I write this post as a way to gain insight into the world you want to jump into. Fashion, Textiles, and many more forms of manufacturing are very organized, and not so organized. Some issues are macro, while others you can control. If you like to control things, it will help you, but also hinder you. Perfectionism is helpful, but can also cost you more money. I say this because the world of fashion, textiles, jewelry, even cooking is all about trial and error. There are ways to organize your design method, or even your product flow. However planning it is one thing and execution is another. Especially in start-up phase, or experiment phase. I am going to list the things you can’t control.
Overall, the business of fashion is a highly planned and executed business. It is a artform as well. All good art takes practice, trial and error, and a person to buy it. If you do this well, the bigger hurdles won’t be as troublesome because the reward can come financially.
As a new start-up or designer, the importance of clearly defining your brand and direction is really a conceptual process. During this process, I set up a mood or trend board. The reason for this is to convey a direct message, and keep the esthetic for the season. I have seen several newcomers make ideas, but the message keeps getting lost. As a result, product begins to suffer, and so does the brand identity.
So, what is a MOOD board? A set of images that create a feeling for time, place, way of living. The mood board is filled with patterns, images, colors, landmarks, etc. These images work together to define the way it will make customer feel.
Examples of fashion mood boards:
What is a TREND BOARD? Trend boards may cover a series of styles, for example all evening gowns. Or they denote color, fabric, etc. Basically your building blocks for apparel. Several companies that have been in business for a while will do a board of all successful styles from previous seasons. This allows the brand identity and basics to live, without creating more work.
Note: The image above has images of clothing, color, and textile. This is covering a range of elegant, and easy to wear clothing. The company works with Missy Contemporary.
Hopefully this post helps you create a more cohesive collection. Direction and organization for your brand should always be key.
SHAPE: DESIGN STRUCTURE
Fashion design is a vast subject that requires a lot of knowledge. There is a recipe that goes into every piece that provide flavor and taste.
One thing I find so many clients do is refer to styles with their own terms. This is great when you want to apply those titles at home, but in the manufacturing world of fashion, it isn’t. Using definitions help define what you really want. Think of this like grammar class for fashion. Several formally trained designers can help you learn this process. I was privilege to learn from masters like Nancy Riegalman. But you can learn with her book. The 9 HEADS is a industry standard, used to train designers on drawing and design terms.
Here are examples of skirt designs with technical names. Books like 9 heads will help you visualize and communicate better with the contractors that try to help you.
The next part is understanding fabric. Textile make up 70% of your recipe. Think of it like baking a cake. You do your research to find the best recipe possible for the occasion. The same philosophy should apply to your business. Doing the research and knowing what to call it, will save time and money. Otherwise it can feel like a overwhelming and costly.
Here are some basic principles of textiles you should know.
Woven: Textiles created with a warp and weft. Below are some examples of weaving drafts.
Knits are generally more stretchy. T-shirts, sweaters, and sweat pants are generally made of knit materials.
Choice in fabric with designate how the design is best made. Knits are more body conscious. Knits require less seaming, and a different pattern development is used to create the design. Woven can be highly tailored and used for suits, blouses, jeans, and more.
If you are designing a line, get to know your recipe! Fabric also designates your care labels, prints, dye/color type, target market, and level of design your doing.
Fortunately the language is easy to learn and will help you communicate better. The apparel industry is filled with straight shooters that will call you out on what you don’t know. I find many clients can develop a level of high level of frustration and hurt ego. Save yourself the pain.
As a consultant I am frequently asked the same question? How much will this cost me to produce this product?
The simple answer is “I don’t know? ” This equation involves several moving cogs. The variables of the question include…
-Manufacturing time (steps in the process)
-How prepared is the company before starting any processes.
Depending on how you design, the more bells and whistles you add will increase the sewing time, fabrics, and development phases. But to make it easy for you to understand, I place a general cost of $100-$1,000.00 for one sample. Then depending on fabrics and manufacturing minimums, your looking at $3,000 for a cheap garment. Below are the retail prices for the dresses. The one on the left is not fitting the model well, the fabric also looks cheaper. The dress is shorter , overall this is fast fashion. The dress on the right has expensive fabric, the cut is harder to achieve, and the fit is perfect.
The next question is always…”How many styles should I launch with?”
There is no straight answer here. But I do feel that for a properly merchandised line, you want to focus on 4-6 units. Maybe set of accessories. This balance allows customers to mix and match. When they can do this, the product makes sense. Remember, the new customer of yours needs a reason to spend their hard earned money with you.
