Monthly Archives: February 2011

Finding a Niche: Make your Business Plans Stand Out

Trying to tackle a wide market is usually too broad of a scope for any but the largest companies to handle. As a smaller business, it’s often a better strategy to try to divide potential demand for offerings into manageable market niches. Small operations can then offer specialized goods and services that are attractive to a specific group of prospective buyers.

Trying to tackle a wide market is usually too broad of a scope for any but the largest companies to handle. As a smaller business, it’s often a better strategy to try to divide potential demand for offerings into manageable market niches. Small operations can then offer specialized goods and services that are attractive to a specific group of prospective buyers.


There are undoubtedly some particular products or services that you will be especially suited to provide. Study the market carefully and you will find opportunities. For example, surgical instruments used to be sold in bulk to both small medical practices and large hospitals. One firm realized that the smaller practices often disposed of instruments because they could not afford to sterilize them after each use like hospitals did. The firm’s sales representatives talked to surgeons and hospital workers to learn what would be more suitable for them. Based on this information, the company developed disposable instruments which could be sold in larger quantities at a lower cost. Another firm capitalized on the fact that hospital operating rooms must carefully count the instruments used before and after surgery. This firm met that particular need by packaging their instruments in pre-counted, customized sets for different forms of surgery.

To research your own company’s niche, consider conducting a market survey with potential customers to uncover untapped needs. During your research process, also identify the areas in which your competitors are already firmly situated. Put this information into a table or a graph to illustrate where an opening might exist for your product or service. Your goal should be to try to find the right configuration of products, services, quality, and price that will ensure the least direct competition. Unfortunately, there is no universal method for making these comparisons effectively. Not only will the desired attributes vary from industry to industry, but there is also an element of creativity that is needed. For example, only someone who had already thought of developing pre-packaged surgical instruments could use a survey to determine whether or not a market actually existed for them.

If you do find a new niche market, make sure that this niche doesn’t conflict with your overall business plan. For example, a small bakery that makes cookies by hand cannot go after a market for inexpensive, mass-produced cookies, regardless of the demand.



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Filed under Business, Business Plan, Fashion Marketing, Market Research, Niche Market, Research, Target Market

Case Study – how market research supports the new product development process

Market research is the process by which businesses find out about customers’ needs, wants and desires. It makes possible the successful development of new products.

This study shows how an international company, Beiersdorf, combines market research with new product development on its NIVEA Deodorant brand to provide exciting new products that better meet consumer requirements.

Beiersdorf has a clear goal – to be as close as possible to consumers, regardless of which country they live in. Developing superior consumer insights is fundamental to the continued future success of Beiersdorf and its international brands like NIVEA, Eucerin and Atrixo. These are the result of more than 120 years of experience in research and development.

Beiersdorf has launched many new brands and products into a variety of countries and categories. Being an innovation leader has allowed Beiersdorf actively to shape its markets and set new trends. These product launches have led to long-term global growth.


Market research involves the systematic gathering, recording and analyzing of data about customers, competitors and the market. This links marketers to consumers by supplying essential information to solve marketing challenges and help with marketing decisions.

Market research helps a company create and develop an up-to-date and relevant portfolio of products.

Creating new products

Beiersdorf’s international Market Research team is based at company headquarters in Hamburg, Germany. The team’s objective is to be the voice of the consumers within the organisation. High-quality market research has helped secure the long-term future of the business. Analysing and understanding the data gathered on consumers’ behaviours, needs, attitudes and opinions minimises the risks involved in making marketing decisions.

Market research in a global organisation needs the help and support of the company’s overseas affiliate companies. Most affiliate companies (in the UK for example) have dedicated Market Research Managers. how the npd prosses worksThey help the central research team in gathering and interpreting consumer views. These views provide information or insights that ultimately result in the development of new products suitable for a global market.

This case study follows the development of a new NIVEA Deodorant called Pearl and Beauty aimed at young women. This case study will give you a clear picture of how market research has helped New Product Development (NPD).


Market research should start with the consumer and serves two purposes:

1) To inform companies about consumer needs and desires. What are the trends in the market? What do consumers want?

