Adam Torres and Frances Harder discuss the fashion industry.
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The fashion industry is constantly evolving and is ripe with opportunities for those willing to pursue them. In this episode, Adam Torres and Frances Harder, Author & Business Consultant at Fashion for Profit Consulting, explore the fashion industry and Frances most recent book, Mission Matters: World’s Leading Entrepreneurs Reveal Their Top Tips To Success (Business Leaders Vol. 9).
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About Frances Harder
After designing and having my own name under license in Japan and teaching fashion for 20 plus years, I self published a series of self help books for those starting their own apparel business. Under Harder Publications: www.fashionforprofit.com
Around the same time I founded the Fashion Business Incubator (FBI) an educational nonprofit housed now in the Control Collective in the heart of the LA Fashion district. Since founding the FBI to provide valuable business development, it has since grown and now provides all types of job training specific to the apparel industry
Fashion for Profit Consulting is the fashion industry’s leading resource for turning concepts and businesses into a profitable reality.
Frances Harder and her team are dedicated to providing specific world-class education, technical training, sourcing, networking, operations, marketing, mentoring and consulting services. Fashion for Profit’s global resources offers a platform to connect the resources people need to build a successful fashion business!
Full Unedited Transcript
Hey, I’d like to welcome you to another episode of Mission Matters. My name is Adam Torres, and if you’d like to apply to be a guest in the show, just head on over to mission matters.com and click on Be Our Guest to Apply a Ride. So today is a very special episode. We’re celebrating the release of our most recent book, and I’m so thrilled and excited to have the author on the line, Francis Harder, who is author and business consultant over at Fashion for Profit Consulting.
Francis, welcome back to the show. Thank you so much for having me, Adam. Appreciate it. Oh my. So it’s so much fun for me to do these. I feel like you know, publishing a book no easy task. Right. And, and as I, you know, bring authors back onto the show to kind of talk about when we finally got the book live and out there and launched, it’s always fun to reconnect.
And I’m also excited to get into your, your other book launch. I mean, you are a busy, busy woman, so I understand you’re in the 11th edition of the. Fashion for profit book. Maybe if you could hold that up there. I think you got one over there. There we go. So we have the 11. Amazing. So, we’ll, we’re definitely gonna talk about this book as well.
But you know, you already know the Drill, Francis. We’ll start this episode the way that we start them all with our mission matters minute. So, Francis, we at Mission Matters. We amplify stories for entrepreneurs, executives, and experts. That’s our mission. Francis, what mission matters to you? Well, I always say that we’re here to try to make a difference in some way, and as we are living and experiencing so much negativity in the world, you know, to have good people trying to help other good people or trying to help people.
And as an educator, I think that’s what an educator or what I’ve always tried to do, is also to educate people and help them to succeed and make a difference hopefully. Yeah, it’s great and, and great having you back on the show. Love bringing mission-based entrepreneurs and executives on the line to share, you know, why they do what they do, how they’re doing it, and really what we can all learn from that so that we can all grow together.
So, great to have you back. And I guess just to get us kicked off here, before we get into the book and before we get into some of the other content I don’t wanna assume that all of our new listeners and audience maybe caught some of our previous work together. So maybe let’s start with, you know, just really how you got started in fashion.
Well, here we are in la but I was originally from Manchester in England, which used to be the textile center of the world. Cotton would go in there. Why, why was it Manchester? It was because it it was damp and the cotton needed to be spun and woven in that type of damp, damp atmosphere. So my father was a, a textile chemist, and my mother was a fashion designer from Nottingham who worked for her.
Brother, my uncle and he had a factory in Nottingham and her sister had a couture business in Nottingham. So you could say I sort of was born with it in my blood. And then I went on to study fashion design at MyFord University and graduated. By the way, we have a visitor here. This is Tina.
And so after going from college, I was invited to. To start designing where I’ve been interning, which again is something a push that I try to explain to anybody. It’s important if you can intern because it will usually open up a job opportunity. So that’s what happened with me. And then while I was working and this new job.
The college where I graduated from asked me to go back and teach one day a week and the boss from the company said, do it. He was like a mentor. So again, mentoring is also incredibly important to I think young person’s career advancements. And then from there it was like a dual career of teaching and being a designer and it’s taken me from.
Manchester to London, to Bristol, to Munich. Which that was the funniest experience as a fashion designer, as an outta work fashion designer at the October Fest. And I was sitting next to one of the big bosses from Airbus. And as everybody was drinking and doing this, I turned to me. He said, what do you do for a living?
