How I Went From Instagrammer To Starting My Own Fashion Brand
Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hey, I am Natalie Matthews the Founder of Height-Of-Fashion, An online clothing store for tall women 5’10” and over.
Our products range from casual daywear to evening and workwear, with Jeans, Leggings and Playsuits being some of our biggest selling products.
Because we are a niche brand, it means our customers reside all over the world, are long, tall and leggy! Our range is like nothing else out there and we’re focused on helping dress women in garments that fit but also help empower tall women to love their height and look fabulous doing it.
I have quite a few flagship products but our jeans and leggings are definitely up there in what tall women love the most.
I am proud to say I’ve double Height-Of-Fashion in profit, products and customers and YoY since launching in 2017 with 15 countries we now ship to.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
I started Height-Of-Fashion from a personal need.
Being 6’3 and frustrated AF with the lack of fashionable options available to me, I always wanted to start my own clothing label from a young age, but it was only working in ecommerce and managing a number of online websites that I grew in confidence to fully understand what it needs and takes to run an online business.
Being 6’3 and frustrated AF with the lack of fashionable options available to me, I always wanted to start my own clothing label from a young age.
I first started Height-Of-Fashion as a styling platform as a tall woman on Instagram – but it was here I quickly grew in a tall following with many women around the world asking where they could buy my outfits I showcased; which only validated my rationale for starting the label.
After running a few surveys and setting up an email list, I found there were a lot of women 6’0+ who had the same issue. This is when I decided to put the wheels into motion and started designing outfits and sourcing manufacturers to turn Height-Of-Fashion into a clothing line.
I fund everything in the business to date – I did have some saving when I started but it wasn’t enough for this style of business. So I worked full time in the first year while I was establishing the brand to manage cash flow, samples and production runs. I’d say that’s been one of my hardest challenges and still is, juggling business expenses, up-front product costs and a fairly standard lifestyle pretty hard as an entrepreneur.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
The production side of the business is super fun because I basically get to create anything I want, but there’s a lot that goes into creating garments from scratch. It can be very technical, time-consuming and you often need to go through rounds of testing before you get to the final production sample.
I had also transitioned from being an Instagramer to an online retail brand almost overnight.
On simple products, you can sometimes get away with one sample, on more technical products like jeans, for example, there’s a lot to consider not only in size and fit but the stretch, finishes, fabrication and the wash.
I started small with just a few key products and tall staples but honestly even that took me about a year to get too, so there really isn’t one method fits all when you design clothes as each product differs and requires different stitching, finishes and washes depending on the fabric. But in order to reduce the sample make and manufacturing time I basically use a mixture of mock ups, pictures, existing garments, swatches and sketches/specs to describe what I want.
Height-Of-Fashion is all about quality, that’s definitely a USP for us, we design good, sustainable quality fashion that is reasonably priced, so we often spend more in production time and costs to ensure the fabrics are supreme and the cut and finish is perfect too which is all fed back to us in reviews, repurchases, and customer feedback.
I spent a significant amount of time sourcing the right manufacturers that can help me as a small business as well as supported fair work and pay and conditions before I started production. These are part of my personal values as a business owner and that help make up the manufacture story and quality of Height-Of-Fashion.
Describe the process of launching the business.
I started this entire business via Instagram first, then created a landing page to capture email addresses and promoted it on instagram for any of my tall following or sign up if they were interested in finding out more when I was ready to launch an eCommerce site or a fashion line.
Even with a small email following, the first few months were hard because I was not only brand new in the market, trying to compete with the limited, yet big brands that create a tall range.
I had also transitioned from being an Instagramer to an online retail brand almost overnight. Which like anything took my followers a bit of time to get used to and build up trust/loyalty to see if I am actually in it for the long-haul vs being the usual get quick rich influencer.
I’d be lying if I said the first year wasn’t tough, but I learned a lot of what does work and also spent a lot on what doesn’t in marketing, systems and methodologies. That’s just part of starting a business.
