The Fashion Designer Survival Guide, Revised and Expanded Edition: Start and Run Your Own Fashion Business Info

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Mary Gehlhar, author, industry authority, and consultant to
hundreds of designers, including Zac Posen, Twinkle by Wenlan,
Rebecca Taylor, and Cloak, gives readers behind-the-scenes insights and
essential business information on creating and sustaining a successful
career as an independent designer.

With advice from fashion
luminaries including Donna Karan, Tommy Hilfiger, Cynthia Rowley, Diane
von Furstenberg, Richard Tyler, and top executives from Saks Fifth
Avenue and Barneys New York, this fully updated and revised edition of
The Fashion Designer Survival Guide addresses the latest trends
in apparel and accessories, the newest designers, an updated
introduction, and a new foreword by Diane von Furstenberg, Designer
and President of the Council of Fashion Designers of America

The Fashion Designer Survival Guide provides the
necessary tools to get a fashion line or label up and moving on the
right track, including:
  • How to create a viable business
  • Figuring out how much money you need, where and how to get
    it, and how to make it last, including the latest on private
  • The best sources for fabric and materials

  • Navigating the pitfalls of production both at home and abroad

  • Marketing, branding, and getting the product into the stores and
    into the customer’s closets
  • Romancing the press, dressing
    celebrities, and creative publicity techniques
  • Producing a
    runway show that will get results

Average Ratings and Reviews


114 Ratings






Ratings and Reviews From Market

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Reviews for The Fashion Designer Survival Guide, Revised and Expanded Edition: Start and Run Your Own Fashion Business:


January 7, 2010

Not impressed.
Extremely disappointed with this book. Rather than focusing on the struggles, adversities, drawbacks, and the unhappiness of being a designer, I'd rather invest my time in a text which offers concrete instruction on how to overcome the obstacles. This book is premised upon the "facts" that you: a) require hundreds of thousands of dollars in reserve to even consider launching your own line, b) MUST work for several years under another designer prior to designing for yourself, and c) you most likely won't make it, even on a small scale. Every artist is aware of monetary limitations and minuscule success rates, so I believe most of us would benefit more from tangible advice, and an author who can offer various routes to achieve discernible goals (rather than abstract ideas and incessant "words of warning"). A few good points throughout the book, but I wouldn't recommend it.

September 1, 2012

A Grain of Salt Should Come With This Book
As another reviewer said, this book is best suited to those designers who want to be the next big high fashion thing. I'm not taking stars off for that fact because some people don't want to be a smaller, more independent label, and to have a book geared towards them makes sense. This is the type of career I'm after so for that purpose, this was the right book for me to choose. I started reading it before I knew ANYTHING about actually running a fashion label; I knew about fashion but I didn't know about the business side. This book provided the basic introductory information I needed and I did learn a lot. I'm in a much better position to start my business than I was before.

Having said that, Gehlhar's approach is downright unpleasant. If we're invested enough in starting our own labels to research and read in order to further our education, it's likely that we are WELL AWARE of "The Reality" she so thoughtfully placed in the very first chapter of the book. In fact, it's likely that this "advice" has been pounded into our heads since the very first moment we told someone we wanted to work in fashion. If we're at the point where we're taking the initiative to study the subject on our own, it's 100% unnecessary for this "wisdom" to be included at all, nevermind reiterated in every freaking chapter. Being told that it's hard serves zero purpose; what does telling us we *might* fail do for us in the long run? It's such a myth that "preparing" young hopefuls for the failure that might not even come is constructive. If things end up not going the way we had planned, what will having read it in a book beforehand do for us at that point? Nothing. Conversely, being told a million times over that you might fail before you even begin can convince you on a subconscious level that you absolutely WILL fail, which might actually CAUSE that failure. Ironic, right? Veterans of the industry just LOVE to give us that "bad news" and I've honestly had enough of it. Encourage us to be optimistic and driven right from the start, and we'll have a better chance at success. There is literally no downside to doing it this way, and I kind of can't believe that even needs to be said.

Another huge issue I had with this book was the fact that Gehlhar is absolutely INSISTENT that you work under someone else before you do something as cray-cray as make your own way (the horror!). Her incessant pushing of this throughout the book is obnoxious. If working for someone else for 5+ years while you could be running your own business is not what you want to do, just cross that sh*t out and keep reading.