And I said, I’m a neat, I’m a designer. He said, we need designers. He said, can you start on Monday? You didn’t buy out. Wow. Kind a designer. He assumed I was a aircraft designer, so I ended up as a technical draw for, for the engineers, which was, they were doing it on big, in the big, you know, before the computers were coming, coming out.
So they would do it on a drawing board and I would, and they would do it in pencil and I would have to take a repeat graph and make them into Inc. So that was a four year experience as a working on Airbus. But I always say, what’s the difference between a sleeve and a wing? You know, you’re doing a sim, similar thing.
So it was exactly, it was a, it was a good job. And I, and then we, I took off with my husband now and we traveled around the world for a year and got married in Sri Lanka and ended up in America. In New York. He had a green card. He’s German. We drove to America. And got to, it was funny cause you know, I enjoyed it, but once we got to California, I dunno what your experience was, it was like, okay, I’m here.
I’m not going anywhere. And so we’ve lived here for quite some time and we love where we live and I’ve had amazing career opportunities being here in, in LA and that again, my first designing job was through somebody I knew who said they need designers and that opened up another. Door. And while I was working there, his girlfriend had just graduated from Fido and she said, Hey, they need teachers.
So that’s where I began teaching at and also working as. It’s amazing to hear you tell this story and be, and as I’m, and you know, as I’m thinking about your story and how, you know, all of our stories kind of intertwined. Like you said, you’re at Octoberfest and that led to a, you know, a four year design job, right.
At Airbus. And when I think about what you, what you wrote about in the, in your, in your contribution to the book. So networking is your runway to a successful career. It makes sense. I mean, you could have written about a lot of different things. But like you, you lived it, right? Like networking is what kind of got you ahead, right?
Oh, absolutely, definitely. And from teaching you know, I’ll have to edit a little bit, but after being at fit I was offered a, another position that lasted two years as a head of department for a new college and then I left cause I got an opportunity to work at Otis as a associate professor there, which I really I really enjoyed that and being there teaching at that college university.
Other job opportunities opened up for me and I was recommended to. That was where I got that recommendation to design for the Saltan of Brunai and go out there. That was, you know, it was another book on its own. Just that whole experience and then being recommended for designing for Priscilla Presley did two lines for her for Home shopping.
That was fabulous. She was really good to work with. We enjoyed the doing that design work, so I had some really good, and then the Japanese company approached me and asked if I would design under my name for them in, in Tokyo. They had a store here and so I was designing here and then working with them in.
In Japan. So that was, you know, internationally my whole career has been quite amazing to have been able to have these opportunities traveling. And while I was at Otis, I realized that there wasn’t enough business being taught. So I started writing a course for them on, on business development. And I wrote, I started teaching that at night and so that led me on to write the book and that also met somebody who wanted to open an incubator.
And then we started this incubator fashion business incubator in 1999 at the Newmar, which is just down the road from you. And we were in there and got grant from. The Department of Water and Power to build out a 5,000 square foot facility. We had training and computer labs and state of the art was an amazing journey, and from that opened up other amazing opportunities, giving talks at different trade shows and speaking internationally.
In Australia, Hong Kong China Germany, France, Canada. Guatemala of all.
Very fortunate to have had these opportunities. And so Francis, there’ll be some, some individuals that’ll watch this, that maybe want to pursue a career in fashion, or maybe they’re even, you know, earlier on, and they may even still be, you know, going through their education piece of it of design or otherwise.
And they’re looking to get into the fashion business. Maybe they don’t quite know how, like what, what kind of things would you recommend they do maybe to get started and to get their feet wet? Well, I would say, you know, start reading trade papers. Mm. So you understand what’s going on within the industry because it’s changed so much from when I was at college and we’re looking from when I worked.
The whole industry has absolutely evolved in, into a different way. Mm-hmm. In a way it’s evolved that it’s actually good for startup companies cuz new companies can be nimble. And they can adjust to what the changes are. You know, their stores are now buying more often smaller quantities. So for the big guys who are expecting to get, you know, the 20,000 unit orders, things have changed radically.
So it, it, it has, I would say, for anybody entering the industry still exciting, but find out the difference. Now, I have to say that a lot of colleges are still teaching the same way. This is one thing. I have a pet peeve about tenured teachers, and I hope there’s nobody gonna get upset about this, but I think tenure is not good for education because it changes industries all change, and you need to have professors teaching you what’s happening now, not what happened 20 years ago, and they have no incentive to change it.
