Top 3 tips for indie fashion designers in Canada

Jane' new art

In my role as Product Coordinator at Fresh Collective, I feel privileged to work with up to 50 designers each year.  These designers are all entrepreneurs as well which is key to making it as a designer.  Essentially, they are each running a small manufacturing business. They develop, test and tweak their products, then manage production, sales, marketing and bookkeeping.

It takes a lot to juggle all these jobs successfully and keep putting out fresh products each season.  Here are my top 3 tips for succeeding in launching your own line:

1. Research:  Find out as much as you can by browsing stores, meeting people and looking at other products out there that would be your competition.  Go all over the city, store to store. Learn about the boutiques. Find ones you love. Talk to the people working there and see if you can see your line fitting it. Look at the garments and jewellery; examine how they are constructed, look the price. How is your product going to stand out? How will you produce items that will sell at a marketable price?  Will your line play a nice complement to the other lines and help them sell?   Then research potential customers- your friends and family is a good place to start! Show people your samples and ask their opinions of them. Knowledge is power!

supporting local designers

Jane Haselgrove wearing a dress by Melow from Montreal in the Queen Street location of Fresh Collective.


2. Get started selling: Do craft shows, special sales and events. Get your product in front of real people. Test it out on the market. Find out who your customer is and what they love. Back in the day, I also had my own clothing line and Jennifer Fukushima and I used to share a booth at the Clothing Show once in a while. Meet other designers and come up with ways to collaborate on a space at a craft show if you have to. This way when you show your line to retailers you can tell them what your best sellers are. (Hint: That’s the first question I always ask when I meet a new designer!)

3. Start small. Design 2 to 5 key pieces and perfect them.  Many designers spread themselves too thin thinking that they need to produce a full collection.  What happens too often is they drain their money and time and miss the season. And then they repeat the mistake the next season.   What works is building a repertoire of core pieces that sell well and that you can create variations on.  A fabulously fitting dress can be done in many fabrics, with short sleeves or long, and can make your whole career.  Simple and easy reproduction of a best selling piece will be your money maker.


I’m very proud of the work we do at Fresh Collective to partner with designers to grow our business along with theirs.  I feel a particular sense of pride when a new designer starts with us and we get to watch their progress as they work hard, innovate, take feedback and work some more to start really seeing some success.  It feels awesome to send a  sales report with a little note like, “You better get to work!  We’re almost sold out of your dresses!”

Are you an emerging or established Canadian designer interested in selling with us?  Please get in touch and tell us about your line!

jane's bio