2) To give consumers the opportunity to talk to the providers of products and services so that their views are taken into account.

questions that need answering

Businesses exist in a fast-moving world with increased consumer choice. It is essential that a company knows its market and its consumers before developing any new product. Lots of questions need answering.

Consumer insights drive New Product Development. This information takes into account their behaviours, attitudes and beliefs. It is an expression of their wishes and desires. Businesses use consumer insights to create opportunities for their brands. It is the starting point that enables brands to fit meaningfully into consumers’ lives.

Across countries, consumers are different in terms of culture and lifestyle. NIVEA’s challenge was to find similar insights from consumers across different countries. This was used to optimize product development.

Secondary research

In the deodorant category, NIVEA used many secondary research sources to discover consumers’ views and their need for deodorants. These related to different markets and were supplied by local country market researchers. These included:

i. A consumer Usage and Attitude study. This had been conducted a few years earlier across various markets (UK, France and USA).

ii. An external study by Fragrance Houses. This covered the importance of scent and fragrance to people’s well-being and mood.

Primary research

The research team felt therefore there was not enough recent knowledge about the consumer in the secondary research. They commissioned some primary qualitative research in key markets (Germany, France, UK and USA). This was aided by the local Market Research Manager. The aim was to understand the motivations for using deodorant amongst the female consumer.

Primary research is used when there is no existing data available to answer your questions.

The research involved small discussion groups of females. This helped researchers understand the beliefs and motivations of this group. There were several main findings:

  • There is steady growth in females shaving. They wanted to look after their underarms throughout all seasons (not just in summer).
  • Women cared increasingly about the condition of their underarms.
  • Women desired attractive, neat underarms. This symbolised sensuality and femininity.
  • The deodorant segment remained focused on functional rather than beautifying products.

Results of the research

The market research revealed an unexplored market potential for NIVEA Deodorant. The brand did not have a specific product that addressed ‘underarm beauty’ for the female consumer. No direct competitor was offering a product to meet these needs. So there was a clear opportunity to develop a new product. This would fit across different markets and with the current NIVEA Deodorant range.


Consumers showed a need for a ‘beautifying, caring deodorant’. The team generated ideas on how to address the consumer need.

From these ideas the marketing team created ‘product concepts’. These describe the product benefits and how they will meet the consumer needs. Several concepts were written in different ways. These explained and expressed unique product attributes.

The company needed to know which concept was preferred by prospective consumers. It carried out market research to test whether the concepts would work. The research was conducted amongst the desired target market. For Pearl and Beauty, the desired target market was 18-35 year-old women who were beauty-orientated, followed fashion and looked for products with extra benefits.

Quantitative research on the concept was carried out in two test markets (France and Germany). An international company like Beiersdorf must test products in more than one market to assess properly the global appeal.

The concepts were tested monadically. Monadic testing means that the respondent of the test is only shown one concept. This stops the respondent being biased by seeing many variations of the same product concept.

A number of criteria were used to test the concepts:

1) Deodorant category performance measures. These included wetness, dryness, and fragrance. The new concept must deliver generic core benefits.

2) Product attributes specific to the new product and NIVEA core values. The new Pearl and Beauty product has additional benefits to a ‘regular’ deodorant. For example, it leaves your skin feeling silky and gives you beautiful underarms. Consumers needed to understand and see these benefits.

3) The product needed to be relevant and motivate a consumer to purchase it.

The team chose the ‘winning’ concept. This best conveyed beauty while remaining relevant to the deodorant category and NIVEA brand.

Next the research team tested various name ideas for the product and developed different designs for the packaging. Packaging design plays a very important role in helping to communicate the image of the product. Pearl and Beauty needed to communicate femininity and sophistication. Pink was a natural colour choice for the packaging. They also used a soft pearlescent container to emphasise the ‘pearl extracts’ in the product.

Various design ideas were tested using quantitative market research. In addition, this helped to predict the volume of the new products that would be sold, the optimal selling price and the level of switching from existing NIVEA Deodorant and competitor products.



The stages described so far produced a product concept that consumers felt was relevant and which they were willing to buy. The next stage was to test the product on actual customers. Many product launches fail, despite great advertising. A big reason is because the product fails to live up to the promises made.

