The Harsh Reality Of When Mass Retailers Find Indie Designers
It’s an up-and-coming designer’s dream. You’re laboring over handcrafting earrings or oils or needlepoint in your apartment to sell at flea markets and on your Etsy shop, and then you receive a single order from a retailer (one you’ve actually heard of!) for more units than you’ve sold in the entire time you’ve been making them. Validation!
If you’re this kind of indie designer, that big order more likely than not comes from Urban Outfitters, which also owns retail brands Free People and Anthropologie. The pseudo-boho company has made it its business to discover fresh talent, and you’ll often find American-made, hand-dyed jumpers proudly displayed alongside racks of factory-produced graphic T-shirts.
But Urban tapping an indie designer is nothing like a fairy godmother tapping Cinderella; small-time designers are suddenly thrust into making hard new business decisions that could lead to their demise. Now, they may need to figure out where to get the money to order $10,000 worth of materials, whether to upgrade their equipment, and how to find, hire, and pay several new employees. And these decisions have to happen…now. Because retailers often want that order filled within a few short weeks.