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This Designer Bucked Fashion Norms. Learn Why It Worked.

Industry norms be damned.
This Designer Bucked Fashion Norms. Learn Why It Worked.

Tanya Taylor

Image credit: Tanya Taylor
This story appears in the December 2016 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Consumers have more information at their fingertips than ever. E-commerce has changed how people shop. And yet many industry traditions have remained -- like, say, fashion’s longstanding insistence that brands create four collections a year. But even the most deeply embedded rules are starting to crack. Tanya Taylor is one of the changemakers: She’s a fashion designer who remade her schedule to focus on just two strong collections a year -- which in turn will spend more time on the retail floor, rather than being relegated to the sale section to make room for an impending precollection. Taylor tells us how she bucked expectations -- and why it worked out.

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You launched in 2012 with two collections a year and in 2015 expanded to four: resort and prefall in addition to spring and fall. But this year, you canceled resort. Why? 
When we expanded, I immediately noticed the pressure the extra collections put on our very small team without ever really producing a valuable outcome. This summer, we were working on resort 2017, and I just didn’t feel inspired. What if I could take my energy and put it toward something I really did care about? So I told our team we were canceling the collection -- which is a weird conversation to have about something you’re already working on! They thought something was wrong, but I was like, “No, this is a good thing.” It was a great reset. 

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How did your retail partners react? 
I was nervous that we would lose their trust, but overwhelmingly they came out for our spring/summer appointments with a fresh level of enthusiasm. Our precollections were never as strong in sell-throughs. So the extra time let us consider how to really strengthen our main collection.

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What did you do differently with your main collection this past season? 
We partnered with Saks Fifth Avenue; they came in early and saw sketches and fabrics of our spring/summer 2017 collection and purchased 15 styles in advance -- which is larger than our entire resort order would have been. When we had our show for Fashion Week, those 15 styles went live on Saks’ home page and were immediately available for purchase. Brands pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to be on the home page of Saks, but this partnership cost us nothing.

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That “see now, buy now” trend is one that more designers are exploring, rather than asking customers to wait six months to buy them. How has the industry responded? 
The industry is extremely supportive of disruption, especially by young designers finding what works for them. Earlier this year, the Council of Fashion Designers of America commissioned a study with the Boston Consulting Group examining the future of New York Fashion Week, and the finding was ultimately to do what’s best for your brand! Our product, for example, is emotional, colorful and print-based. Our customer buys if they think it’s great -- timing and the seasonal structure aren’t as much of a factor for them. 

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You recently ditched runway shows in favor of presentations [where models stand stationary as editors and buyers move about the full collection]. What was behind that decision? 
When we launched, we started with presentations. It felt really right for us. But there’s a natural progression where you think runway is what you do when you grow -- and so we did runway. And I missed being out on the floor, talking to editors and getting immediate feedback. Reverting to presentations, everyone kind of looks at you wondering why you would go back to where you started. But when we returned to presentations for 2016, our sales almost doubled. It’s what made sense for us, and that’s how we have to keep moving forward.

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Edition: December 2016

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