Independent fashion designers and small brands sometimes might need help adjusting their businesses to a long supply chain -- from fabric sourcing to new market strategies. The many steps of the fashion supply chain can be daunting, so we got in touch with Human B, a Fashion Business Consulting firm in New York, to learn more how to improve a fashion business.
Founded by Boaz David, a fashion designer with over 20 years of experience in the field, Human B is all about understanding the main pains of start-up and small brands. Boaz had his own brand once, and now through Human B he provides guidance, tools, development and production services, focusing on empowering fashion brands to run a successful business, working with independent fashion designers and brands all over the US like Alvin Valley, Pret A Surf, and ADEAM. He has developed a series of training workshops that can help in many important tasks such as building a financial plan (particularly useful since this is something many designers struggle at some point).
We talked about fashion design, product development, production, supply chain, consulting and business solutions for fashion brands; and learned from Boaz’s experience what are the most common difficulties emerging designers have along the supply chain. He also tells us the one thing every designer or small fashion brand should never forget to do! Check out our conversation below:
Overwhelmed by the fabric possibilities out there? Boaz David, founder and CEO of Human B, can help independent designers and small brands to develop their collection and learn how to make the best material choices for your designs. Credit: Image courtesy of Human B.
[Digifair] Boaz, you are a fashion designer with over 20 years of experience. Can you tell us a bit about your professional history and how you started Human B?
[Boaz] Since I was a teenager, I knew I wanted to be a fashion designer; I went to fashion school back in Israel (where I grew up). I came to New York in 1996 and worked in the fashion industry for brands like Yigal Azroel and Nili Lotan, who back then had just started, so I had the chance to be part of successful start-ups and be involved in every aspect of building and running a brand. I then had my own contemporary women’s brand that sold in the US and Europe. In 2009 I started Human B with the mission of providing start-up and small brands development and production services as well as guidance and tools to build and run a fashion brand. Over the years, we were blessed to work with brands like Alvin Valley, Pret A surf and ADEAM who we helped from inception.
[D] Can you tell us the history of Human B? What were your main challenges with it?
[B] It started in 2009. I had just closed my brand and wasn’t sure what to do next. I was helping a couple of new brands at the time and saw that there was a huge need for a company that can handle the product needs for small brands, and I found it very enjoyable and rewarding to do. The challenges are that the market is crowded with products and brands, which makes it very hard for young designers to break in. On the other hand vendors and factories stay away from start-ups because it’s not economical for them (mostly because the units are too small). This creates a lot of challenges for us because we are the link between the two, and we need to keep both sides happy and willing to work with each other.
The design process is one of the best parts, but the following steps are just as important. Human B offers guidance and support throughout your collection development, so you can consider essential points to make better decisions. Credit: Image courtesy of Human B
[D] You mention that the supply chain can bring difficulties and headache. Which steps you find the hardest, and have improved over the years with expertise?
[B] There are many steps in the supply chain (on average, there are at least 10), therefore finding reliable suppliers and manufacturers and manage the whole process is a very demanding, challenging and time-consuming task. Especially for small brands, who don’t have the financial resources and can’t afford an in-house team to handle all that. The owners/designers are then forced to spend a lot of time dealing with their supply chain instead of focusing their time on doing the things that only they can do for their business like designing and developing business. This is why I started Human B, to take that headache away from them. Back in the day, global communication was a lot harder and much more expensive, today technology allows us to communicate with vendors anywhere in the world and manage the steps in the supply chain a lot better, quicker and in a more efficient way.
The steps from idea to product are many, and it’s important to take everything into consideration for a healthy business. On the right we see how Human B works: while they sort out the supply chain, fashion designers can focus on creation. Credit: Image courtesy of Human B
[D] Do you have a favourite step in the supply chain? What is it and why?
[B] I like the challenges of developing and producing a unique product. A product that requires thinking outside the box, it could be a different way of making it or finding and combining unique materials or designing a unique supply chain to fit the needs of the product and the business model of the brand. This is why I enjoy working with start-ups because we get the chance to be challenged and create unique solutions.
[D] What are the parts of the supply chain that fashion designers and brands often have more difficulties with?
[B] Sourcing and vetting, working with factories, and finding a manufacturer that they can trust and count on to deliver consistent quality and on time.
[D] Which one is your most requested service? Why do you think it's so popular?
[B] Development and production. Finding good, reliable resources and dealing with the process are the biggest challenges for young designers. We handle the whole process for them so they can free themselves to focus on their business.
Alvin Valley, Pret A Surf, and ADEAM are a few of the independent designers and small brands that were helped by Human B. Above, Boaz David talks to Daniel Vosovic -- "I don't know how I would have started my business without his info," he says. Credit: Image courtesy of Human B
[D] Do you think technology and the Internet have improved the fashion and textile industries? Why?
[B] Absolutely, it made the world much smaller so anyone can produce products anywhere in the world, and it made managing the supply chain a lot easier. While selling online gave designers an avenue to get to market without the dependency on retailers. In other words, anyone can now produce and sell products from the comfort of their home/studio.
[D] What were the motivations behind the video lessons and print forms, besides the actual consultancy as well?
[B] When I started Human B, I used to meet and speak with a lot of designers who needed our help. They were either new to the industry or to the manufacturing process and they had many unanswered questions, yet not all could afford our services. The online courses and consulting programs allow them to get answers and guidance affordably.
Based in NY (but serving brands all over the US), Human B can take care of all the production process: also teaching fashion designers how to start with a sketch and end up with a sample garment. Credit: Image courtesy of Human B
[D] If you can give an independent fashion designer or a small brand one tip to improve their business, what would it be?
[B] It's not about you; it’s about the customer! Stay close to your customer, have a dialogue with them, find out what are their pain points and their needs, and design unique creative solutions to solve it for them.
Boaz David checking the production steps of a collection. There are many ways to make the production and development process more efficient and economical -- beyond consulting, Human B also shares a lot of resources about the essential points to improve a fashion business. Credit: Image courtesy of Human B
Are you inspired to do things differently?
Human B and Digifair were also together in another conversation: the webinar How To Source Fabrics For Your Fashion Product, where we shared ideas and tips about fabric sourcing and technology that helps to optimise this process. If you missed the live webinar, or if you want to listen to it again, access the recording here.