By Henna Choudhary
Mona Hamid, a Sudanese-born biochemist turned fashion designer and the founder of unisex label Monzlapur, launched her business in Fall 2015 after moving to New York City. Nearly four years down the line, Hamid has seen her pieces featured on the glossy pages of Elle, Marie Claire, Vogue, and Cosmopolitan.
But despite having her ready-to-wear and limited edition designs internationally published, she still struggles with balancing her financial resources and is unable to produce a Spring/Summer 2019 collection due to a lack of capital.
“My biggest financial struggles include paying for factory productions before selling the product,” says Hamid. “Also, paying rent for the store and studio during slower months and making samples adds up because it’s very expensive here.”
As this year’s recent fashion school graduates are embarking on the beginning of their careers, the reality of choosing an entrepreneurial career in the fashion industry is becoming an increasingly financially demanding feat.
“Creating a new line at the beginning might create a buzz from the buyers’ end and excitement, but then no one will buy the line or even test it,” says Athena Lazarides, a fashion business management professor at Fashion Institute of Technology and retailing professor at Parsons The New School for Design. “I have seen many of my friends in the industry get burned in this way. The designer, in order to launch the first line, has spent a tremendous amount of money and then is faced with expenses for another season and market coming up.”
New York City and Los Angeles rank as the two largest fashion hubs in the United States, with more than two-thirds of all fashion designers in the nation working in these cities, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2013 OES Survey.
The high volume of designers creating products within these cities fuels a high-energy and highly competitive field, which spikes the costs involved in the art as designers are pressured to create high-quality pieces at a rapid rate.
Hamid recommends designers battle impending costs by finding an investor that is interested in funding a start-up label.
“The cost of living here is high, so it’s still a struggle to manage paying all business costs, managing sales goals, and creating budgets for new products,” says Hamid. “I would say having an investor is definitely important. Also having help from a business partner who can focus on sales is my next goal.”
Monzlapur focuses on direct consumer sales by predicting the precise number of pieces to produce for each design, based on what styles performed well during the previous season’s sales.
Hamid budgets approximately $8,000 to produce each seasonal collection. Her first collection, however, cost nearly double the amount. Due to limited resources and knowledge, she spent approximately $15,000 to $17,000 to produce her Fall/Winter 2016 designs. After gaining experience through trial and error, Hamid now focuses her collections on best-selling products, trousers, jackets, and tops, which pull in the highest quantity of sales.
Monzlapur’s marketing strategies circulate around photoshoots, which are executed twice a year and cost $3,000 on average, including a photographer, production team, and models. Aside from these bi-annual shoots, Monzlapur administers smaller impromptu photoshoots for Facebook and Instagram, and Hamid hopes to grow Monzlapur’s social media following by investing in paid Instagram promotions this year.
In another costly marketing tactic, Hamid designs editorial pieces for press and magazines in an effort to reach a larger audience by creating one of a kind runway garments that cost approximately $400 to $600 per piece. She places these products in a shared showroom, Flying Solo Collective, where magazine stylists, celebrity clients, and fashion influencers have access to them. The cost to showcase her products in the showroom, alongside other garment and accessory designers’ collections, costs $500 per month.
Although Monzlapur’s editorial pieces are featured in widely circulated magazines, which increases a general interest in the brand and engagement with the product, this spotlight doesn’t always translate into sales.
“It’s a slower process with sales, but creating pieces for press works in terms of placing your brand on the map,” says Hamid. “After every collection, there is usually a grace period in between, when the sales make up for the amount invested. For example, we just made a collection that cost us around $8,000 for samples and $3,000 for a photoshoot. During January and February, the sales experienced a drop, due to post-holiday season when people are not shopping as much, but sales start to pick up in again in March.”
Although Hamid was unable to produce a Spring/Summer 2019 collection, she is now steadily devoting her time and energy into designing Fall/Winter 2019 pieces which promote gender fluidity through their cuts and styles.