While we are going through these unprecedented times caused by Covid-19, many fashion start-ups and independent fashion brands might be thinking about how the industry will change and what the future of the fashion industry be in future.
> This interview was published at Estila Magazine <
Today I’m talking to Dessy Tsolova from Fashion Insiders & Co about her experiences and knowledge of the industry. I’m also asking her to share her opinions on the future of the fashion industry?
1. Can you take us back and tell us more about how you got into the fashion world and your journey so far?
The fashion industry and I were destined to meet and be in each other’s lives. Growing close to my grandparents back in Bulgaria, I was 3 when I was taught by one how to crochet and cross-stitch embroider by the other. By the age of 9, I made my first outfit – a simple top and a skirt. Growing up – making, sewing and embroidering was a passion and something I wanted to do “when I grew up”. After getting a “proper” degree in politics and economics, I put myself through a fashion and business degree and one of the many unpaid internships did as a student-led to my first design assistant job. That first job was for a small brand that was recovering from almost closing down from the late 1990’s recession and there were only 4 of us doing everything.
I learnt so much and from there I moved on to Burberry, which opened many more possibilities. After 15 years of skipping from one brand to another and growing my experience and career in the luxury sector of the fashion industry, managing designers and the creative process from design, development to manufacturing, I had a chance to work on a new project. I founded and launched the first global manufacturing directory and platform – Utelier. For over six years we were the go-to online platform for brands and entrepreneurs to connect to manufacturers and initiate working partnerships. But the online tech world is a harsh place for creatives and a point came where it was wise for me to exit that venture and realign with my passion and vision.
My current platform – Fashion Insiders & Co(mmunity) is an online platform supporting fashion entrepreneurs and brands looking to launch, grow and scale successful businesses. We offer business and strategy consulting and mentoring as well as a variety of online courses and education. All my years of knowledge, skill and know-how is poured into and made accessible via our portal.
2. Obviously the fashion industry has changed a lot. What have you noticed as one of the biggest changes?
The biggest positive and negative change has been the democratisation of fashion that technology and social media instigated. While it has allowed for greater inclusivity, it also means that everyone literally can launch a brand. Great ideas stopped being a benchmark for success and oversaturation has eroded our values as consumers. The hamster wheel most creatives and entrepreneurs find themselves in – is/was crushing and senseless. Until just recently the industry had begun to resemble one of those kids’ “merry go rounds” where after a while you can’t tell who is who and everything is spinning and looks the same. It wasn’t sustainable and perhaps it is time to slow it back down.
3. What do you think is wrong within the industry now and how do you think the Covid-19 crisis will influence the progress of it?
So, I have high hopes for the industry. This surprising turn of events has taken everyone by surprise and in some ways it is good. Everyone has the same chance of reinvention and survival. Only the fittest will survive and that is not determined by the size of the brand or revenue. I think the impact will be long-lasting and transformational – IF we want it to be. For the first time in all our lives, we have the chance to be part of a change for the better of the industry, us as creatives and the planet. But we have to activate our voices and walk the talk. For instance – brands must resource their supply chain and get to know their businesses better in order to find the right new balance in terms of sourcing and manufacturing.
In terms of retail – anyone who complained about and was against “fast fashion” can now vote with their wallet if they should continue to exist or not. Current despicable behaviour of so many brands have exposed their real values and if we forget now and continue to shop with them – we must stop complaining in the future. Selling season and marketing is also changing to a softer format. A sense of more feminine energy is being ushered into the industry and that can only be a good thing. So I am very optimistic – many of the changes we will see I believe have been on the cards for a long time but no one was brave enough to be the first and instigate a positive change. Now it’s out of our hands. But we must make sure that we don’t squander the opportunity to change what we have control over.
4. You work a lot with fashion start-ups, what do you see they are doing right and what do they do wrong?
There are many common mistakes that are repeatedly being made by start-ups and more established brands also. Most could fit under the category of “putting the cart before the horse”. In other words – designing and making products that have not been validated and lack the product/market fit, designing with no particular ideal customer in mind, designing with no price idea in mind, picking the wrong manufacturer because of all the previously mentioned mistakes, launching without a clear message, marketing and plan…..the mistakes are endless and all easily preventable if only more common sense was used and creatives were willing to look for professional support and help.
I also see a real mindset issue going on which rarely, if at all, is addressed in the industry. Very often, in the work I do with clients, and even via our online programmes, it is the mind shifts we make that create the biggest change.
But the one good thing that may come out of this current economic downturn is that many will have to rethink how they execute and position their brands and scale back on the wasteful activities. This new more mindful way of doing business is essential and should have been the modus-operandi until now, but at least going forward we will hopefully see more of it.
5. Looking into the future a bit more, how do you think fashion brands can get prepared for the upcoming and unavoidable changes both in consumer behaviour as well as the industry as a whole? What is the future of fashion?
I believe all brands need to look internally into themselves and their businesses. Many brands are badly run and really and truly fall under the category as “hobby”. That leads to stress and financial pressure which in turn results into knee jerk actions and bad decisions. I believe the short to medium term future will be great for small to medium and independent brands and businesses. But all business owners will have to be resourceful and think about how they can generate multiple income streams that may or may not all come from the brand they have.
All businesses but especially the creative ones and those in fashion must:
Reframe how they think and see their brands.
Repackage their products to fit the new sensitivity of the current climate, the economic downturn and general public mindset
Reposition their brands to the current time. This may mean they have to amplify certain aspects of their business and tone down others. It may mean “shouting” louder about their values and positioning themselves as “painkillers” or “vitamins” – both much needed by consumers.