So curriculum changes should be really adopted every, every year to change. And would you say that there’s you know, more opportunity, less kind of the same? I know, like you mentioned maybe, and you didn’t use this word, but I am, it’s more a little bit more fragmented, so maybe the orders won’t be as big, but there’s a lot of other smaller designers out there, at least I’m seeing in social media.
I mean, do you think that there’s, there’s more opportunity, less about the same, like I’m, I’m interested from your vantage point, like how you see just the landscape overall. I actually think that startups are, have an advantage Yeah. At the moment because they can be more nimble and so, you know, they haven’t got a big budget anyway, so they’re, they’re planning on the business plan to produce smaller quantities and as the stores, and also maybe you don’t wanna sell directly to the stores.
Mm-hmm. You can open your online direct to the consumer if you’ve got the social media to push it, which of course, Is really key these days, but pop-up stores is another thing, you know, so that people can reach a target, that you can produce smaller quantities and grow grassroots, sort of grow up and expand your company.
Hmm. I see a lot of opportunity out there when I just work with, cuz we’ve worked with some smaller brands in general, and fashion isn’t necessarily our niche at Mission matters for like marketing, I’d say. But I’ve seen it and we’re kind of all in the same mix and like, we go to like Shopify events and other things like that where we have.
Presence and, and I just noticed all these different brands, whether it’s from, you know, handbags to clothes, to like all these other things. And so it seems, especially the direct to consumer market, like to me there’s just so much opportunity. But I feel like, and, and you correct me if I’m wrong on this, like ultimately if you want to continue to grow past even that phase, like having a presence and which is one of the things that I’ve.
I’ve noticed in your career, like going to the trade shows and having the presence and like really networking within the industry and getting to know the industry, like that’s still vital, right? Absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah. You know yourself, you can’t work within a vacuum without, you have to have contact.
And the other big thing that should be mentioned really is sustainability. Mm-hmm. We’re all trying to be aware of what sustainability encompasses because it’s huge. And in our industry, you know, When I was working and working, you know, on these contracts with the United Nations and I was working with Egyptians, helping them understand what they need to think about when entering the American market.
And the first thing I would say is think start thinking sustainable. Now we’ve, we’ve got hand tags of those plastic things on them that’s gonna end up in some fisher’s gulls, you know? So it’s important to just begin somewhere to try to be sustainable. Mm-hmm. And thinking of what it is that you can do to contribute to making your product much more sustainable in many, many, there’s so many parts to it, even from.
Producing domestically, you know, that you’re not having those huge containers being shipped over. So nearshoring and domestic manufacturing is also a big plus. Hmm. Let’s I wanna switch a focus here for a moment or two and let’s go a little bit further into fashion for profit consulting and what you do.
So maybe first just tell us a little bit more about your firm. Well, basically to go along with my book, when I do talks, obviously there are people in the audience who would like some advice from an expert. So I get hired to assist them launch their products and help them along the way with what they need to do.
So it’s, it’s about consulting to people starting out. I also do expert witness work, which we talked about. Mm-hmm. That means that in this industry, and that’s another thing that I have a pet peeve about, is that people think that they can scan in some print and have it scanned in and change it 30% and claim it’s their design.
Well, if it looks the same, it’s the same. And I’ve seen so many times where you’ve put in a print and you put your underneath it, the original, and you can see where they’ve manipulated it and you look at it 10 foot away, it looks the same, so you’re going to get sued. So I always say, think about doing this and being original, not taking other people’s work and thinking you can change it a little bit.
Yeah. And your, and let’s get back to your book as well. So the 11th edition. When I look at the brand overall, and this is one of the things that definitely attracted myself and just our team at Mission Matters to work with you is when I saw your website, your brand and everything else, and now you’re in the 11th edition what can readers expect from the, from the new launch?
Well I’ve added in that a whole chapter on sustainability. Mm-hmm. And then I’ve been very fortunate to have the book. Different chapters have them evaluated by experts within the industry. So if it’s about financing, you know, I have a financial guru who’s read the chapters, given their perspective and made changes.
Or it could be marketing or again, we all know with social media. Mm-hmm. I’m not, you know, I’m not too technically savvy. So all this for young people, they’re much more. Adapt to being technically savvy, and that gives them a huge advantage as well. So I’ve added those two differences and you know, some updates on, on different chapters as well, but it’s basically we’ve still got, each chapter’s been evaluated by a different industry expert.