The Market Research Team conducted a product usage test. A de-branded sample of the proposed new product was given to the target consumer of females in several countries. De-branded means the deodorant was in a blank container so that the consumers did not know who made the product or what type it was. Very often consumers form opinions about products and services from advertising and packaging. This can sometimes be very strong and creates a bias in what they think of a product before trying it.

The consumers were asked to use the new deodorant for a week. They kept a diary of when they used it and scored the performance of the deodorant against a list of criteria. These included:

  • Did it keep you dry all day?
  • Did you have to reapply it?
  • Did you like the fragrance?
  • Did it last all day?
  • Was the deodorant reliable?

Consumers applied the ‘de-branded’ deodorant under their right armpit and continued to use their current deodorant under their left armpit. This helped the users gauge if it was as good as or better than the brand they normally used. This gave a measure of how likely the consumer would be to swap brands.

The results of the test were very positive. Most consumers loved the fragrance and the feel of the product on their skin. They felt it performed as well as their current deodorant. Most said they would swap their brands after trying the product.

Brand positioning

Now the marketing team had a new product idea that consumers liked. It had a name and packaging design that were well received. They now needed to check how this fitted with the rest of the NIVEA Deodorant brand positioning and range.

The brand position is the specific niche in the market that the brand defines itself as occupying.

The NIVEA Deodorant Pearl and Beauty adds a touch of feminine sophistication and elegance to the NIVEA Deodorant brand’s personality. This built on the core deodorant positioning. It made NIVEA Deodorant more appealing, modern and unique to trendy, young female consumers.

Using qualitative research to inform advertising

The next stage was to brief an advertising agency to develop communication to support the launch of the new product. Through market research the team could check whether the advertisements positively supported and communicated the new product.

The company conducted qualitative research on some advertising ideas amongst various groups of the target consumers. It presented ideas in the form of ‘storyboards’ of what a TV advert could look like. The objective was to evaluate which were the best ideas in terms of:

  • Did they stand out as exciting or different?
  • Were they relevant to the consumer?
  • Did they communicate the right things about the new product?
  • Did they persuade the consumer to want to purchase the product?

Evaluating success

Once the product is launched and the consumer can actually purchase it, the research process does not stop.

Continuous consumer tracking can be carried out to find out consumers’ views of the new product. This involves interviewing people every day to find out whether they are using the product, what they think of it and why they would purchase it.

Beiersdorf uses other, secondary data sources such as consumer panel data and EPOS (electronic point of sale) data. These monitor the sales effectiveness of the product throughout the launch phase and through the product life cycle.


New product development should start with an insight based on consumer needs.

Throughout the NPD process, market research is a valuable tool for Beiersdorf to check viability and minimise the risk of the product launches.

Being an international company, it is essential that Beiersdorf develops new products using the insights of consumers across markets and cultures. This ensures the products are relevant to a large number of global consumers and will deliver the maximum return when launched.

This maximises return on investment for the company and results in happy, satisfied and loyal consumers


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Discovering Customer Needs through Research


Barclays is a global bank. It provides a range of financial services in 56 countries. Barclays provides retail banking services to customers, whether they are individuals or businesses. It offers a broad range of financial products and services including current accounts, savings accounts and general insurance.

Within the UK, Barclays communications are designed to help customers “Take One Small Step” to managing their money better every day. Different kinds of customers represent distinct markets for Barclays. The market for personal banking services is very competitive. Personal customers have a choice of banks on the high street or on the web to assist them in managing their finances. For example, they can have their salaries paid into accounts, pay bills through the bank or save money to gain interest on their savings. There is also a competitive market for business banking services. Businesses require different services such as credit management, payments for suppliers or loans and overdrafts to help them to survive and grow. For example, an expanding business may need a mortgage to buy a new building.

Market segments

Each market is capable of being further sub-divided into segments. A market segment is a part of a whole customer group that shares particular characteristics. These include such factors as age, life stages, geography or occupation. Within the market of personal banking, the segments could include categories such as students, graduates, “new to work”, mature, and families. By identifying different market segments, organisations can ensure they are providing products or services to meet the needs of these customers.

