Have you ever struggled to narrow down your own design ideas or been unsure where to invest in your business for the best results? Designing beautiful, well fitting, and well made clothing isn’t easy, but if you aren’t getting inspiration from your customer, her challenges, and what she values, you are making it harder for yourself than it needs to be. Understanding as much as you can about your ideal customer is a crucial part of fashion business. If you are not clear on who you are designing for, you can’t prioritize your design ideas or your budget well.
Be clear on who you are designing for
I talk a lot about understanding your customer because it truly affects every aspect of your business and helps you make better, more sustainable, and more profitable decisions. Just like it would be hard to write a maid of honor speech for a bride you didn’t know, or hard to pack for a trip if you didn’t know where you were going, it is hard to make clothes when you don’t know who will be wearing them. So much about the garment is based on who it is made for – including the size, fit, fabric, and overall design.
Clothing solves a problem or fulfills a desire for the wearer. It is functional as well as beautiful. When you don’t have a clear understanding of who will be wearing your design, it is difficult to solve any specific problem. Unless you know who you are designing for, you may not even know what problems or desires she has. The design may be pretty on paper, but no one will be rushing out to buy it from you. If you are struggling to work out your designs or narrow down your ideas, it may be helpful to do more customer research first.
Don’t overcomplicate your solution
Overdesigning stems from a lack of focus and clarity. Without a clear target customer in mind, there are no guide rails to steer your design in the right direction. You may have a million design ideas that all seem equally good if you don’t have a goal for the design or collection. When you do know your customer and what problem you want to solve for her, it is much easier to weed out concepts that don’t solve that problem in an elegantly simple way.
It is also easier to get feedback on your design and test the market when you are clear on the problem you solve for your customer. You will know who to ask for feedback and whose opinion does and does not matter. A design without focus that tries to please everyone will look chaotic and confusing. Unnecessary details will also cost more to produce without adding any value to the final product.
When you know who you are designing for, you won’t be tempted to add that detail that your sister-in-law suggested, or change that thing that your mom’s best friend would change, or keep that design that the lady behind you in line to get coffee liked if those people aren’t your target customer. Trying to solve every problem for everybody in one design will end up not being the perfect fit for anyone. Staying focused on your customer and on the problem you want to solve with your design will keep your design functional, beautiful, and elegantly simple enough for your ideal customer to immediately see its value. Overdesigning is confusing, complicated, and costly.
Splurge on what is important to your customer; save on the things she doesn’t care about
A clear understanding of your customer and her challenges will help you budget. You will know what areas to invest in and what areas you can save money on. You’ll be able to spend your money where it provides the most value to your customer at the lowest cost to you.The clarity of knowing your customer will keep you from wasting money on things that your customer doesn’t even want.
For example, say you are spending money on pretty packaging that includes branded tissue paper wrapped around the garment with a cute bow for every order. It looks beautiful, but maybe your customer cares a lot about the environment and would actually be more impressed by more minimal packaging that doesn’t leave so many components in the trash or recycling bin. If you know this about your customer, you can align with and serve her better by removing the extra pretty packaging – which also will save you money. You can then invest that money you saved on packaging in something she does care about – mabe higher quality materials so the garment lasts longer, or a garment recycling program for its end of life.
Understanding your customer shows you where to spend your budget wisely. You can cut the unnecessary or overcomplicated things from your product or business and invest instead in areas that have a bigger positive impact.
Understanding your customer means you can solve her problems in the simplest way possible without overdesigning and overpaying for unnecessary features or details. Simple doesn’t have to mean basic. It can still be a detailed solution, but it is the simplest solution that works and makes sense to the customer. When you know your customer, it will be the guide rail that keeps the design and budget focused on what matters while giving you the freedom to create within it.