Fashion designer

How to Become a Fashion Designer Career Path Tips

Welcome to self-taught stories! We’re partnering with Office Depot to spotlight emerging entrepreneurs in our Selfmade virtual business course. This week, we chat with the creative force behind Shop SIGAL, an ethically designed resort clothing line. Miami-based designer and founder Sigal Cohen shares her tips for marketing her brand online and offline.

B+C: What prompted you to launch Shop SIGAL?

I’ve always been inspired by color, bold graphics and fashion. I moved from Venezuela to Miami in 2010. After living here for 5 years, I realized that there was no real signature brand embodying the Miami lifestyle like there was in Versace era of the 90s. I felt there was this incredible opportunity to create fashion that would represent Miami in a new way, and I decided to do so by translating my passion for graphic and textile design into clothes. I also wanted to create a brand that would empower women to be authentic, bold, and unashamedly stand out. I wanted to encourage women to express themselves through fashion, playing with patterns, mixing unpredictable color palettes and prints.

B + C: What problem were you trying to solve?

After 5 years of working in fashion, I saw a space for a bold and dynamic brand that would tell the story of Miami, but I had seen with my own eyes how the fashion industry, in particular with respect to colored printed materials, can be detrimental. to the environment.

I set out to design a collection that would embody the Art Deco, multicultural Miami – i.e. resort and metropolis. Shop SIGAL fuses tropical-inspired maximalist textile prints with timeless silhouettes, but does so with ethical processes and sustainable manufacturing.

B + C: Have you always had a passion for fashion?

Yes I have. When I was little, I spent hours making collages with Good morning! magazines. Fashion was so over the top in the 90s, so much fun. I always knew I wanted to be a designer, but I had always convinced myself that I could never be a fashion designer because I didn’t come from a fashion background. I was intimidated by designers who had spent their childhood making clothes and learning to sew; I have always seen fashion as this inaccessible place. I chose to train as a graphic designer and visual communicator, and later realized that I could naturally transition into textiles, and became a fashion designer working as such.

B+C: What startup challenges did you encounter along the way?

The biggest challenge is that I design for other brands so I can launch my own. Having a fashion brand requires a huge investment and I didn’t have a lot of money to start with. It’s like having two jobs, really. Another challenge was reaching an audience. There is so much competition in fashion; it’s easier to get a brand off the ground, but harder in the noise it takes to reach a large audience, to make it a viable business. Also, finding the right manufacturing partners was a huge effort. There are so many things that need to work out to build this relationship. From their ethics and values ​​as companies, the materials and processes they use, the way they treat their workers, to the quality of the product they are able to manufacture.

B + C: What strategies have helped you overcome these obstacles?

Investing in my brand image has been huge. At first, having a small budget, I hired friends to be the models for my photo shoots and I did the styling myself. Everything looked artistic but not very commercial. As soon as I started investing more in professional teams that would create my social media campaigns and assets, with professional models, photographers, and stylists, and hired strategy consultants who helped me fine-tune the story and DNA of my brand, the brand has been elevated to a whole new level. Investing in paid advertising has also completely boosted my business, especially during the pandemic. Once I started taking more risk and investing more, I started seeing the return on investment. At that time, I also had the right assets to use for advertising (photos, videos) that were visually appealing and got customers engaged. Everything works in tandem. And when it comes to makers, it’s all trial and error, one place takes you to the next and as you go you have to be able to adjust and learn from your mistakes to grow. Visiting overseas factories is essential as well as hiring people on the ground to oversee development and production. In short: Investing in key areas and asking for help were the main strategies that helped me overcome challenges.

B + C: What are your main successes so far?

Pivoting my brand to be 100% direct to consumer during the pandemic and seeing sales quadruple from 2019 has been the biggest success to date. To be presented in the press as Vogue MX, In Style MX, Glamor MX, Hola! TV was very rewarding and also provided me with a proof of concept. And selling my collection to retailers like Anthropologie, Fashionkind.com, and Boho Hunter was also a win.

B + C: How did you market and raise awareness of your brand?

It started with word of mouth. I not only focused on making a high quality product, but also made it a great consumer experience with branding and packaging. This enticed women to come back and make more purchases while spreading the word. My clients are my best ambassadors, I have direct communication with them, responding to every note, every social media post, every email and engaging with them on a personal level. I’ve also worked with small to medium-sized influencers, mostly through a product-for-feature swap on their platforms. It really helped position the brand in Miami. Attending networking and fashion events (pre-Covid) has also been very helpful, showcasing myself, building a community of fellow designers and learning about the local fashion industry. Being consistent with social media posting and constantly creating new content, fearing it might not necessarily be “perfect”, often doing it with a smartphone, telling the brand story over and over again. Be consistent with my newsletter, sending at least one every week. Finally, taking a risk and investing more money in paid advertising really made a difference.

B+C: What was your most valuable lesson from Selfmade?

My main lesson was being able to discover what makes my story and brand unique and learning how to articulate it very clearly. Even when designing, there are these three clear pillars: Miami, handcrafted textile prints and sustainability, which I always refer to. I no longer spend hours trying to find the words for captions and emails in my content. I used the Selfmade program to dissect the brand, to write draft after draft for my pitch until I hit it at a place that I believe is 100% representative of my brand and what I represent. I also felt empowered, both by the community and by the coaches; as a solo entrepreneur, you need people to bounce things off with, to check things out. It was amazing to be able to do this with so many wonderful, powerful, professional women.

B + C: How do you stay motivated?

Painting and design are my fuel. Creating new patterns for my textiles and spending a whole day painting is my favorite thing. Believe it or not, there are so many areas of the business that I don’t spend all my days designing. So when I do, I really like it. I’m also very lucky to live six blocks from the beach. I make it a weekly practice to go to the ocean and soak up all that salty energy, so I go there most weekends with my husband and kids. Justina Blakeney inspires me, studying her career and even having a counseling session with her really allowed me to continue pursuing my dream of making SIGAL a global lifestyle brand.

B + C: What advice would you give to women entrepreneurs about to start?

If you have a passion, go for it! What you are starting to do may not be what you will be doing in 2 years, in 5 years. But start where you are. It’s not easy being an entrepreneur, but if this thing you want to do really ignites a fire in you, get started. The journey will take you to places you never imagined, and you’ll have to show up and do the work. But it will be worth it, not just for the end result, but because of the person you will become in the process.

B + C: What is the next step for Shop SIGAL?

My short term plans are to start hiring a team. Another of my goals is to secure partnerships and collaborations with other brands, start a licensing business with my signature prints, and venture into categories other than fashion. In 2-5 years, I would like to open the SIGAL brick and mortar flagship store where customers can come and experience Miami and take a piece of Miami home with them.

Thank you, SIGAL!Follow Shop SIGAL on Instagram here.

Marketing is key to getting the word out. Let Office Depot OfficeMax help you stand out in the crowd. From signs, posters and banners to promote your business, to marketing materials to keep your customers informed, Office Depot OfficeMax offers a full suite of services and business solutions to help you and your business get noticed.

Head over to Office Depot’s Selfmade page for even more amazing business resources (and discounts!) to help you accomplish more on your entrepreneurial journey. These offers are only available for a limited time, so be sure to take advantage of all these benefits while supplies last. Want to join the next Selfmade cohort this summer? Check out all the scholarship details here.