In addition to this, appropriate promotional techniques can be used to reach the people in the separate segments. Through segmentation, Barclays has been able to devise appropriate banking offers for customers in different segments. This approach is helping Barclays to improve its market share of the student accounts market.  Barclays believes students constitute a very important market segment for the business. Students may be choosing a bank for the first time and Barclays hopes to retain these customers. By focusing on the specific needs of this segment, Barclays hopes to attract more student customers and keep them in the long term. Using market research has enabled Barclays to identify the right product offer that will meet their needs.

The case study shows how market research enabled Barclays to improve its student account offer.


The purpose of market research is to gather data on customers and potential customers. The collected data aids business decision making. This therefore reduces the risks involved in making these decisions. In order to create a product proposition that would attract new student accounts, Barclays needed to understand fully the needs of this target market. Before engaging on external market research, Barclays began by asking itself a series of key questions. It did this to ensure the business was fully aware of all the relevant issues and did not make incorrect assumptions.

In asking itself these key questions at the start and reviewing internal customer data, Barclays was able to clarify its rationale for acquiring students. Firstly, students provide an opportunity for developing a long-term relationship. As the student market segment increases each year in September/October as the university term starts, Barclays has an annual opportunity to target new student customers who need an account and who might not yet have chosen a bank.

Secondly, the use of this data highlighted that in the years after opening their accounts, Barclays was able to establish a valuable long term relationship with students. This meant that students could now be seen as an extremely important market segment, and attracting new student customers became a significant opportunity.

This internal understanding was vital. With this background, Barclays designed a programme of market research. The purpose of this was to establish what students really needed from a bank. In this way it could offer appropriate products and services which would add value to students.


Barclays began a process that involved both primary and secondary research.

Primary research

Primary research involves finding out new information. It finds the answers to specific questions for a particular purpose. These enquiries may take the form of direct questioning. For example, it may include face-to-face surveys, postal or online questionnaires, telephone interviews or focus groups. This type of direct contact with people is valuable as it gives specific feedback to the questions asked. However, it is important that the questions are clear and that the researcher is trained. This will ensure that the results are not influenced. Although primary research can be expensive and time-consuming, the up-to-date and relevant data collected can give organisations a competitive advantage. This is because their rivals will not have had access to it.

Barclays” primary research process began internally with two key questions:

  • Who should our key customers be?
  • What are their needs?

The insights from these questions provided a factual basis to work from.

Qualitative and quantitative research

After this an external agency was employed to carry out an opinion panel. This took the form of an online questionnaire. The results of this delivered data about the market itself, as well as Barclays” market share among this target audience.

Quantitative research presents information in a numeric way, such as graphs, tables or charts that can be used to analyse the information.

For example, Barclays found from the questionnaire that 81% of students surveyed held a savings account and 32% an investment savings account (ISA).  The opinion panel also provided qualitative feedback on what was of interest to students and what they wanted from an account.

Qualitative research provides information on consumer perceptions, such as:

  • how they feel about products and services
  • what they like or do not like
  • what they would want from a new product.

The panel produced valuable insights which Barclays used to help re-evaluate its existing student account. It then used the information to develop new features and benefits to meet the established needs.


The enhanced student account proposition was then tested directly with 100 existing and new Barclays Student Additions account holders. This was carried out through bank branches and an online questionnaire. The sample group provided more qualitative feedback about what motivated students to choose a particular bank. Although small, the sample allowed Barclays to get a feeling for how students would respond to the proposition. For Barclays, it was important to know what motivated a student to choose a bank. Using existing students meant the bank was able to assess if the new offer would meet their needs. The expectation was that new and future students would also find it attractive.

Secondary research

Secondary research focuses on existing information. It uses published data that previous research has already discovered. This covers a wide range of materials, such as:

  • market research reports
  • sales figures
  • competitor marketing literature
  • government publications, e.g. national statistics.

Secondary research may be quicker to carry out but may give less specific outcomes for the topic in question. This part of Barclays research revealed that student accounts in 2009 amounted to 0.4 million out of a total market of 5.4 million new accounts.