A couple notes to the author:

1. Rework your first chapter. It sets a downtrodden tone for the rest of your book and I'm sure that's not what you want (right?). Encourage your readers. Tell them that most other authors would try to kill their spirits but you're not gonna do that because you believe in them. Don't worry, it won't do any harm!
2. Cool it on the "GET A JOB FIRST!!!!" angle. To insinuate that's the only way one can be successful is just irresponsible. Remember that the people reading this book are likely entrepreneurs and have been for a long time, if not their whole lives. And there's nothing wrong with this! Present working under someone else as an option and that's it.

To wrap up, I do recommend this book to those who want a career like Alexander Wang or Stella McCartney or Rodarte, and know next to nothing about how to get started. I have many many pages flagged and highlighted, and I'll definitely be going back through once I've started my business. If you want to start and stay small or if you know quite a bit about the fashion industry already, skip it.

Lastly, don't let this book discourage you. Don't let those bitter veterans try to sink your ship under the guise of "tough love". Absorb the technical information you need and ignore the rest, because you are not everyone else, and you are not this author. Believe that you can do it, because you can.

November 13, 2009

A Review from a soon-to-be Fashion Designer.
I will admit-- I chose this "how to start a fashion business" guide book over the other ones because it's more famous. And because of the Diane Von Furstenberg foreword, Tim Gunn review, and many little interviews with actual designers. Lets not forget the great price (w/ free shipping if $25 is spent).

This book is definitely a good read-- its full of practical information and great advice and real-world examples of situations designers go through (designers going bankrupt, exclusivity of certain production factories, problems with selling to certain stores, etc). Its a very "real" look at fashion from a well thought out point of view.

All that said, when I began to create my business plan this book was little help. I mean it certainly gave me a great summarized outline, but it lacks numbers. I just wish it had more number examples, you know more "averages". Like the average or sample amounts of material cost, production, and overhead cost for an emerging designers. How many pieces are recommended for a new designer and if they choose to sell to a store-- whats the average amount of pieces they sell the store and how many of each sizes (ie: 20 dresses? size 2(2) size 4(2) size 6(4) size 8(4) size 10(4) size 12(4))

I know averages can greatly differ, but I wish they would have made-up or created a fake fashion line, and created a very modified business plan with numbers, just as a sample. (That alone would have made this book perfect.)

It also needed more equations. The only equation was COGS. The book was great, but it seriously lacked numbers and tangibility. As in I was thinking this book would be a onestop shop, but it wasn't. This book gives you direction and an idea of how your mindset should be when creating a line and it gives you alot of pointers and warnings. Making this the perfect book for someone who isn't in the fashion industry. But as a person who's been to business school and studied at a fashion school I just expected a little more, I'm probably asking for too much, but what the hey- why not? lol.

I look at this book as a great complementary to a more detailed book. I haven't read these, but from what I can see in Amazon's "look inside" and from some of the reviews: "Fashion Unraveled", "Fashion for Profit", and "How to Setup and Run a Fashion Label" may be great compliments to this book. For my fashion marketing class I had to read "The Business of Fashion, Designing, Manufacturing and Marketing". That's a textbook and does offer great detail as well, but it comes at a much bigger pricetag. I just wish I kept it instead of giving it back after my class was over.

As a person in the industry I'll say that this book definitely solidified alot of my own thoughts and gave me many great tidbits that will be helpful and will come to mind as I'm creating my line. Just don't expect "numbers" and financial examples from this book. Just view it as a insiders guide to the business of fashion with accompanying examples and summaries of the experiences of other designers. Because of the low pricetag and solid examples I would definitely recommend purchasing it, but keep in mind that you will still need to find books and search the internet for number and business plan examples. (And, lets just say with all the junk out there its hard to find everything on the internet it takes soooooo much time digging through sites and sites and fake sites that lead you to sites that want you to pay hundreds just for a numerical overview of the women's retail market... oops sorry, I think I'm venting now, lol).

This book is great, I recommend buying it. But I suggest Mary Gehlhar make a revised version in a year or two that has numbers because if she did it would be like the Bible for starting a fashion line.

PS- This book really is like a wake-up call for people who just say to themselves "I want to start a clothing line", you know, people who aren't in the industry and just think it'll be this fun easy thing to do. It gives those type people ALOT of perspective. For someone who already has an idea for a line, is well-versed in fashion, and aware of the climate of the retail industry and fashion market this book has its shortcomings. But it is still helpful though, so thats why it's a useful book to have around.