This is a break down of general financials.
I suggest that people consider doing two collections a year for the first 2 years. It takes anywhere from $20,000-$40,000 just to get product in this small quantity produced. It also can cost you double the amount if you lack the education. Consultants are great for this, they come with contacts, processes, and will be honest with you about design concept, marketing strategies, and more.
If you are the jack of all trades, I suggest getting a college intern to help you out!
I took the liberty of compiling a list of companies on the west coast that people can use to help source labor, fabric, and special projects.
This is for PACNW use. I have additional contacts for LA & NY
The following is a free guide for start-up organizations. This provides basic connections in the West Coast region of the U.S. The break down is in 5 basic areas of apparel development.
Kelly Langolis, Stacey Wiese, Brian Lake,
Designer Selloff- Jobber
Tel: (212) 764-0180
100 yrd mins. Cotton, velour, terry
Mashesh Moorjani: Ph 212-629-0880
Offering factoring agencies and local financial agents. Contacts handle financing or tax prep for freelance agents.
In my experience, I have met a lot of passionate people who have great ideas. Sometimes the passion can overtake and lead a person to jump into apparel development. Manytimes they can become overwhelmed, unaware, and under budget. This is highly unfair as many ideas are good, and can be constructively made with lots of prep work. But there are thousands of freelance workers that have worked in the trenches and can assist with the development of ideas into tangible goods. But before you seek these people out, here are some questions to consider.
1. What market segment of the population needs my product?
2. How is my product different from competitors ?
3. What is my budget?
4. How much am I going to pay people to do the work?(Consider skilled people who are highly experienced. Good going rate is $25.00 hr. )
5. How will I sell and market my goods?
6. Am I listening to the expert I hired to help?
7. Ask around for consulting firms, trust word of mouth.
For many these questions are answered by mistakes. I have met people who spend years wasting money, making a product that fails because the following questions were not answered beforehand. The other issue I find is that a client wants to hear the “YES” word. They want an idea to come to life in just a perfect way. But due to limitations of smaller manufacturing, money, and retail cost, these concepts have to be adjusted to meet these needs. Sometimes because of the above listed issues, the item will not be as perfect as initially conceived. So plan for alterations to initial designs.
For more details I provide a free 2 hour consult about designers concepts. I can help you understand what their goods might entail.
Oaky, this subject is one of my favorites. I love design, but understand the limits, cost, and nature of it. However, many designers are unaware of how techpacks are made.
Technical designers are focused on making manufacturing instructions that safeguard your production. When working without a technical package, a manufacture takes freedom in cutting corners, inevitably this results in faulty or poorly constructed goods. It is important to understand the following questions….
1. What quality do you want for your product?
a)Fast & cheap
2. Where are you Manufacturing?
3. What is your target cost/retail price?
I always ask about the quality of a product. This helps a technical designer determine the following
Technical designers also need to be aware of fabric, and fit. These steps assist in the end product. For example, a CDC polyester in 3 oz. weight vs. 5 oz. weight requires a different stitch length. This will keep the item from tearing at the seam, but provide strength.
Tools a technical designer use are based on ASTM standards and ISO. The standards were created as a way to describe seams, stitch types, and more.
A great place to download examples of this are located here.
You may not find many examples of full technical design, mainly because these are safeguarded by the company. The image below is a example of a page from a tech pack.
Some teckpacks are simple. While others require attention to detail. I generally work with designer level product that requires full knowledge of design.Some are just the instruction for sewing, while others will have finishing instructions. Premium denim requires construction, washing, finishing, and packing.
In the end, it is good to take the time to get your manufacture instructions right. It will assist with plant loading, sewing steps , and finishing of goods.
For questions or inquires please leave comment below.
Another strategy that most independent designers without formal education are unaware of is the little things that have to happen in very quick time frames. It is one thing to make one product. And another thing to sell it. Below I will share some insight on the mechanics for merchandising, shipping, market weeks, and trade-shows. Timing, Trend, Trade are the three T’s to focus in on.
First priority is making you product. This concept is for spring1 or 2. If I wanted to get product in a store for the month of March. I need to start this outline in October. Part of the reason why this is actually a 6-5 month plan is based on a few variables. I need to have product ready to ship by Febuary.
1. U.S. holidays during Christmas and New year can create set backs on production. This is not the case for summer, fall, or winter .