Numeric data gives a factual basis for planning – a snapshot of a situation. On the other hand, qualitative information can find out the things that really matter to consumers. For example, 80 out of 100 consumers questioned might say they preferred one brand of coffee over another. However, more valuable information comes from understanding what it is they prefer. Is it the smell, the taste, the packaging or the price?

To meet student needs for a valuable, helpful financial service, Barclays needed to understand what students really wanted.

By using student focus panels and staff working in branches with a high proportion of student customers, Barclays was able to discover students” concerns, priorities and strength of feeling.

Research outcomes

The outcomes of the opinion panel and the sample of student customers showed that:

  • students relied heavily on different forms of credit. These included an easily manageable bank overdraft to finance their time at university
  • students wanted and often needed to own high-tech gadgets and electrical goods, such as laptops
  • students wanted to have separate accounts to manage their student borrowing and spending
  • any incentives offered would not alone motivate students to choose that product. They were expected as part of any deal.

This insight was a real help to Barclays when considering the most attractive proposition for students. Its objectives were to attract new student accounts. It also wanted to retain students as customers for life in a profitable relationship that met their financial needs.

Barclays could now start to put together an offer that would embrace the main concerns of the target market. These concerns were financial security, credit availability, flexible banking and the right sort of incentives.


In 2009, Barclays set up a working group to oversee the setting up of the new student proposition. It used the insight from the research to establish the key features and benefits of the student account. These features are valid for the life of students” studies:

  • no monthly fee to keep costs down for students
  • an interest-free overdraft facility of up to £2,000 from starting the account. Previously this started at £500 in the first year and increased through the years of study. This extension helps students manage their finances.
  • mobile banking and a network of local branches for ease of access to accounts.


Of several incentives tested with students, Barclays found that an incentive based on a mobile or telecoms offer would have most appeal. This idea was tested further with students on university campus. The students expressed a clear preference for an incentive offering mobile broadband:

“The broadband offer looks good…I”d definitely go in to find out more.” “It”s good if the broadband offer is for the life of the account´you may be in halls for the first year but not after that.”

To establish this incentive, Barclays researched broadband providers. It then entered into partnership with Orange – the UK”s number 1 broadband provider.

Orange”s strengths were a good business fit for Barclays and ensured that the offer had credibility and perceived value. Students who signed up for a Barclays student account were able to obtain a 25% discount on the monthly cost of whichever Orange mobile broadband scheme they chose.

Communicating the proposition

Having developed a student banking proposition that Barclays felt confident would appeal, it began to communicate the message and promote the new student offer. An innovative marketing plan was launched which involved:

  • a word-of-mouth campaign through “100 voices” which encouraged students to share their experiences of managing money whilst at college or university
  • promotional literature available in branches nationwide. This proved useful information for Barclays colleagues as well as for students and their parents to take away
  • online advertising through
  • direct mail to prospective students through the summer before going to university.

The Barclays student account proposition shows how it is crucial for a business to listen to its market. To do this effectively means targeting specific market segments to discover their needs.

Barclays” new student account proposition was an “insight-led” approach.

Using carefully constructed and phased market research, the bank was able to gain an overall insight into the thinking of students. In the early stages of the research, it was discovered that the student segment provided an opportunity to develop a long-term relationship. It was found that students were not necessarily “here today, gone tomorrow”. If the bank made a valuable and relevant offer, students were likely to remain lifelong customers.

Barclays” initial target was to increase the overall number of student accounts by 25%. This target was exceeded with an increase of 34%. As a result, Barclays increased its market share of the student market, moving from third to second among the top four market leaders.

The process of meeting customer needs is an ongoing one. Barclays has a continuing plan for re-evaluating its student proposition to ensure it remains relevant to the target audience.



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Fantasy Hairstyling, Pushing the Limits! – Hair Battle Spectacular


Fantasy hair is all about pushing the limits of traditional hairstyling. It can include the use of clothing, ornaments, and props to achieve the desired look, and it’s almost always pulled to the top of the head. Fantasy hair competition — which has been around for decades — pits contestants against each other to create a total look of hair, makeup, and clothing in a limited amount of time.