I only made about 25k in my first year, which was also a result of only running HOF as a side hustle at the time, but still a figure and journey I am proud of.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
Instagram, PR and Sports Influencers have all helped me attract customers or get the Height-Of-Fashion name out there. I am heavily networked with the Australian Netball and Basketball Teams who are all amazonian and have the same struggles in the clothing department. I was lucky enough to use some of the Australian Diamonds and Opal Teams members as part of my VAMFF Runway in March as well as models throughout the site.
Our retention model is pretty phenomenal, we have a 43% retention rate – that’s almost unheard of in retail. That’s not only because we’re niche but our customers love our products, so once tall women finally discover us, they usually become part of our loyal tall girl family. We genuinely love our tall customers and they love us.
Contrary to the norm, Facebook doesn’t really work that well for us as an acquisition model. We’re almost too niche for it. They don’t capture ‘height’ as a target and trust me I’ve tried all types of associations and target groups, but nothing works the best like SEO, PR, Instagram or Influencers. So, these are the channels we utilise the most.
Our competition is pretty much the big players so we’re competing with their mass marketing and ad spend budget as well as their ability to churn out products much quicker, which can be disheartening when you start to compare. But I’ve learned to only focus on expanding the range and nurture the loyal tall sisterhood I have built and who’ve all followed me on this journey instead.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
My goal is to be able to create and release new ranges quicker and more frequently each quarter if not month, as well as expand further into America.
In order to do that I need to hire a product designer and an international marketing exec who can help me cope with the product design and marketing demands that come with frequency and expansion. Possibly even look at warehousing in America too. Hopefully in the next 12-18 months I can hit a few of these targets.
Height-Of-Fashion currently generating between $5-10K per month, depending on new product launches or the offers I run. I am a pretty ambitious and determined Founder and whilst I am proud of what I’ve established, I do have big plans for HOF and intend it to make at least 500k revenue a year within the next 3-5 years.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
I’ve learned that running a business is a daily optimization and what works for one business won’t necessarily work for another!
Find like minded individuals or business owners going through the same journey – it helps you learn, support and bounce ideas off each other.
Running a business is a life long learning curve. You’re always going to have challenges, make mistakes or have obstacles to overcome. With being in niche brand, a lot of my challenges are associated with competing with big retailers who all have x 10 my marketing budget, can afford to employ a team of staff or make cheap mass production.
So it’s important not to lose sight or focus on what you’re doing even if it’s smaller than you’d like vs what the competition is doing.
Everything is about perception and the way you look at it, for example, whilst mass marketing and production play to the strength of my competition, I have more cut through in relatability, design and style as my strengths and have a far greater ability to disrupt the market with being the niche customer myself. >> Basically, the message here is back yourself and learn to love the journey of your business and where you’re at vs want to be.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
The best piece of platform advice I can give you is, only invest in platforms that you will actually use and will save you time. Use platforms and tools that help you automate and systemise processes. Some of the platforms I use are:
- Sales Platform: Shopify
- Social Automation: Iconosquare
- Team/Task organisation: Trello
- Analytics: Google
- Accounting: Xero
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
Gosh, there are so many books out there and I could list, but I’d say these four have been influential in my thinking and business mindset:
- Start with Why By Simon Sinek
- How Successful People Think By John Maxwell
- The Lean Start-Up By Eric Ries
- Crush It!: By Gary Vaynerchuk
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
Start with understanding why you are running or setting up your business. Secondly understand the purpose of the business and what you want it to be or do. Third, continuously ask how can you can add value to your consumer.
Being an Entrepreneur is hard, exhausting and often sometimes quite lonely. You really have to push through a lot of mental barriers and sacrifice a lot to get a business off the ground so setting and knowing these early on is imperative to your sanity and success!
The other piece of advice I’d give is find like-minded individuals or business owners going through the same journey – it helps you learn, support and bounce ideas off each other.
Where can we go to learn more?
- Website: height-of-fashion.com
- Facebook: facebook.com/heightoffashion
- Instagram instagram.com/height.of.fashion
- Twitter: twitter.com/HOF2016
- Email: [email protected]
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Height Of Fashion has provided an update on their business!
Over 2 years ago, we followed up with Height Of Fashion to see how they've been doing since we published this article.
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