We launched Under Cover Lingerie for the Indian market at the end of 2011 at the onset of the online shopping boom. Its been a long journey with days when I felt great about what we were creating, to nights when all I wanted to do was curl up in a ball and quit. Through it all, there have been amazing lessons and a learning curve that could not have been achieved in a larger organization. I am quickly listing a few of these for the benefit of anyone who may want to enter the segment of lingerie. God knows we women need more options!
- Figuring out a niche: When creating a lingerie brand, the sheer number of possibilities for products and styles can be very confusing. Especially in an emerging market where everything seems like an interesting opportunity. It took us a while to refine our niche with Under Cover Lingerie- a lesson we used when building Switchers. Define your audience and create products that fit their need, while being true to your strengths.
- The bra is an oh-so-complex piece of clothing: As a customer, it never occurs to us just how much work goes into every aspect of designing a bra. Bras are complex garments made of many parts like the cups, the T, the wings, the back, the shoulder straps, etc. Each part has a completely different function and thousands of options in terms of execution. Slight modifications in the construction of the garment can create a completely different fit. Study this well. It will be your most important lesson.
- Less glamour. More clamor: Like any other business, the lingerie business goes back to the numbers. Ensuring proper fund flow by reducing inventory holding and receiving better credit are very important when creating your business plan. The glamour of the business lies at the marketing end. While it is extremely important for sales if you don’t have your numbers and the work around it, the glam factor doesn’t matter at all.
- It costs more than you think it will: Lingerie is a product, which aims to provide the best fit, support and comfort for a customer. Unlike outerwear, lingerie is worn fitting the body exactly. Therefore, there is no room for error. Thus the need for better sizing and more adjustability. Multiple stock keeping units or SKUs for short, are implicit requirements when thinking of creating a lingerie brand. So plan your line to manage your SKUs and inventory holding.
- Fulfillment – the mother of all start-up issues: When we say fulfillment, we don’t just mean getting your order to a customer. We also mean finding high-quality factories that would be interested in working with smaller companies who barely meet their MOQs. It is very important that your suppliers see the relevance and opportunity of what you are doing to provide you with support for prototyping, sampling and manufacture.
- Creating a brand that stands out on a budget: It is very important to create a well-defined brand that helps you stand out from the competition. With limited funds, each piece of communication created and promoted needs to get noticed. Creating a brand that stands out helps to get people to notice you. This is something we did very successfully for both Under Cover Lingerie and now for Switchers.
- A professional photoshoot goes a long way: Invest in a good photoshoot. It’s the best way to showcase your brand and sell your products. A good photoshoot helps to capture the imagination of your customer. It helps you sell the look. Not a product.