Hosted by actress Brooke Burns, this competition series pits 10 of America’s hottest stylists against each other to see who can deliver the biggest and best in fantasy hair design.

Part sculpture and part pop art, each challenge requires contestants to create outrageous coifs that resemble everything from multi-layer wedding cakes to toys with moveable pieces. The stylists then enter the ring to present their hair creations in a fully produced, dramatic and stylized performance. After each challenge, the judges — award-winning fantasy hair designer Derek J, celebrity stylist Lindsay Albanese and a rotating guest judge — critique the designers on creativity, execution and overall presentation.


In addition to blow-by-blow drama in the arena, there is also the day-to-day drama between the cohabitating stylists who fight each week to stay in the game and win the ultimate prize of $100,000.

“Hair Battle Spectacular” is produced by 3 Ball Productions with JD Roth, Todd Nelson, Adam Greener, and Mike Nichols serving as executive producers.





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Dressing with Sense and Simplicity: Organic Fabric and Clothing

No one would like to eat a bowl of pesticides drenched food. Then why wear clothing doused in chemicals?

Centuries before people use to live in harmony with nature and believed in giving even better environment for their coming generations. Now, people have crossed all limits dominated by the voracity of luxuries, benefits and money. This is taking a serious toll on the environment, and on the lives of all living beings in the planet.

The ‘Chemical Cocktail’ of Clothing:

When considering a healthy lifestyle, fabric is the first thing that comes to mind. Synthetic fabrics’ teeming with chemicals and dyes pose severe health threats. Synthetic fibers makes the skin uncomfortable due to the presence of toxins in them. From towels to bed linens, and clothes they are all-pervading in our everyday life. Apart from the potential health hazards to humans, these synthetic fibers also leach into the environment causing serious damages to soil, air, ground water, and other living beings around us.

The Environment Shield Organization of US has declared that seven out of the top fifteen pesticides are used for growing conventional cotton, and are regarded as the most environment polluting pesticides. On the contrary, organic cotton is cultivated using untreated GMO seeds, and by adopting biological based growing practices. A beneficial habitat planting method is adopted which prevents pests, thereby eliminating the usage of toxic chemicals.

stewartbrown 02 Room101 | Organic Fashion Design Pioneer Howard Brown

Natural Dyes Vs Synthetic Dyes:

Synthetic dyes involve many carcinogenic chemicals and effluents that are discharged into the river or atmosphere causing pollution. Chemicals used on fabrics can contain allergens, carcinogens and mutagens. Dyes that are used for special effects on textiles such as flame retardant, stain resistant etc., are likely to create health problems. Natural dyes are obtained from renewable sources, and are good to skin. They are bio-degradable and eco-friendly. Natural dyes are enriched with medicinal and curative properties, and impart healing qualities to the wearer of the fabric dyed with them. They save energy as they are not made from petroleum products. Furthermore, they provide rural employment, and also preserve traditional craftsmanship.

Life with natural fibers’:

Acrylic, polyester, nylon, rayon, triacetate, acetate and other fabrics labeled as stain & wrinkle resistant, and moth repellent will have ample amount of chemicals in their making. These fabrics can be avoided, and replaced with natural fabrics like wool, silk, cotton, linen, cashmere, and hemp. Organic and herbal clothing is more preferable for people who are very sensitive to chemicals. Researches on people with multiple chemical sensitivities reveal that organic clothing is essential in reducing their exposure to toxic chemicals.




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People are STRANGE! Fashion Model Bonnie Strange’s Fashionable Fashion Photography!!


German born International Fashion Model, Stylist and Photographer Bonnie Strange shows up some of her work in her ever growing Album ‘PEOPLE ARE STRANGE’.












Image Source: BonnieStrangePhotography


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How to Become Fashion Designer ( Part 9 of 9 ) – Preparation is Key

What You Need to Know to Master the Interview

So all that resume and cover letter preparation paid off – you’ve scheduled an interview for that company you’re dying to work for! If you’ve been following our Leaping into Fashion articles, you should have already chosen and researched the specific market you wish to work in, and focused your cover letter, resume, and portfolio in that area. Now with just a little more preparation, you’ll be ready to present to your prospective employers how you will be a great asset to their team.

