November 16, 2021

The Truth About Finding, Growing and Scaling A Fashion Community

Theren Moodley
Theren Moodley
A decade's worth of fashion experience across; product design, development, sourcing & logistics

What do you get in 200(ish) hours across 6 continents in every timezone? A lack of sleep of course 😴 and the destruction of whatever resembled a social life.  But more importantly,  the sense of  purpose, problem identifying and solutioning that comes with building a fashion community.

So here, during the last few months, the team at Make the Dot have been doing just that.

A quick summary

For those of you that prefer getting your content quick and easy here's a quick rundown on the insights and lessonsI go into later on in the blog. The good, the bad and the ugly.

  • The problem - there is a real and painful problem in the fashion product development space, that means designers are using subpar tools and inefficient workflows in their inspiration and ideation process
  • Collaboration - the future of work revolution and hybrid working world brought on by covid means collaboration, and the tools that enable it are more important than ever, however this does not exist in the industry
  • The hustle - speaking to designers across multiple timezones and days has been tough, but the feedback we've been getting on our product means we might be onto something

Make the Dot - online fashion moodboard maker
Jerome wasn't too impressed with the 4th late night call that week

The problem

First, let's start with the problem (no pitching, I promise!!!). Fashion creatives have been overlooked. For a very long time, in a variety of different ways.

The online design tools that are used are outdated and expensive, storytelling is hard and cumbersome and no one has really tried to make  their lives easier in any meaningful way.

The technology community in particular is as much to blame as anyone, chasing Fintech, Crypto, NFTs and whatever latest fad might make them the next unicorn.

Why, might you ask?

Great question. Honestly, I'm not sure either. When I started working with the fashion industry this seemed a no-brainer to me.

The problem is large, the audience is receptive to change and the potential chance of success is substantial.

However, this is still a problem no one has yet tried to solve.

The result is a complex mix of platforms, processes and problems  both physical and digital . Throw in two years of covid, endless zoom calls and the dreaded ‘new normal’ and something’s had to be done.

Designers are expected to work in a hybrid world, yet nothing quite matches the layout and feel of an old school cork board.

They’re expected to print out and carry their A3 portfolio to interviews and show printed out colour pallets on zoom calls to explain the colours they're working with.

For real, these are all actual pain points we’ve heard from creatives over the past few weeks and months.

No editing required right? And for the creatives reading this, this is all too real, all too normal and won’t come as a shock..

To me, this doesn't seem right 👎🏾

We've heard the same problems over and over again from many different fashion designers, in many languages, from many countries and multiple  business sizes. So, that's given us the inspiration to do something about it.

A shout out to whoever answered my cold email, call, text message, facebook message or fax, we've listened to your pain points, process and the way in which you normally collaborate, and we've gone away and built a collaborative digital moodboard that we hope can help.

We’ve then gone to sleep, woken up, and repeated the process week after week after week.

Build, Listen, Iterate. Repeat.

Yes, the hustling is hard. Yes, the early starts and late nights get tiring, and yes the constant unknown gives me anxiety.

The instant dopamine rush when someone accepts your call is quickly gone when the login screen doesnt work (ps it definitely does now), but showing everyone our product and watching people’s faces light up as they use it makes it all worth it.

Not Disney movie fainting princess worth it, but the, ''Ok, this is actually gonna make someone's inspiration and creative process more productive'' worth it.

Who needs fairy tales after all? Hearing people talk about how they’re gonna use our digital mood-board, what collection it could be used for and what feature we’ve built that instantly stuck is amazingly satisfying.

If you'd prefer to skip to one of our more detailed sub-topics on moodboarding, I've linked those below:

Because for me at least that’s what it’s all about and that’s the reason we’re doing this. To create something people are going to use and love is why we’re in this business in the first place.

That and sticking it to all those other SaaS companies who forgot about fashion creatives.

Or those that built generic design tools assuming everyone was all the same and that a one size fits all approach was good enough. It wasn't. At all. The fashion industry needs something built specifically for fashion. And that’s what we’ve tried to do.

Of course it's not all been smooth sailing. In fact far from it.

From trying to schedule calls across multiple time zones, to internet connection problems and device issues 🙃, we've had some bumps along the way. We’ve had designers sign in on their ipad, when our ipad version wasn't ready.

Calls that were meant to be in Spanish, when our Spanish speaker forgot to set his alarm. And plenty of times my opening monologue from my balcony got interrupted by the builders next door……. Cheers guys. And also, who in Hong Kong works before 9am?

Bumps & Bruises

But nevertheless, it’s been worth all the bumps, bruises and learnings along the way. Because most importantly we've met some great people, we’ve heard about their life, listened to their stories, and got excellent feedback.. Come rain or shine it puts a smile on our face and let us know we’re building something that just might be useful.

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