January 16, 2007

Useful, definitely has information that you absolutely must know about the fashion industry. But it does not need to be purchased. Borrow it from the library--the book can be read in one sitting and offers general advice.

March 21, 2015

It seems like it was for high end designers
Just was not what I expected, It seems like it was for high end designers. I just wanted to try on a smaller level.

June 10, 2008

Excellent for High Schoolers
As a fashion design student, I was given this book before attending school by a friend. I read it all in one day and really appreciated all the information in it. But, I will say that I understood most of the business end of the information because I had already taken a college level business class.

The information in this book is very general and I would say it is excellent for someone who is thinking about going into the fashion industry and wants a realistic view of the process. Reading it before attending classes will give you a head start to understanding key concepts that will be covered.

If you already have a degree, I agree with one of the other reviewers, I wouldn't buy it.

August 16, 2012

Excellent insiders look at the industry
This book was a great bird's-eye view of the fashion world. It was extremely detailed and gave me insights into a variety of issues in the fashion world that my friends and I had never thought about before we started planning to begin our own business. It has excellent resources and some really hard-hitting advice for anyone who thinks that the fashion world is all about talent and creativity. They help, but a good business sense helps even more if you want to succeed, especially in today's economy. Highly recommended.

August 27, 2018

Very informative book for beginners
Very good book, explaining the inside workings of the fashion design world to beginners. Lots of tips and first hand opinions and advice from people working in the industry. Only small downside for me was it is oriented in the US system and not everything applies worldwide but I don't think this could be avoided in any way. Definitely worth a read if you are trying to find your way in fashion design.

January 15, 2019

Good read, and informative
Good read, and informative

February 8, 2019

Given as a gift, warmly received.
Given as a gift, warmly received. Very useful for the purpose intended.

March 24, 2008

Avoid the pitfalls of owning your own fashion design business
This is an excellent tutorial IF you already have a basic background in the fashion industry, otherwise, you might not understand certain information predicated on the assumption of a knowledge base.

I would most certainly recommend it for anyone thinking of starting their own business in the fashion industry. It will skillfully guide you through the land mines of the fashion landscape and prevent you from getting a leg blown off!

Clear, concise and thorough. Lots of 'white space' on every page prevents the reader from being overwhelmed and sublimimally infers that starting your own business IS simple enough that you absolutely can succeed!

Just do your due diligence with Mary. Good luck!

January 17, 2019

love it

December 11, 2016

Great read and lots of good information about the fashion ...
Great read and lots of good information about the fashion industry. Sometimes a little negative about what it takes to succeed, but I guess you do need to be tough. I like the resource list in the back of the book.

November 26, 2016

Not helpful to me at all I already knew all ...
Not helpful to me at all I already knew all this stuff. The blurb lead me to believe I was going to get more pertinent info. But there was none.

January 20, 2018

Informative, but mean-spirited in tone.
I found the book to be informative, but overall, mean-spirited in tone. It is possible to convey the realities of the business without discouraging the reader. The author could have done better.

November 18, 2017

For analytical, left brained people
Half of the info is too hard for me personally to understand. I'd need a business-savvy left brainer to help me do these things. I'm just a designer, not a business person, so I still have no idea or hope of getting started.

November 14, 2014

More hype than helpful
Slick visual presentation, but for a start-up clothing designer or manufacturer like me it was far too "designer" oriented to provide much relevant information. Lots of quotes by and photos of big-name designers, so I know for sure the author is very connected, for what that's worth.

January 20, 2013

For a beginner
It's a limited view of the fashion bussiness, it doesn't aport much value, it should be complemented with other books

August 3, 2010

I found this book to be less good than I expected yet still a good or average book. There are too many quotations I think and most of them on issues not needed.

January 9, 2010

good help
not finished reading but so far it is an informative read but it could give more ideas and tips.

December 27, 2017

Four Stars
Great info. Pair this with 'How to Start a Home-based Fashion Design Business' by Angela Wolf

August 10, 2016

Four Stars
The book made a great gift for my Fashion Designer better half!

April 2, 2016

Four Stars
didnt finish the book but its been helpful

February 9, 2016

Four Stars
Great book

December 7, 2015

Four Stars
This is never far from my work space! It has helped me out of many a design conundrum.

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