If someone knows what it’s like to build a brand from scratch, it’s Borris Powell. The Alabama native moved to Chicago over a decade ago to start his design career. Since then, his luxury men’s and women’s label has won the attention of both designers and the media, with mentions in magazines like Elle and Lucky. He also won the prestigious Oscars Designer Challenge in 2011.


We got together with Borris to ask him how he developed and promoted his brand in an industry that has traditionally been tough for outsiders to enter.


Little Jack: You have a unique brand in the fashion industry. How did your come up with it?


Borris Powell: I would say that my brand came up with me. It’s a direction extension of who I am and how I see the world dressing.


LJ: How has your brand evolved over the years you’ve been in business?


BP: My brand has grown in such a rapid rate over the years. I look at collections that I produced as early back as 2 years and I say to myself, “That’s nice, but it doesn’t look like my work today. I’ve become a lot more mainstream with less focus on the custom part of design and more on the retail side of fashion.


This expansion has allowed me to design for as many people that would like to wear Borris Powell. I’ve also introduced a men’s line as well as handbags, scarves, wallets for men, and lipstick.


LJ: When it comes to having a powerful brand, what elements do you consider crucial?


BP: The way to have a powerful brand is by having a brand that appeals to everyone while staying true to itself and the things that make it unique.


LJ: What types of marketing efforts have worked best for you? When did you begin to focus on online marketing?


The type of marketing that has made the biggest difference for my brand is word of mouth, which I feel is the best form or marketing. When it comes to online marketing, I’ve always had a presence, but I started with an online shopping experience last year. And I’m very excited for the next update.


LJ: Do you have any idea how your brand will evolve next? How do you plan to alter your marketing strategy to meet these changes?


BP: Sometimes my brand tells me what to do. [laughs] I try to listen to the demand of my friends and my clients and I’ll take that and make it work for all of us. My next year and a half I plan to leap into other markets, but only via traveling trunk shows. This will allow me to gain exposure in other markets/cities in a very organic way, much as I’ve done here in Chicago.


From there, I plan to focus on high-end boutiques and bigger retail stores. Those types of outlets tend to help increase visibility and I’d like to get the demand to where I feel it needs to be. At that point, I’ll focus on marketing to national fashion magazines.

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There you have it. To find out more about Borris Powell’s brand, visit his website at borrispowell.com. And be sure to subscribe to our blog to continue to receive our monthly interviews with interesting figures around Chicagoland.
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