2. If you are importing, the Chinese markets are closed for Chinese New year. Production is slow or not at all. This can happen from mid January to end of February.
3. Sourcing material in many cases comes from over seas mills. Depending on your yardage ordered, it needs to ship and possible delays in customs must be planned for. For example I ordered 50,000 yards of denim from China, the boat time frame is 4-6 weeks. Once it ports, customs decided to hold the container because it was mixed. I must now wait up to 8 weeks to get it to my local manufacture from order date. This is a worse case scenario, but still very important to consider.
4. When will Buyers be visiting my city? This is probably one of the most important considerations. Buyers have very limited time to spend with clients. They travel to tradeshows, stores, vendors, manufacturing plants, and more. Their time is planned for months for what market centers they will be in based on fashion weeks. Fashion weeks are not just about the fun, press, and events. But about doing real business. If your city doesn’t have a fashion week or market week, then seek a multi-line showroom to assist you with sales.
California Apparel News has a great calendar of fashion, trend, market, and manufacturing events. http://www.apparelnews.net/events/
Trade shows with further description:http://10times.com/usa/apparel-fashion/tradeshows
Sourcing Journal is another great resource. https://www.sourcingjournalonline.com/events/
Some physical apparel markets to look at on the west coast are
East coast/ Midwest Market Centers
Now you have a tradeshow, or market to show goods at. This means you need to have your product samples, costed, ready, and press release set up. For example many people will attend MAGIC in Vegas. The trade show is generally the second week/ third week of February. Shortly after Magic, Buyers will begin the journey to southern /Northern California to continue to buy product. L.A. market week is just after this event. Then NYC market week follows, and so on. Also look for buyers that are buying your season. When working with made in USA goods. The lead time is shorter.
5. Get factoring! Factoring is finances that keep you afloat to produce product. They can act as billing/collections and ensure your doing business with someone who can pay. Some great factoring companies are located on this site.
6. Do you have a company that can manufacture goods? I highly suggest using US manufacturing. This allows you as a small business to ensure product is being made correctly. Sometimes a full package producer is best. They handle all the details of production that can be time consuming and a headache. These companies already have a network of companies that yield good work with small minimums. This seems costly at first, but a sample is expensive. Especially a denim sample.
Indie Source: All goods.
Collective Apparel : Denim
For someone who has more experience in producing clothes and wants to oversea everything. The Makers row website is great.
Below is a example of a domestic calendar. This is a example. Depending on the size and manpower you have, it changes.
|Who is Responsible||Item complete||Trans||Fall||Holiday||Cruise||Spring||Summer|
|Ship to store||25-Jul||1-Sep||25-Oct||Jan 1st||15-Feb||1-May|
|Merchandiser||Fabric Direction/color. (Knits 45 day/ Woven 60 days)||15-Sep|
|Merch/Source||Approve costing/technical design, Specs, samples||22-Oct|
|Pattern Engineer||Final Fittings, construction,||15-Oct|
|Manufacturing||Receive strike offs, art, lab dips, etc.||10-Oct|
|Manufacturing||Approve fabric, labdips,embroidery||10-Oct|
|Manufacturing||Start production of samples||20-Oct|
|Merch/Source||Samples, catalog, sales planning||15-Nov|
|Sales||Present line to retailers||11/1-11/20|
|Sales||Orders set up and allocated||15-Nov|
|Manufacturing||Ship for distro||2/1|
Overall the planning of your year is paramount to succeeding in this business. If you have a plan for how & when to sell, then your ability to thrive in the industry will increase immensely.
Added a free program for costing to ROI
Designs are your cash cow. Depending on the complexity of your garments, the cost will increase or decrease. For example, you may have designed a great dress, expensive fabric , many pattern pieces, and unique interlinings for support. However the cost maybe upwards $130.00 The dress will retail roughly around $700.00. Here is how the break down works.
Cost: 128.23 @ %50=$256.45
wholesale: $256.45@ %400= 512.90
Retail price: $510.00- decreased mark up to meet a round number and needs of the consumer.
Simple enough. However the biggest mistakes a designer can make, occur in costing. Sometimes it is helpful to focus on the price point of your demographic. Then use the retail ceiling of your demographic to price. Then use costing as a way to source materials and manufacturers for your garments.
For example, the demographic of a junior market may be willing to buy a t-shirt for 7.00-10.00 vs…
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