Fashion Designers/Small Brands vs. Retail Stores

Where to begin when there is so much to be said of the two?! Whether you are an independent/emerging fashion designer or a reputable fashion designer with investors tackling the fashion retail industry can be tough. And getting your clothing line to sell in one of these big department stores or retail boutiques is another hurled in itself.  Lets be real the fashion retail industry is a huge competitor when it comes to small independent brands.

Consumer retail spending

E-Commerce is still on the rise and excepted to increase annually by 17%, but brick and mortar is still a huge factor when it comes to consumer spending.

Retail stores are still the main way consumers purchase most fashion merchandise, mostly at their physical location and reaching more customers through e-commerce. Brick and mortar makes them a hard competitor because a lot of people still want to feel what they are buying vs a small brand that may be exclusively online. They are also able to produce merchandise at a faster rate which has a lot to due with cheaper labor. Cost is always the driving factor when competing with retail stores. Depending on the type of retail store like a Forever 21, H & M, etc that have a huge market, prices can be marketed to drive more traffic. 

Now, we who are independent designers.... its like where do we fit in into this massive market?! How do we bring something new and refreshing?! A positive thing about being independent is that it gives us more free range to explore and reach customers that the fashion industry may be leaving behind.


Follow me here...When you walk into a store you go in and immediately see something you like, fall in love, pick it up, and buy it! That does not happen as often for those of us whose taste and style has developed over the years. It takes a little more work. Maybe you love this shirt, but you hate the sleeves; or you love a dress, but hate the color. So you either settle for what's there or leave it behind and then its off to the next store or rack.

So we (designers) can offer another option for a potential customer, you see a dress you love on our website, but wish for another color and that can be provided on demand! You want a custom gown for a special occasion, but don't have enough money to afford a big name designer and don't want to wear something that already out there. This is where your independent brands and designers can come to the rescue! Truly our prices are not super low, but affordable for those who value quality and workmanship over quantity.  Also when shopping with smaller brands or designers you see the founder or designer are very hands-on in the creation of each look and are easy accessible vs a big retail company when may only talk to the store manager at best!

We are striving to keep a float and grow in this massive industry, but its definitely not impossible with the help of conscious consumers. Buy smart, not fast. 

Have you had any experience in buying with smaller brands or designers? Was your experience positive or negative? Or what are your hesitation in buying smaller or bigger? 

Leave a comment below, I would love to hear from you!


Tabitha Fielteau