Published: February 20, 2023 Updated: February 20, 2023 4 min read
Today we are going to really narrow in on your target customer, brand values, and product offering.
I remember when I first started virtue + vice. I had what I like to call ABC Home + Carpet syndrome. I walked into the store and saw all these dresses that were made in India, that I knew only cost about $30 to make being sold for something like $500. Their target audience was basically anyone with money to spend on well-curated cheaply made stuff – and I wanted in on it.
But, what I learned was that it wasn’t that simple. I tried to be appealing to everyone and in the end connected with no one. So, I went back to the drawing board and narrowed in, and then narrowed in some more. And, that’s when I saw success.
And, today I am going to share with you the exact exercise I did, and many of the most successful brands I work with do.
Let’s use the example of sustainable athleisure made out of recycled water bottles. Because I get so many inquiries about that niche.
Here we go.
First, we need to narrow in on our customer. So let’s say women aged 25-35 who love working out, and also love to wear workout clothes in their everyday life too.
But we need to get more specific than that.
I’m a runner, and run almost every day. So, I would like to create my leggings for running specifically.
But, I think we can get even more specific about who this line is for. And, to do that, the first question you need to ask yourself is, what problem is my product solving. Now, my gut reaction was to say, cool clothing for women that like to run – but as I said that out loud I can literally hear how generic and blah that sounds.
So, what is a real problem that I have with my workout clothes? Well, they always get really smelly. Even after I wash them a million times.
And, from that problem, I thought, why not create workout clothes for women like me who like to run, and are frustrated with their best leggings getting stinky.
Now that we have a super-specific customer in mind, not all women, not all women that like sports, not all women that wear leggings to brunch – but specifically women who run that don’t like their leggings getting smelly. We can move on to step 2, our core values.
So, off the top of my head, I obviously want all the things - the most eco-friendly fabrics, a nice factory with amazing working conditions and certifications, all of my processes and partners to be using renewable energy sources, and a supply chain that creates the lowest possible carbon footprint.
Here’s the thing. If you try to focus on everything and be a “perfect” sustainable fashion brand, you will never get anything done. Because the truth is, it’s impossible to be perfect to everyone, so you need to be perfect for you.
To do that you need to decide what you care about the most.
Choose just one thing on your big laundry list of eco things. And, then make sure you know everything there is to know about that one thing and can implement it perfectly into your brand.
For me, because I went to school for textiles, this brand is going to be all about finding the best fabrics possible.
Do I want my suppliers to use renewable resources?
Do I care about how workers are treated?
But for now, the one thing I am going to focus on is getting the best fabrics possible.
Ok. Now that we know who our customer is, and what is important to us. We can finally start working on step 3, our product. For me, it is going to be all about doing fabric research. Now, if I was creating a brand that was focused on labor issues. My research would be totally different.
So, for my textile deep dive, I really wanted to address the funky smell leggings get.
That smell is actually from polyester. Polyester creates the perfect breeding ground for bacteria, that is because polyester is hydrophobic and oleophilic. Meaning, it hates water and loves oil (there is lots of oil in sweat). So, it’s the perfect place for stinky oils to get trapped, and then the fabric becomes hard to clean because it hates water, so the washing machine doesn’t do much good.
What a killer combo.
But, cotton doesn’t have that problem. Cotton cleans really easily. The only problem with cotton is that it can feel really heavy when you sweat. That is because it absorbs water really well, but then it holds onto it.
So, I am left with the new problem of wanting to use cotton, but not wanting to decrease my pants performance. After doing a little more research I learned about a fabric from Cotton Inc called Wicking Windows. It’s a fully cotton fabric that is designed to help move moisture away from the body to the surface of the fabric where it can quickly evaporate. Leaving the wearer feeling cool and dry.
Now, that’s the stuff. No smell, and work out friendly.
So, do you see how by narrowing in on the customer and their problem, my brand values, and then finally the product I was able to go from saying I want to create cool workout clothes from sustainable materials for women to… I want to create workout clothes for women that are made from natural cotton, don’t get stinky, and perform just as well as polyester.
Now it’s your turn. Use today's workbook page to help you get super focused. Then get ready for day two tomorrow.
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I have spent over a decade living and working in fashion factories, seeing firsthand how clothing is made.
And now, I want to share with you everything I know. To help you navigate supply chains, and launch your own conscious clothing brand.
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