Know Your Stuff

By now, you should already have a great deal of research completed for the market, and maybe even the company you’ll be interviewing in. Pull out the information you have so far and study it thoroughly. You may find that you’ll need to gather some more to fill in areas you’ve missed. Try to become familiar with as many of the following areas as possible: company history, their current collection, price point, stores they sell to, major competitors, their target customer, design philosophy, and any current news or projects in the works.

Know Where to Look

If your meeting is with a high profile company, this information should be readily available. Found in your local library and bookstores, major resource books like Dunn & Bradstreet, Fairchild’s Market Directory of Women and Children Apparel, Menswear Blue Book, Sheldon’s Guide to Retail Stores and Resident Buying Offices, and other directories can help you gather basic company information. is an excellent online source with a collection of related fashion industry key players, trade events, hot topics, and market research and directories. and are great places to look for the latest company news. And don’t forget that most companies have their own websites, which often include a company history, design philosophy, retail locations, as well as current and previous collections, and press releases. If the company is more obscure, you may have a hard time locating this information – and that’s OK. Many job listings in WWD and other publications don’t even list the name of the company! Many times, I have faxed my resume in response to anonymous ads and didn’t find out the company name until they called me to schedule an interview! In these cases, just knowing and understanding the market you want will be all you need. If it turns out the company doesn’t fall within your desired market, you’ll know that the position isn’t right for you. And if it is within your market, then you already know the product and will have no problem talking it up!

Know What to Say

Don’t expect to enter the interview and improvise answers off the top of your head. I remember going to an interview with only a loose idea of what I wanted to say, but once I was in the “hot seat”, my nerves took over and I completely blanked on my answers! If you prepare your answers ahead of time, you can make sure that you’re nerves don’t get in the way. Make a list of interview questions you’re likely to be asked and take the time to compose your responses to them. Use what you’ve learned about yourself from the career assessments we mentioned in “Setting the Course”, to answer questions regarding strengths, weaknesses, skills, values, and long and short term goals. Also be sure to incorporate your knowledge of the market and company into your responses to demonstrate your serious interest in the company.

Below are just some of the questions you should be prepared to answer:

  • Can you tell me about yourself? / How would you describe yourself?
  • Why are you interested in this position with our company?
  • What are your greatest strengths? Weaknesses?
  • Where do you see yourself five years from now?
  • What motivates you?
  • Where do you get your inspiration?
  • What do you see in stores that you think is really great?
  • If you had to predict the next big trend for the upcoming season, what would it be?
  • I see you attended (college name), why did you choose that program? How did you like it there?
  • What accomplishments have given you the most satisfaction and why?
  • How do you work within a team environment?
  • Are you willing to work longer hours?
  • How quickly do you learn?


Make sure you’re prepared to back up your responses with specific examples, or anecdotes. All the other candidates will tell the interviewer that they are creative, organized, and detail oriented. You need to make yourself stand out by telling the interviewer about the collection of meticulously hand beaded evening gowns you presented at your senior fashion show. Describe how your knowledge and skills relate to the position and how you can contribute to the company: “My understanding of garment construction will allow me to create accurate initial specs for sample development.” Also note that it’s not enough to just write down your responses – you absolutely must practice them! Rehearse aloud, in front of a mirror, or even with a friend. Don’t skip this step! Your responses should come as second nature to you during the interview – you won’t create a good impression if you take a long time to recall your answers! All kinds of public speakers need to prepare for hours and sometimes days. I remember reading that a communication coach takes her an hour of preparation to deliver 10 min speech!

Know How to Dress

Suits usually aren’t necessary for interviews unless you think you can make it work without appearing too stiff. A trendy interview outfit can be pulled off if you know more about the company, and dress for their market. For example, if you’re interviewing with a company that specializes in career wear for women, you’ll want to dress more formally and present a polished appearance. If you’re interview is with a casual sportswear company, your outfit can be a little more relaxed, but not too casual – you are still on an interview! If you have little or no information about the company you’ll be meeting with, it’s better to dress more moderately. No matter what, your ensemble should reflect your professionalism to make a good first impression. Your outfit should be fashion forward and express who you are without overdoing it.

