As a world-class runner, Ni-cole DeBoom was used to wearing high-performance running shorts. Still, after catching sight of her reflection while running by a window and realizing those designed-for-men shorts weren't all too flattering, she sought to create a line of workout gear that would inspire women to get moving. She designed a high-performance running skirt with all the function of traditional running wear and then wore her prototype when she competed in--and won--the Iron Man triathlon in Wisconsin in 2004. Starting SkirtSports Inc. that same year, DeBoom, 36, says, "I just wanted to feel pretty and take what was traditionally a male-dominated industry and infuse some fashion and personality into it."
Creating a line of fashions that also have specific functions, like moisture wicking workout gear or clothing with SPF properties, means knowing your target market inside and out. "Shop your market, know your demographic, know your price point and really research where you manufacture," says Jamie Novick, a fashion industry consultant and president of The Next Step Retail Solutions. "Validate the product line even before it hits stores."
And because your fashion item has a twist, make sure your packaging and labeling clearly state that. Create a logo, color scheme and packaging that are consistent and clearly describe your product's unique attributes. Says Novick, "You need to make sure the consumer [immediately] understands what [the product] does."
Once your prototype and packaging are done, it's time to hit the pavement. Start with small boutiques that sell to your target dem-ographic. You can also sell via your own website like DeBoom does at skirtsports.com. A sales representative who can pitch your product to larger retailers in big markets like Atlanta, Dallas, Los Angeles and New York can be invaluable as well, says Novick. Pitch your product to trend reporting outlets like DailyCandy.com, too, because being featured as a hot item means huge exposure.
DeBoom's SkirtSports line has hit a chord with her target dem-ographic of active women. With the line of skirts, dresses, tank tops, sports bras and hoodies retailing at more than 300 sports specialty stores nationwide, 2008 sales are projected to hit more than $2 million. "I made the product because I wanted some inspiration--I wanted to perform better myself," says DeBoom. "Other women were looking for the same thing. We were besieged by women who said, 'What took you so long?'"