South African brands face a tough time ahead as consumer cash-flow dries up and pre-existing retail models take little responsibility for their sales.

DSC04743.jpgGeorgina Rawden, of the upcoming label Georgina Simone, turned to social networking to expose her brand and get her saucy imported lingerie into the hands of her fans.

Georgina Simone, operated exclusively by Rawden, is in the business of importing lingerie and swimwear from Argentina and Brazil, famous for those bare-all bikinis. One of the largest problems facing her new label was the fact that no retailer would buy the stock, since South African stores mostly take stock on consignment.

This is unfortunate for our growing fashion industry making it very difficult for a small business to maintain a steady cash flow. The consignment model places the responsibility squarely on the shoulders of the designer or supplier to keep track of stock, which can be a whole job on its own. This model is also not ideal because the store does not take ownership of the goods, and therefore has no vested interest if the stock does not move or gets damaged.

With all these factors in mind, Rawden, who has recently settled in Johannesburg after a brief stint in Cape Town, decided to cut out the hassle entirely. She took a whole new approach. Using the power of word of mouth marketing, with a technological twist, Rawden invited all her friends via e-mail and Facebook, who in turn invited all their friends, for a fabulous launch in one Johannesburg's hottest hubs. Last Saturday. The Attic in Parkhurst played host to the official launch of Georgina Simone in Jo'burg.

DSC04745.jpgWelcomed by a glass of champagne and orange juice, I dived straight in and began perusing the stock. The pieces were exquisite, some naughty-but-nice, some oh-so-cute, and then some were just plain raunchy. One of the more daring pieces left one girl wandering out loud, "But when would you wear that?” Well, my answer was "Whilst doing the dishes, of course!”

Young designers and new brands need to navigate more carefully than ever through these murky waters. One of the most integral things to a business strategy right now should be focusing your target market and speaking directly to the people who buy into your brand. This is a time to see the opportunity inherent in any crisis and focus on building the interpersonal relationships with your customer base; that will no doubt remain loyal when things eventually turn around.

See more pictures of the launch on my blog.

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