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4 Entrepreneurial Designers Spill Their Greatest Business Tips

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Timo Weiland's collection / Sarah Jacobs/ONE37pm

Conceived to nurture emerging talent and consolidate top menswear designers in one venue, New York Men’s Day, which takes place just across the street from ONE37pm’s offices in Hudson Yards, features the best and brightest menswear designers all under one roof. This format, while used for large trade shows, hasn’t been adopted by the fashion week scene quite yet. But NYMD is out to prove that it should be.

 

ONE37pm got the exclusive opportunity to interview each participating designer about their spring/summer 2020 collections, asking them the business-focused questions we know you want to hear the answers to. When did they first know that their passion could be a full-fledged business that would make enough income to support themselves? What’s one thing they wish they’d known when they started down the long and winding road? If they could give young entrepreneurs one piece of advice, what would it be?

 

Meet the fashion world’s leading small business entrepreneurs. 

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Qian Wu of Abysm

How long have you been a fashion designer?

 

Qian Wu: For five years, but I just graduated last year. 

 

When did you first know you could turn your passion into a full business?

 

Wu: Actually, this year, in February or March. It’s a really new thing. I realized that I really wanted to do my own stuff after interning and working for other brands. I wanted to make what I like with my own aesthetic. 

 

What is one thing you wish someone had told you when you started?

 

Wu: I wish I knew that you still have to do most things yourself. When you design something that is complicated, factory workers won’t understand how to sew your creations. It takes time to work with outside help and sewers. 

 

What is your top advice to young entrepreneurs looking to make it in the fashion world?

 

Wu: It is better to get more working experience before you start to do your own thing. I know I just graduated, but there is so much to know before you start your own brand. Interning, assisting and working in a big company or brand for other designers is such a useful learning experience. 

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Timo Weiland

How long have you been a fashion designer?

 

Timo Weiland: We’ve been around ten years and have pivoted to modern, casual suiting. This is what we’ll be doing from now on. 

 

When did you first know you could turn your passion into a full business?

 

Weiland: I was an investment banker before becoming a fashion designer. I wore suits every day, but never saw anything I liked. I wasn’t allowed to wear designers like Thom Browne, even though I owned his suits. My office would tell me to go home and change—it just wasn’t allowed. So we’ve set out to re-create what it means to wear a suit. 

 

What is your top advice to young entrepreneurs looking to make it in the fashion world?

 

Weiland: Do one thing incredibly well and then build on that. 

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David Hart

How long have you been a fashion designer?

 

David Hart: Too long. [laughs] I started this brand in 2012, but before that, I was working for Anna Sui, Tommy Hilfiger and Ralph Lauren. In total, it's about 20 years. 

 

When did you first know you could turn your passion into a full business?

 

Hart: I’m still working on it, but it started around 2012. Before that, I was working on a collection of neckties. The company started there and then I built up around that. 

 

What is one thing you wish someone had told you when you started?

 

Hart: I wish I knew more of the buying calendar and how much of a true business this industry is. It's not an art project. It really is a business. I wish I took more business classes. 

 

What is your top advice to young entrepreneurs looking to make it in the fashion world?

 

Hart: I'd tell them to go work for another designer first before starting their own brand. Get a feel for the process and find out if you really like it and enjoy it. 

 

And be nice. It's a small industry. You never know who you'll end up working with—or for—in the future.

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Michael Nelson of Amirok

How long have you been a fashion designer?

 

Michael Nelson: I've been designing for ten years. I graduated from Parsons in 2009 and I was making women's handbags in Africa for six years. Last year, I closed that line to focus on menswear. We've moved our operations so that I'm half in New York and half in Nairobi. We do some of the production there and some here. 

 

When did you first know you could turn your passion into a full business?

 

Nelson: I think ever since I was young I knew that I could take my love of textiles—because other people respond emotionally to textiles in home furnishings and fashion—and turn that into a business. So as soon as I graduated from Parsons, I started my own thing. I never worked for anyone. 

 

What is your top advice to young entrepreneurs looking to make it in the fashion world?

 

Nelson: Work really hard. Take a good internship. Put in as many hours as absolutely possible. Whenever anyone says to do something, do it. You say, "Can I stay longer? What can I do to help you?" That was the biggest thing that I ever did.

 

I worked as an intern at Oscar de la Renta under Laura Kim and I'd always say yes to anything she asked of me. It really helped me understand what this business is all about. 

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