Getting your clothing line on Karmaloop; how we did it
I'm going to irritate some people with this post, and it's not intentional. The purpose of this blog as a whole is two-fold really; the intent is to educate and inspire. To share some of our shortcomings and some of our successes (I'd love to hear yours too, btw). Anyone in the start-up phase of a clothing line most likely wants a) overnight success, and b) all the answers to all of your questions. You won't find either of these anywhere, and most certainly not here. What you will find are some hints as to how you too can perhaps get your clothing line into Karmaloop.
Karmaloop is one of those brands that you know can have a huge impact on your line, should you get the chance to work with them. Their site traffic is immense (something to the tune of over 2.5 million unique visitors a month) and diverse; people from all over the world. I mean, all over. This is the kind of exposure that you could never afford to pay for, and it's targeted directly to your line (presuming you are the type of brand that fits there).
Here's the story of how we landed the chance to work with them:
1. Identify your target
At any given moment I'm focusing on a several retailers I'd like to work with, giving the big fish the most attention. Karmaloop was the kind of brand I'd put other stuff on the back burner for. Typically I'll do as much research as I can in regard to what kind of brands a retailer carries, where do they do business (online or brick + mortar), and how many locations do they have. These things will help me determine if the outlet is right for me. For example, I could handle orders for a 5-10 chain store. A national one with hundreds of locations? That requires a much different strategy. Karmaloop I knew was a good fit for us given their recent move from being an exclusive streetwear retailer to carrying more lifestyle brands (like I would consider ours) to appeal to a broader audience.
2. Find your point of contact
With Karmaloop I know they have dozens of buyers. Mens + Womens dept buyers, accessories, specialty, shoes, etc. I knew our best shot was getting onto Karmaloop Kazbah, which is their new independent brand retail project. This is for up and coming brands that they feel might be a fit for them but just need the exposure first. Given this information, I knew I needed a Kazbah buyer.
3. Get your buyers email/phone
This, of course can be where you spend the majority of your time. The first two steps are actually somewhat easy in comparison. If it's a single boutique, you can simply call up and get this information. If it's an online retailer or major chain, you've got your work cut out for you. This is where I hit Google, Facebook, Linkedin, and Twitter. I'll enter "x store mens buyer" or "buyer department, brand x" into google. This can net you some confusing information, but you can sift through and often find something of value. Perhaps not the direct person you need to reach, but someone in their office or network.
How did I get the buyer information for Karmaloop? Believe it or not, Twitter was my key. This was really a stroke of luck. A matter of being in the right place at the right time. I sent out at tweet saying "anyone in my network know the buyer contact info at #karmaloop?". Someone I didn't even know re-tweeted my tweet, but directed it to someone they knew who worked at Karmaloop. That person and I exchanged DM's and next thing I knew, I was emailing a mens buyer at Karmaloop.
This was simply a matter of leveraging my social networks and being a little bit lucky. As the saying goes, business success is equal parts hard work and luck.
Hopefully this gives you a little insight into the strategy behind wholesale relationship building. While there are other (expensive) resources that can help get you the contact info you need, a little sweat equity goes a long way. This is just a small piece of the puzzle for your strategy, but I know every bit helps.
Now, to the part where I know I'll irritate some people; I'm not going to be handing out the Karmaloop buyers contact info, and it's for a few reasons. One, he's not there anymore. Sure I could probably track down the buyer's info with some greater ease than you, but it's not an impossible task. You can do it. Two, I'm not doing you any favors. Yes there are some things I'll gladly share in an attempt to make your journey easier. This isn't one of those things, I feel. The experience and satisfaction you receive from achieving this stuff is too valuable for me to rob it from you with this freebie.
Perhaps someday I'll release my list of contacts and retail outlets, but until then, good luck and keep up the hard work. You'll get there. I Promise.
Read more on apparel startup advice
- How to start a clothing line; start-up advice
A resource for the clothing line entrepreneur; sourcing, printing, branding and more.