I’m in the middle of the process of rebuilding the website and what I intend to do, Is take each chapter and have the person who assisted their advice, have them talk, interview them like a little bit like what you are doing. Yeah. Is interview the people to give their perspective on what is in their view as an expert, what needs to be done for this, the clothing and apparel industry.
Yeah. That’s great. And there and I maybe speak on for a moment or two, the the importance of the business side of things. So as you mentioned, like earlier in your career, even in, in the collegiate setting, when you realized that maybe enough of the business part of it wasn’t being taught. And to me, for a lot of creative fields, so it could be fashion, it could be art, I mean, you name it, a lot of the.
Creative fields, a graphic design, lot of different things to where maybe somebody has an entrepreneur out there, has an idea, or they have a passion or have something else, but maybe they’re not quite as far along on the business side. But ultimately, you know, money drives things, right? So if you can’t fund something, if you can’t keep the doors open to the business, then it doesn’t matter.
You know what, how good the idea is. Maybe it doesn’t, it doesn’t go as far as it could have. So maybe can you talk a little bit about the importance of the business side of the fashion industry and business for the entrepreneurs out there listening? Yeah. And I think one of the things I incorporated was costing in the Adobe is having, if you can’t balance your check checkbook or, and you don’t really know how to cost a garment, I don’t know how you think you’re gonna be successful, but it’s very important that you understand all the dynamics that go into a cost sheet.
So that was one of the first. Things that really got me going about understanding that. And then of course, where does your money come from? Mm-hmm. And every, so you’re gonna get an investor, well an investor won’t invest in you until you’ve got a product that you’ve proved has a demand for. Mm-hmm. So, you know, you’ve gotta have a business plan.
And one thing I, I really encourage people to do is, Get some help that’s free. Go to the S spdc. They’ve got some amazing consultants there who can help you for free with small business development and help you get your business plan going and that will really help you move along on your journey.
Yeah. That, that’s one of my, my big ones that I, I’m normally, I normally tell people is like, if you’re, I don’t care what the business is, what the idea is, like get some help, get some mentorship, figure out somebody else within the industry that’s maybe done, you know, what you want to do and you know, there’s other people that have been through this.
You don’t have to reinvent and start from scratch, like get some help. Right. Absolutely. Yeah. I mean, it’s important for you to do your homework. Yeah. Coming up with a great idea is one thing, but maybe that great idea’s already out there, so you’ve really gotta research it. And then I always say, thinking about the name, what’s the name of the company gonna be?
Mm-hmm. It’s got be easy name. It’s no good choosing these French words because. As you know, Americans can’t speak other languages and they won’t pronounce it, they won’t remember it. So short and sweet, you think of all the brands that we know, they have a catchy name that is easy to understand. So, and then what, if you think of a name, make sure it’s no, there’s no confusion and that you can get the domain name that no you marketplace.
Beginning your little exciting journey that you have this idea for, that you then get your business plan together. Where’s the money coming from? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve spoken to people about when they put the business plan together. Where does your money come from? Oh, I thought I’d get a loan.
No. If you’ve got collateral you can take, if you own a home, you can take a, a line of credit out against it. Oh, I don’t wanna risk that. But they’re willing to risk other people’s money, then take a loan out. But they have, they’ll, they’ll be asked, you know, if you have collateral. Collateral. So it’s really important that you have an understanding of the business side.
Probably 90% of it. Actually, Adam, I mean, if you don’t have, and you know this, you’ve started and succeeded in running an amazing business yourself. By the way, I wanna interview you down the road. Hey, hey, I’m in, I’m in. You know, I love working with you. How do, how do people speaking of working with you so somebody’s watching this, they’re either, you know, a startup or they have an established brand and they’re like, you know, there’s, I want, I wanna connect more with Francis.
Like, like how do people work with you in general? Well, there are two ways they could either I always tell them if they buy the whole package Yeah. Then you’ll get 20 minutes free consultation and we can see where we can take you from there. Mm-hmm. And then sometimes, you know, I’ll get clients who will retain me for so many hours a month or pay for an hourly consult.
Consult. And usually I’ve got connections. And if I can’t do it, I know somebody who can. You know, so it’s important as you know, it’s important to find the right people in this industry. I have to say, be careful. There’s a lot of BS out there and people who can tell you that they can do things. It’s amazing how many people I’ve seen screwed over by people who say they can do things, particularly when they’re starting out and they want to have.
