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.