizing bulk and weight. If you're using hardware designed for heavy duty luggage for example, it might weigh down your clothing item and turn the consumer away from using it. When designing convertible apparel one should stick to hardware that is limited to the apparel industry- stay away from heavy duty trims and add only the necessary- Simplicity remember? Same goes for the use of too many large pockets that add bulk. We get it, you're trying to increase functionality but you are risking adding too much bulk and ruin the wearability and aesthetics of a clothing item (especially in women's wear). Your potential customer might shy away from wearing something with too many pockets and additions that jeopardize the flattering aspect of a garment. After all, clothing should make us feel confident, beautiful and maintain a constant level of ease and comfort.
Ah.. We've finally come to the most important- the bottom line. Cost is an important key factor for why we still don't see many convertible garments getting mass distribution. A retailer can admire your item for its innovative spirit and interesting design, but if its retail price falls between $350-900, it will be very difficult to sell a significant quantity of it. It is also a higher initial investment on the part of the store, which makes it a more risky product. That being said, it is very expensive to manufacture something that is complex. If your item requires many elements that must be pieced together in a complicated way, the cost will be through the roof especially if it's made in the USA. Striking the right balance of functionality and simplicity will maintain a lower cost and make your product more reachable by the masses, which is every company's goal when launching a product.
Learn more about the convertible jacket-to-bag
A journey into our design process, sewing tutorials, fashion tips, and all the inspiring people and things we love.
Today, allow yourself a few moments to explore and feel inspired because everyday is an opportunity to learn something new. Never stop searching for what makes you truly happy.