The fashion industry is another industry that has been hit hard during COVID. Many founders in this space could not connect with their distributors because production has either completely halted or slowed down. Thousands of suppliers and factories have lost their contracts and couldn't pay their workers. Many retailers have closed their doors and have transitioned to predominantly online shopping to serve their customers. One founder felt the devastating impact of COVID when she had to shut down her runway show, losing time and money
Tell us about your business.
Kiara Quick is the creator and founder of Fashion Mermaid is an athleisure apparel line that focuses on being a one-stop-shop for all things health and wellness related to support people on their wellness journey. They not only provide stylish clothing for your workout needs, but they also offer healthy recipes and weight loss supplements. Kiara has always had an interest in fashion, and before she was pregnant with her daughter, she was 125lbs, then after Kiara gave birth, she found herself at 200lbs.
While trying to lose the weight she gained, she realized she couldn't find anything fashionable to wear. She grew tired of wearing sweatpants and a tank top. So, Kiara decided to create outfits that made her feel good. When people began to see her wearing her outfits, they asked her where she got them from. That's when Kiara committed to helping other women on similar journeys as her. So she created more athleisure wear for full-figured women.
Tell us what your business was like pre-COVID?
Before COVID, Kiara was in the process of producing her second fashion show. The goal of Fashion Mermaid is to bring activewear and leisurewear to the runway. The year before COVID, Kiara turned 30, and one of her goals was to have a fashion show. That was her first runway fashion show to showcase her first collection. Because when she started Fashion Mermaid, she had only one clothing item, so bringing out a full fashion line was a huge milestone. That led her to participate in an indie fashion week, which led her to plan her second show.
However, two days before her show, she had to cancel because of COVID. She spent a considerable amount of time curating the show. She had models and dancers and invested a lot of money into the show. At first, she thought she would be able to reschedule the show, but the show was supposed to be at a school, and schools were closed for the remainder of the year. Kiara said, "I was devastated. I felt like COVID ruined everything."
In which ways have you pivoted your business so you can continue to operate and serve?
Kiara decided to drop her collection online and used the previously canceled show's buzz by ramping up her social media presence. She sold out almost immediately in two days. Kiara said, "Even though I didn't get to put it out there the way I wanted to, people supported it." She had created enough buzz for the physical fashion show that it overflowed onto her online strategy. Kiara then transitioned to creating masks using her ability to sew. She made stylish masks that accessorized with some of the already created outfits and sold over 1,000 masks.
What has helped you to pivot?
"What helped me pivot were my supporters like, my IG family, and those close to me," shared Kiara. People knew how upset she was about not being able to do the show and also losing out on a lot of money that she invested. Receiving supportive messages helped to sustain her. "Some were like, 'we can't wait for the next one, the next show will be bigger and better.' At first, I was going to wait to put out my new collection because I wanted them to see it the way I wanted them to see it." She felt better equipped to move forward between the uplifting messages and seeing other fashion artists launch virtual runway shows. Kiara shared, "My community really lifted me up because I was like over it. But, everyone who purchased a ticket purchased an outfit."
What advice would you give to business owners who are experiencing a crisis in their businesses?
"Just Use this time to help elevate your business. I will say that during COVID, it helped me elevate my business and showed me other avenues that I can use to put my business out there. COVID is giving you more time to get a lot of your eggs in a basket. Because sometimes we rush to put something out there, and we didn't give it enough time, but I feel like now we have enough time to make sure everything is the way we want it. If you really believe in your dream, your product, or your brand, you will not allow anything to hold you back, if you really believe in it. And so right now, is the time for you to go even harder, so when the world does open back up, you'll be ready to go."
Kiara is a social butterfly who loves to talk to people about her brand. She loves to have pop-up shops, loves talking to vendors, and it's something she cannot do the same as she used to. "This also gave people a way to get their social media presence up, to help them learn, to be technical," said Kaira. She had to get better at telling stories online.
What's next for your business?
Kiara is working on a new collection and planning more pop-up shops following the social distancing rules and making sure that her customers and herself are safe. She has had more time to create because if the world were open, she probably wouldn't have been able to create a new collection as quickly as she did. This time gave her more time to focus, design, and add new products to her line. She added waist shapers, waist trainers, so she's been testing lots of different products to bring to her customers. She's a brand ambassador. She's been reaching out to more companies and has focused on doing more collaborations.