Seneca Canadian Fashion Diversity Project Talk, April 2023.
Compiled by: Rose de Paulsen
Phil Dith, fashion entrepreneur, is the creator and owner of enitial, a Toronto-based Asian-inspired clothing label, has shared with us his experience building a business for those with a fast-paced lifestyle.
Inspired by FUBU, a popular Black owned fashion brand from the 1990’s, Dith set out to create a brand close to his own identity, Toronto streetwear with Asian roots. The garments he began creating is private labelled (existing garments with his own graphic designs applied).
Dith conceptualized the brand enitial in 2009, but it was not fully realized and launched until ten years later in 2019. enitial is the result of careful planning combined with a busy schedule, all to see a dream follow through successfully.
Before Launch Must Do:
The name ‘enitial’ came from the fact Dith’s nickname is PD, his initials. To add uniqueness to the brand, he changed the ‘i’ to an ‘e’. He suggests anyone choosing a brand name should look up previous registrations beforehand, to prevent copyright issues. Being unique and memorable is key in branding.
Registering your business will cost you, so it’s good to have money set aside for the expense. CA Identification numbers are also required for the sale of any textile in Canada (RN in the US).
- Establishing Roles and ownerships
If you are planning to build a business with multiple people, a good idea is to delegate roles. This should help should the business change and grow.
- The Elevator Pitch
It’s important to know your Elevator Pitch for the time when you eventually hand out your business card. This is an interesting and exciting summary of your business and goals. It goes hand in hand with your brand identity.
Inventory and Account Management
This one is more fun for the business students than the arts students, but it is a must for commerce. Creating spreadsheets on Microsoft or Google sheets will be your best friend when opening and running a business. Organization can be a lifesaver when business does not go as planned.
Identity and Strategy
Now that you have your brand registered and accounts organized, the next thing to work on is identity, what your brand is known for and what it stands for.
Finding your market/demographic will help define your brand. Choose a market that you love and can bring new ideas to. Having a niche to market will build up brand presence while the brand is still growing. It is good to start with a specific and small niche then growing the brand from there but there is a limit to your branching out.
Do Not Overextend
Here’s where the limit is reached. Let’s say you start out making sneakers, branch out to accessories, and maybe into streetwear. While the brand is still growing that might be possible but in the beginning stages it is best to keep simple. Overextending into eveningwear from streetwear is a far reach. This could result in a loss of your original customer base. Risks are fun to take, especially in art, but it is better to build a stable business first so that you can take a risk with minimal consequences.
Key to a brand’s identity, the logo should also be unique and memorable. As with your brand name, check copyright for symbols and colours. Dith recommends something easy to draw from memory, whether it be a symbol or initials.
The Personal Touch
Small details heighten the overall look of garments and accessories. Dith adds custom tags and hang tags with the brands logo on it. These touches show attention to detail and sets you apart from other brands.
Depending on the time and materials used. A general rule for T-shirts is 40-50% profit margin from costs. Sourcing might add to the expense, so consider the price when you are having samples done through companies.
When it comes to graphic design and prints, there are many tools and techniques to choose from. Dith goes over his favourites.
Screen Printing is the go-to for larger scale production. It is versatile with colours and designs, is long lasting through washes, but it can be messy and pricey, with tools costing in the thousands.
Heat Transfer is an accessible beginner friendly way to create a private label. It is easy to find a heat press for a decent price and is easy to find the vinyl and tools used to create designs, but it might be limited with details, and does not last long if washed frequently.
Direct-to-Garment printing is expensive but versatile. Embroidery has a range of price points, but can last washes and create incredible texture. Airbrushing is unique but time consuming. And pre-embroidered patches are inexpensive but limiting.
Of course, for design, you will need design software. Adobe applications are common and industry standards, but other applications can work as long as the files are high quality for your projects. While your business would benefit from accounting and spreadsheet apps from Google apps or ZOHO apps.
For marketing, you will need an online storefront which will cost money to host. You can promote your brand on social media for free, with verification and business profiles being offered on some apps. Apps like Discord provides real-time communication with your community and customer base.
Keep learning as you work on your business. Seneca College has amazing resources that can help develop your skills in fashion arts and in business management.
Other places include, YouTube, Domestika, Linkedin learning and audio books. Finding forums and communities online is a great place to troubleshoot and stay up to date.
Alternative Revenue streams
Having a single revenue stream is not always safe in today’s economy. There are other related jobs that might help your business while starting out. You can use YouTube or Kick to stream or create vlogs either about your brand or reviewing similar products.
If you are able to manufacture for business uniforms or merch, consider designing and producing for other companies.