Jennifer E. S. Millspaugh

Global Branding for Fashion Entrepreneurs: How SME Womenswear Design Firms Develop Their Brands to Compete Internationally

London College of Fashion

In the last two decades there has been an increasing focus on the generation of young talent in the fashion industry with the creation of the Vogue Fashion Fund initiatives by the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) in 2003 and the British Fashion Council (BFC) in 2008, as mainstream examples. Additionally, industry reports are beginning to identify SME design firms as key sectors for economic growth regardless of their need for promotion and support to achieve sustainability. In 2012, the British Fashion Council released a report on strategic considerations for growth of the UK fashion industry, spotlighting several key trends, including the need to nurture creative talent through development to successful, sustainable businesses; the resurgence of domestic manufacturing due to demand for high-end, artisan merchandise; and the need to support and promote British fashion brands globally. In their 2008 report underscoring the key relationships, barriers to growth and categories of the companies operating within the UK Fashion Design Economy, the Centre for Fashion Enterprise brings to light that British design labels are largely wholesale, highly internationalised, operations within the SME sector, and are strengthened and supported by a broad network.

Despite growing interest in mainstream media, significant focus in the current academic literature centres on retail internationalisation or established luxury firms, ignoring design firms operating within the early stages of business development that may initially succeed and internationalise outside the individualised retail outlet. Additionally, understanding of brand development has evolved to encompass not only its supportive communication efforts, but its significance to overall firm structure, culture and essence, recognising its co-creation within the marketplace. However, entrepreneurial fashion designers may not even 'brand' their firms according to established marketing methods.

This research seeks to understand the strategies entrepreneurial womenswear design firms employ to construct their brand identity in the course of internationalisation. Using a grounded theory approach to examine the practice of early-stage womenswear design firms based in London and New York, this research examines the connection between the brand strategies and internationalisation processes adopted by these firms. The purpose of this research is to provide insight regarding the current brand management methods implemented by designers operating within the marketplace, focusing on the growth and challenges of design entrepreneurs who operate within the gap between new talent and viably established businesses.

Supervisors