Allison Teich McGowan, designer behind TEICH and proprietor of the NYC store of the same name.

No doubt times are hard right now for an emerging fashion designer. An economic slowdown, however, can also be an opportunity to steer your business in a new direction. In my case, I’ve had to adjust my business over the years in response to the fluctuating economy.

Allison Teich McGowan, TEICH, TEICH NYC, Again NYC, green designers, eco-designers, sustainable designers, emerging fashion designers, eco-fashion, sustainable fashion, eco-friendly bags

STARTING OVER

In 2005, I started Again NYC, a line of handbags made from vintage and deadstock materials. They were one-of-a-kind or some-of-a-kind, depending on the fabrics and leather I would find.

A decrease in wholesale orders prompted me to explore a different direction: opening my own shop.

Within a few years, an increase in interest and wholesale orders pushed me to rethink the product and come up with something more expandable. I switched to using materials that were new (and therefore not limited), high-quality, and sustainable, such as hemp and deerskin. I then renamed the company TEICH, after my maiden name.

My aim was to grow my business and create a more sophisticated line of bags but without compromising the principles on which I had built everything. A decrease in wholesale orders last year, however, prompted me to explore a different direction: opening my own shop.

Allison Teich McGowan, TEICH, TEICH NYC, Again NYC, green designers, eco-designers, sustainable designers, emerging fashion designers, eco-fashion, sustainable fashion, eco-friendly bags

SHOP TALK

In June 2009, I opened a small shop in NYC’s East Village to sell my bags, along with a selection of jewelry by local designers. Although my overhead increased, my sales, visibility, and customer base also grew considerably. During times like this, it is an education to be in the trenches of retail and to learn how people spend their money.

Green designers need to be able to tell their brands’ story and the reason why they’re worth investing in.

I have learned through this experience that it’s important that green designers reach their potential customers and be able to tell their brand’s story. In other words, the reason that their line is worth investing in. They may use the most sustainable materials in the world and manufacture at the fairest fair-trade factory in existence, but it is crucial to get that message out to the potential customer.

The customers who come into my shop love to hear about the thought that went into the bags (straight from the designer’s mouth) and the process of producing everything locally.

Allison Teich McGowan, TEICH, TEICH NYC, Again NYC, green designers, eco-designers, sustainable designers, emerging fashion designers, eco-fashion, sustainable fashion, eco-friendly bags

ADD SOME POP

Pop-up shops have become a popular trend as of late and are a great way to get noticed and interact with people. The idea is that designers can set up a temporary boutique and offer their entire collection directly to the public.

Landlords are often happy to offer short-term rentals while they look for permanent tenants.

With so many empty storefronts available, landlords are often happy to rent their spaces for a short term while they look for permanent tenants. Nau, a stylish outdoor clothing company, joined forced with other eco-fashion designers this past December for a successful pop-up shop here in NYC.

Allison Teich McGowan, TEICH, TEICH NYC, Again NYC, green designers, eco-designers, sustainable designers, emerging fashion designers, eco-fashion, sustainable fashion, eco-friendly bags

TO MARKET, TO MARKET

Designer markets, trunk shows, and shopping parties are others ways a designer can raise some immediate cash and engage in invaluable direct interaction with their potential customers, as well as the media.

Designers can team up to throw shopping parties and offer a bigger selection of their goods.

If renting a storefront space is too much of an investment, ask a friend to host a trunk show at their home and make it a fun shopping party. Designers can team up to offer a bigger selection of their goods and increase their customer pool. It’s an amazing opportunity to control the environment the line is sold in and to make sure the brand’s message comes through.

Allison Teich McGowan, TEICH, TEICH NYC, Again NYC, green designers, eco-designers, sustainable designers, emerging fashion designers, eco-fashion, sustainable fashion, eco-friendly bags

PROPRIETARY INFORMATION

The best part of owning my own shop is talking with people about what I do and getting direct feedback from them. I can adjust designs and production in immediate response to the information the customer provides, as well as streamline my collection to focus on what sells best.

With direct feedback from my customers, I can adjust my collection to focus on what sells best.

I’ve honed in on the styles that were the most popular and produced them in more colors, but in smaller quantities. This makes each piece special as only a small number were produced. It’s hard to justify some fashion purchases during a recession, but a good bag (or coat or jeans) is incredibly useful and a good investment purchase.

I do think one positive result of this recession is that people are making much smarter, well thought-out purchases. This can work in the favor of a green designer as people care more about the impact their shopping decisions have on the environment.

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