Their first patents made and the first samples made. I had one girl come to me and she’d gone somewhere else. She was a banker and she wanted to have suits made that were a little bit more feminine for women in sort of business attire. Mm-hmm. And she’d had, she spent 58,000, Adam, and she brought in all these samples on a rolling rack, and she was, and she was proud of it, you know, and it was like, I.
This is going nowhere, you know? Mm-hmm. It was made so badly. You know, you, you can see a good well-made clothing. Mm-hmm. I mean, a man’s jacket, like your jacket is a great experience, you know, to example, to look at that. These sleeves have got the right head in it so that it’s not. Sticking out like this, like a shirt, and you’ve got your matched, if you striped, you’re matching your stripes and your plaids.
Another thing drives me mad is how many people have got plaid shirts on and they’re not matching on the side scene? You know, that’s just me, but I, no, these things are really important. Where you starting out? So this poor girl, I remember I was looking at it and I had somebody working with me and Andrew He was a very experienced designer, and I said, you gotta come in and help me with this.
And we looked at it and kinda carefully told her that this needed to be rethought, you know? So it was an education for her too, because she took on something, she had the idea, but she didn’t have the education as to what makes a well-made garment. Yeah. Yeah. And that’s, and that’s one of the benefits of experience education, having done it a long time and seeing like, like the stories that you have through your career, this is just one of them, or a couple of them.
But really whenever I work with a consultant on anything like that, to me that’s a big portion of the value right there is if, if a consulting can keep me from making a costly mistake, I mean that’s worth, that’s, that’s worth all of the money. I’m sure I paid them. Yeah, if you’ve gotta remake things.
And another thing is like swimsuits and ladies underwear, you know, they, they don’t shape it around the cup of the butt, you know, things like that. And so it’s another example of badly made CLA clothing. So you’ve gotta make sure, do your homework, get references. It’s the same thing when you find a sales rep, finding a sales rep.
You know, it’s like finding a husband. You’ve got to find somebody who understands your product, who has the connections to the right stores. And if you find the right people, they can make you. And if you find the wrong ones, they’ll break you. Cause they’re gonna be charging you a percentage plus showroom participation fee.
Well, your showroom participation fee can be a thousand a month. You gotta make a lot of sales to be able to pay all that, you know, plus 8% or 10% for the sales rep, or 12% depending on what kind of product. It’s, so it’s, it’s really, again, sometimes you meet people and you get carried away, but I always say, stop, think about it.
Think 24 hours and do a little research and find out whether or not they are the right fit for you. Hmm. Fantastic. Well, Francis first off, it has been great having you back on the show and I know you got a lot going on. I just have to ask, I mean, what’s next? What’s next for you? Your business, your, your, your 11th edition of the new book?
What’s next? Well, I have to update the teacher’s guide for the book cause it’s used as a textbook. So I’ve gotta, that’s my next big push is to add that those two chapter renews. And then I’m working on going to Magic in August again, and that’s always an amazing place for networking and meeting interesting people.
On the United Nations, I will be, Seeing them again there, and we’ll see what’s going on. I know they’re doing another push for working with sustainability with third world countries. So educating them with what needs to be done as far as sustainability, so know and expert witness work. I, you know, I’ve got two cases at the moment, so I’m waiting to see where they go.
They might get settled. You never know, but it’s always a good challenge. Fantastic. Well, Francis, if somebody’s, if somebody’s watching this or listening to this and they wanna follow up and they do wanna connect and and learn more, I mean, what’s the best way for them to do that? Oh, I would say, you can email me at Francis Francis with an e.
Now I’m not the pope, you know how many people spell it with an I? It’s unbelievable. So it’s fast with an e fashion for profit com, f r profit com. So you can contact me through there. Perfect. And we’ll, we’ll put all that information in the show notes so that our audience can just click on the links and head right on over.
And speaking of the audience, if this is your first time with Mission Matters or engaging in an episode, we’re all about bringing on business owners, entrepreneurs and executives, and having them share their mission, the reason behind their mission, really what gets. Them up in the morning and fired up to go out there and to make a difference in the world and in the marketplace.
If that’s the type of content that sounds interesting or fun or exciting to you, we welcome you hit that subscribe button because we have many more mission-based individuals coming up on the line and we don’t want you to miss a thing. And Francis, really, it has been a pleasure as always. I mean, thanks again for coming back on the show and I look forward.
Forward to continuing to promote the book we did together and also your book that is now in the 11th edition. So for all the audience, we’ll definitely have some links in the show notes so you can pick up a copy of both. So thank you Francis. Thank you Adam for the opportunity. Appreciate it.