Another question the Fashionista team is often asked, mostly by design students, is: "What does it take to launch my own label?"
Well, it takes a lot of hard work, talent, and yes...money.
The big problem: There aren't a ton of investors willing to put down cash on a new designer. As one serial investor once explained to me, "Fashion is a risky business. But it's not as sexy as film. Sometimes, people are lured by the glamor, but in general, the return on investment is so unlikely, most aren't willing to take the risk." In the movies, on the other hand, investors will still probably get to hang out with the star--even if the film doesn't make any real bank.
So what's a young designer to do? Working for a bigger label is always an option. Adam Lippes worked at Polo Ralph Lauren for years before launching his own label. Chris Benz worked at J.Crew. Richard Chai worked at Marc Jacobs and Donna Karan.
Loans from friends and family always help, but we understand that's not viable for most.
Another way to do it? Get one of the few investors who do spend money on younger brands to notice you. Now, we're not advocating knocking down these people's doors. And you're probably going to have to come up with your own money to establish the company initially. But doing good work and networking should get you closer to your goal. Here are 10 companies/people known for investing in younger brands.
1. Andrew Rosen The Theory founder and CEO is also an investor in Alice & Olivia, Rag & Bone, and Helmut Lang. He invests publicly and privately in brands.
2. Marvin Traub, Marvin Traub Associates While Traub, best known for his years at Bloomingdale's, mostly consults for big companies, he is also a partial investor in brands like Rachel Roy and Matthew Williamson. (Sources say that at this moment, Traub is not looking to invest in more labels. But who knows what 2011 will bring.)
3. Sage LLC This Los Angeles-based private equity firm invests in small to mid-market labels. (Since this is L.A., that means lots of denim.) These are the people you reach out to when you've built a successful business and want to take it a step further.
4. J Christopher Capital This private equity firm is currently invested in Tory Burch, as well as non-fashion brands like Jawbone. 5. Ramez Toubassy, Brand Sense Partners This firm mostly does brand consulting for big corporations, but it recently invested in a few fashion and lifestyle companies, including label Canvas and Tribe.
6. Serge Azria Azria backs trouser label Joie; more recently he has invested in the relaunched Equipment (shown on Carine, left), as well as Current Elliott.
7. Jeffrey Aronsson, Aronsson Group In the past, former Donna Karan CEO Aronsson has invested in Ginny H.--Ginny Hilfiger's collection. (She's the sister of Tommy Hilfiger.) He also partnered with Traub to invest in Matthew Williamson and Rachel Roy.
8. Seventh Capital This New York-based investment firm's main focus is small and mid-sized companies. The interest is in e-commerce, so if you're not a designer but have an idea for an online retailer, or if you sell your goods primarily on the web, it might be worth looking into.
9. Permira This London-based private equity firm picked up the Valentino Fashion Group a few years ago, along with Proenza Schouler, but have had difficulty selling off both.
10. Bartel Family This European family made its fortune off of a travel website, but now it's making loftier investments. First up? Lanvin and Devi Kroell. Who's next? Who knows....