How to start a fashion business in 2022

Eleonora Saylon
June 22, 2022

We’re thrilled to be back with a new season of Fashion Talks, as we’ve got a lot of fascinating topics and interesting guests lined up. Last week, we had the pleasure of meeting Elise van Twillert, the founder of Pavo Couture Amsterdam, an incredible lingerie brand founded in 2018 with the goal of creating stylish, sexy, and lingerie for women without sacrificing comfort. We were captivated by her journey and took this opportunity to learn more about how she made her business so successful. Now we want to share all we found out with you, so that you too can create a successful fashion business this 2022.

Now let’s dive into the details and find out how she started her brand, what obstacles she encountered along the way, and what she learned from her mistakes.

Tell us a little bit about how Pavo Couture started.

Elise: My business idea came to me when I was 22 and in my second year of university. We needed a study project, and during this time, I considered the fact that I had always had a passion for lingerie, so I began to think it would be a cool idea to start a business based on this interest of mine. I decided to give it a shot and began building my own website. I started with private label products, which means that the products were not designed by me, but are general designs offered by the manufacturer. At first, I had to choose this option because I didn’t meet the MOQ (minimum order quantities) required to have suppliers create my own designs. Then I moved to Barcelona to finish my Master’s degree, and in the meantime, I didn’t do much sales, only selling some products to two retailers in Amsterdam. But then Covid arrived, and I had to return to the Netherlands, so I began to wonder, what now? That’s when I decided to give it a shot and devote my full attention to the project, and I began to plan my next steps. I gave myself a few months to save the money needed to begin designing my own products, and then I just started, and it worked!

From the moment you decided to give your idea a try, what were your first steps in order to make the idea a real business?

Elise: The very first step I took was to improve my website and put on sale some products I already had ready; at this point, I was already seeing some sales coming in. Secondly, another thing that really helped me during my journey was my connections, people who know me or follow me, know that I’m a very social person and I like to party, and that is where you meet a lot of people and make connections, on the field networking!

For example, I had a friend remake my website, and it now looks very good, is well structured, and is a very good website, and he did it for very little money. It was really my connections who helped me get started, but marketing was also very important. My friend started her business on Facebook marketing, and he assisted me with advertising, so I created the visuals, and he put them on Facebook ads and began advertising with them, and it went extremely well. I was still a private label at the time.

Then after a year I had saved enough money to start creating my own designs and I’ve been making my own designs now for about a year.

How was the transition from going from a private label to having your own designs?

Elise: Of course, it was something I had always desired. I spent weeks searching the internet for the right supplier. I spend a lot of emailing, calling and sampling in this phase. But then I found the suppliers who worked best for me, and when the first samples arrived, it was incredible to see my own designs come to life.

Starting to create your own designs takes more effort, so how did you set up your supply chain?

Elise: Initially, I hired a lingerie designer, so I basically work with her to bring my ideas to life; I explain to her how I want the sets to look, and she then creates the graphical designs. Then she returned them to me, and I began looking for suppliers who could actually put the pieces together. So, once I found a reliable supplier, I sent them the tech packs. I was not looking for materials myself, but rather for a supplier who had knowledge on this as well, because I had no idea how much meters of fabric would be required to create the designs. So it was essential for me to find a manufacturer who also knew about laces and materials.

So there are designs of laces and patterns in the tech packs, and they sent me some fabric samples so I can look at them and decide which materials I wanted to use for each piece. Then they begin working on the first sample and send it to me; if the lace looks good and I decide I like it then I will begin producing.  If I don’t like it, I can request a new lace and make changes before production begins.

Through online sourcing I found my manufacturer. There are platforms like Manufy where you can meet new suppliers. My first manufacturer was from Portugal and they spoke really good English. I learned to keep an eye on the timezones and different holidays when I’m looking for suppliers abroad.

How do you manage the relationship with the client? What have you learned from them during this journey?

Elise: For example, a few weeks ago, we held a focus group with some of my clients, and I asked them what they thought about the website, the delivery service, and everything else in order to get a sense of what they thought about the brand and what they thought could be improved. We also conducted some surveys to ascertain our customers’ needs.

And this is possibly the most difficult part because you now have to create a product that they need. So, in our case, we had to consider why people needed lingerie and what they expected from a product like this. And the only way to figure this out is to talk to people and find out what they think, what they want, and what you can do with your product to meet their needs.

I believe this is a critical step where many people make mistakes when starting a new fashion business because they want to make what they want and leave a bit behind what the consumer wants, which is an important factor if you want to sell.

Now looking back to your journey is there something you would tell your past self to do differently? How would you advise yourself?

Elise: Because everything was new to me, I made a lot of mistakes, but I also learned a lot from them. For example, agreements with people and suppliers were something I struggled with. Because I would frequently agree verbally to their proposal thinking it was fine, but it would end up costing me a lot of money. Creating agreements with the people you work with are extremely important.

So the best advice for the people that have a project in mind would be to go for it, but work with the right people and, most importantly, believe in your project, make mistakes, and learn from them. However, you should also talk to people about your project, show them how much you care about it, and make as many connections as possible. Keep in mind that it’s also important to look for people who can assist you because, no matter how much you believe in your project, you can’t do everything on your own; you need people who are experts in fields you don’t know and can help you realize your project in the best way possible.

Where is your brand standing now? How do you want to grow?

Elise: I definitely want to expand my mission; I want more women to feel at ease and sexy in their underwear. I also want to expand my community and talk more about important and sensitive topics such as LGBTQ+ pride and mental health, periods etc.

My team has grown, but it’s still mostly me with the help of a few interns and freelancers, so I’m the only full-time employee. That is something to consider when you begin a new project in which you will be doing the majority of the work (you are the CEO, the communication manager, you are contacting suppliers, you are always multitasking). So you must consider how much time and effort you will devote to your project. But if you really want it and are determined, you will do it, and it will be well worth it!

On the internet, you can find anything you need; there are articles, tutorials, and YouTube videos where you can learn.

If you would like to contact Elise or learn more about her journey and her brand please go to Pavo Couture’s website or Instagram for more information.

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