Archive for March, 2009

Lessons Learned From Etsy

March 1, 2009

This post by Fashion Incubator inspired me to share my own thoughts with you regarding Etsy, one of the pioneers in the online world that is really integrating the old with the new to move forward. This post focuses on viewing Etsy as more than just an online marketplace for crafty types. Its not the next big thing. It is the current big thing, and will remain one, in my opinion.

In the summer of 2007, I launched Channing Designs, which I ran for about half a year while going to school (for my toughest semester) before calling it quits. Jewellery is not what I want to do. For me, I felt the urge to jump on the bandwagon, and as someone who has always been interested in owning a business, Etsy made it way too easy for me. That being said, my little experiment taught me a lot about starting a business. I still believe in Etsy and plan on hopefully using it again within the next year.

This post marks the beginning of what will hopefully be a series examining Etsy and its connection to web 2.o, its connection to the fashion world, and how people in fashion can take advantage of Etsy to stay on top of the innovation happening and broadening reach between fashion, media, and technology. I’m learning and sharing what I learn with you.

Part I: What I Know About Etsy So Far

channing
Channing Designs by Annching Wang

Etsy + Technology
The movement we are seeing is that technology becomes a means to drive both business and communication. Etsy is not only a marketplace, but a community, and therein lies its success. The way it’s designed (and I have witnessed the changes as they’ve grown) connects people – buyer to seller, seller to seller. (The main overall theme for Promostyl’s forecasted direction was “humanity”, bringing the human factor back into fashion.)

Taking a look at Etsy’s About Page:

“Etsy is an online marketplace for buying & selling all things handmade.
Our mission is to enable people to make a living making things, and to reconnect makers with buyers.
Our vision is to build a new economy and present a better choice:
Buy, Sell, and Live Handmade.”

Etsy + The Eco-Revolution
Either Etsy jumped on the wagon fast enough to take advantage of the opportunity just when eco-fashion was starting to get noticed. Established in 2005, it may have been one of the influencers in this movement. Maybe both. Anyway, who cares where the idea originated. It’s here, and that’s all that counts. They cleverly use phrases like “building a new economy” to appeal to the undercurrent going on right now to do with change and hope and newness.

A Note to Fashion Students and Wannabe Designers
I highly recommend using Etsy as a route to break into your own fashion business. Why? Regardless of the continuing notion that Etsy is more for the “crafty” type, and not so much high fashion, the calibre of artists and designers on Etsy is really high quality – bad quality will get weeded out, and the strong survive. Etsy’s Leanimal eventually became winner of Project Runway Season 4 – you probably know her as Leanne Marshall.

This is a great place to start if you really have no idea where to start. The start-up money needed is low. Its a great way to test out your market, maybe earn a little bit of seed money, and make some strides toward your passion while going to school full time or working full time. If your business grows, you can always venture into wholesale, you’ll already have a customer base, and your product will have developed and grown for a bit before launching in a “big” way.

Things I’ve learned:
– Etsy makes promotion fun and easy
– The communal feeling is fun and easy
– Photography makes the difference between crafty and professional. Learn how to do it well (it took me quite a while to figure it out), or get someone else to do it for you.
– It’s handmade, it’s quality (hopefully) – cost accordingly. Its about perceived value.
– Know your product, know your customer
– Learning the ropes can take some time. There is so much to learn that unless you are willing to spend days on end researching, create limits and goals. Otherwise, you’ll always be reaching for a sky-high unknown

A Note to Consumers (Which is all of us)
I highly recommend checking out Etsy, if you haven’t already. Some of the stuff is amazing. The creativity, energy and quality is unexpected sometimes. Perusing this site satisfies my consumer needs. It is a great place to buy gifts, a great place to find inspiration. I liken the experience to shopping at Winners, except a lot more fun, with cooler stuff.

Possibilities for Those Already in the Fashion Industry:
– If you are an artist, you can create screen prints for tshirts and sell them- If you are a clothing designer, you can sell your samples or old stock (granted they were sewn by you)
– If you are a photographer, again, you can create prints out of your favorite shots
– If you are fashion stylist, you can sell vintage pieces you’ve obtained that you’ve just never used
– If you are a graphic designer, there are an infinite number of opportunities here. People have created product that helps Etsians promote their businesses (business cards, catalogs), as well as things like wedding invitations. This is one skill that can be used to help drive business for other businesses as well.
– If you are a fashion illustrator, you can make prints of your illustrations and sell them through Etsy. Bonus points if you already have an online following (ie. a blog, online portfolio)
– If you are a textile designer/artist, this is a great way to sell pieces to what would often be a niche market and hard to reach. If you exhibit, its a great idea to create smaller scale, more affordable art pieces for customers to buy
– If you are a writer (and this one is quite obvious), think about starting a blog promoting businesses like these. Etsy Weddings is a great example. Remember that for a movement to truly form and make an impact, it must have reach.

Summary
The process is so simple. I know that for a lot of freelancers, any form of income helps out. And broadening your reach with more products is often a good idea (though not always). Especially with the economy, it really is the time to get creative about how you sell what you do (whether its a product or a service).

Again, I’m always looking for ways to connect fashion to media and technology, and taking two separate notions and putting them together in a blender. I really believe that’s where innovation happens.

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