Master the Interview

Equipped with your killer portfolio, your knowledge of the company, and your personality, you’re prepared to enter the interview and show ‘em what you’ve got! Greet your interviewer with a firm handshake and steady eye contact. Mirroring your interviewer is a good way to gain rapport and be accepted. This doesn’t mean copy the interviewer exactly, (that would be creepy!) just subtle reflections will do. Mirror the way she or he sits; use the same tone of voice and sentence phrasing. If the interviewer asks “From where do you draw your inspiration?” You can respond “I draw most of my inspiration from…” Answer questions honestly without bragging or exaggerating. If you’re asked any questions that you don’t know the answer to – be honest and say you don’t know! For example, if you are asked how to create a vector mask in Illustrator, reply. “While I am proficient in Illustrator, masking is one area I am not yet familiar with, but I would love the opportunity to learn.” Convey to your interviewer that you know school training is very different from actual industry expectations. Employers are looking for a candidate that won’t be difficult to train, or take up too much training time. Someone who learns quickly and is willing to go the extra mile is a worthwhile candidate for the employer to hire.

Express your interest in the company, and your flexibility and eagerness to learn and develop within the field. And then, there are the no-brainers for any interview:

  • Always arrive on time, preferably 10-minutes earlier since some companies will ask you to fill out an application or additional paperwork before you meet with the interviewer.
  • Bring several copies of your resume since you may be interviewed by a team or panel.
  • Don’t discuss salary, work hours, vacation time, or benefits during a first interview unless the subject is mentioned first by the interviewer.
  • Don’t appear overzealous. Due to the competitive (sometimes backstabbing) nature of the fashion industry, some professionals are insecure and threatened by competition. You don’t want to appear like a possible contender.
  • If you are asked what your expectations are, give a range instead of a specific number and add that you are flexible. (Do your homework on what you should ask for – visit to make sure your range is reasonable with salary trend of the current market.)
  • Always ask for a business card for each person you interviewed with at the end of the meeting.

Ask Questions

At the end of the interview, you will likely be asked if you have any questions. You should always have some questions ready to further demonstrate your interest in the position. You can also use this as an opportunity to learn first-hand information about the company, or review a topic that was discussed earlier in the interview.

Some questions you may want to ask are:

  • How would you describe a typical day on the job?
  • How many people are on your design team and how is the department organized?
  • How will my job performance be evaluated, and how often?
  • What is the potential for growth and advancement within the company?
  • Where do you see the company headed in the next few years?
  • What is the next step in the interview process, and when can I expect to hear from you?

Remember that you are not the only one being interviewed. While the interviewer is trying to determine if you are the right match for the position, you should also be deciding if the company and the position are the right fit for you!

Post Interview

As soon as you get home from the interview, write a thank you note and email it to the interviewer(s). In addition to thanking the interviewer for taking the time to meet with you, you should also reaffirm how your skills and qualifications make you a good match for the position. Try building on some highlights from the interview. Always send out thank you notes right away. It’s pointless if it’s received days or weeks after the interview! Even if you are no longer interested in the position, send a thank you note anyway to thank the recruiter for their time. You always want to leave a favorable impression; you never know when you may encounter the contact in the future! Many job seekers don’t bother with thank you notes so yours will get noticed immediately.

Keep at It!

Sometimes, interviews don’t always go as well as planned. I can’t even tell you how many interviews I left thinking “I totally screwed that one up!”, or “I’m not getting that one for sure!” It happens to the best of us so don’t beat yourself up about it! Becoming comfortable with and mastering the interview process takes time and practice. The more interviews you go on the more confident you’ll become. Don’t take rejections too hard. Job-hunting is very difficult and it’s completely normal to face rejection more than once – especially within the super competitive fashion industry. It doesn’t mean that you aren’t an excellent candidate; it just means that the employer couldn’t match your skills with the needs of the company. Stay positive, and always put your best efforts into preparing for each interview, and the right position will come along in no time!



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