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Jesse Dombrowiak

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Your First Clothing Line: Part 1 of the Budget & Pricing Mini-Course

You have an idea for your first clothing line. You know what you want your collection to look like, and you are ready to make the dream happen. Next comes the uncomfortable step that most creatives dread: how do you budget and price your first clothing line?

Fashion lines are typically developed on a 6-month cycle. It takes six months from concept to floor. For new designers who are usually developing fewer pieces on a smaller scale, that timeline can drop down to 6 weeks.

Even so, A LOT needs to happen between the design and delivery of the question. The truth of the fashion business is that you will incur many costs before you see any revenue, so budgets are king – and how you price your garments queen. This is part 1 of a 4 part mini-course on budgeting and pricing for designers working on their first clothing line. Sign up here to be emailed the remaining 3 parts and we’ll also give you access to the costing template we use for all of our customers!

What can you afford for your first clothing line?

It might seem elementary, but the first step to a budget is to look at your finances and determine how much you can spend in total. Lots of new fashion designers will say they do not have a budget, but that they are ready to spend whatever it takes to get their first clothing line up and running.

Let’s be honest. Most of us do not have an unlimited pile of cash to funnel into a new business. So sit down and take a look at your finances to see just how much money you are willing to invest in your new brand. Fashion designers generally look to three different possible sources of funding for their first clothing line.

Equity

An equity investment is an investment that others make into your business in exchange for part ownership. Equity investors will expect some level of decision-making authority after they buy in.  While angel investors, like friends and family, may be easier to land, the best equity investors will also give you expertise and contacts and serve as high-level advisors to your growing business.

Debt

Debt financing, otherwise known as a loan, means you need to pay back any money you borrowed plus interest according to the fee schedule you arranged with the bank or institution. If you decide to take on debt, it means you will have upfront money without giving up any control of the business, but you will have an additional monthly expense in the form of interest payments.

Other Income

Of course, there are many other options for financing too. You might start your fashion line as a side hustle and be able to finance it through another line of work, whether it is a full-time job or part-time consulting or freelancing gigs. As well, there are many awards, competitions, and grants available to new designers. The benefit of this financing is that you do not have to give away control. The drawback, however, is that these commitments can sap your time and energy and slow down development of your business.

Whatever you choose, it is important to get comfortable with an element of fundraising from the beginning. The more successful you are, the more your funding needs will grow. You will take bigger orders and need more cash upfront to front collections before buyers or customers pay you. If you want to expand aggressively, and who does not, money earned from previous seasons will not be enough to fund the next round. Even if you can finance your first collection from your own bank account now, this may not be true in the future. Every new collection will pose a challenge, and you will need some financing to bridge the gap.

The three major expenses of your first clothing line

Once you have an overall budget, the next step is to understand how to allocate your funds. The first step is to split the budget into three main buckets, product development, production, and marketing. With international production and larger orders, these buckets get more complex, but we will assume you are starting small and your first clothing line will be USA-made.

Product Development

For product development, you can use our in-house process as a guide. For fabric sourcing, trim sourcing, pattern making, and cut and sew for your samples, clients typically spend between $1,500 to $2,000 per sample. We recommend that you devote at least $2,000 to each sample to create a quality product that will be successful in the marketplace.

Product development costs depend on a few factors, including how many products you are producing, each product’s complexity, and the quality of the materials you are using. At the end of the development process, you will understand exactly how much your cost per unit – and how much you plan to price your items – as you move into the next big stage: production.

Production

Development has a cost separate from production. Development means getting your samples perfect; production means manufacturing them at scale. Unfortunately, there are no simple guidelines for manufacturing costs. Manufacturers are famous for charing retailers different costs even for the same products. Ultimately, the price depends on volume, leverage, and even relationships. The general rule is that volume is king. The more you buy, the cheaper the cost per unit.

That said, you shouldn’t produce more just because you get a lower price per unit. For designers working on their first clothing line, lower volumes are important. You need them to test demand, experiment with marketing, and create buzz. You will end up paying more, but you also don’t risk having unsold inventory. That, more than lower margins, is the largest challenge you will face – and it won’t go away as your brand grows.

As in most any industry, relationships in fashion are crucial to pricing. Building relationships with buyers, retailors, and manufacturers will help you negotiate better prices. Of course, it takes time to build relationships, but a great network is a valuable piece of the pizzle. Ultimately, keeping down costs is a constant balancing of high and low volume prices while keeping in mind the margins you need to keep the business healthy.

Marketing

Marketing is another topic that should be addressed from the beginning, no matter how uncomfortable. Luckily, marketing a first clothing line these days does not have to be expensive. Websites through Wix, Shopify, Squarespace, or WordPress are fairly inexpensive to set up and maintain. As well, it is possible to test ads on social media networks like Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest without a large outlay of cash.

If you have already identified influencers that cater to your audience, reach out to them and see what they charge. We also recommend signing on a free or inexpensive email marketing service, like Mailchimp, so you can start list building. No matter what, it is important to allocate some amount of money to marketing, so you can start building an audience and testing the market.

You made it! This is just part 1 of a 4 part mini-course on budgeting and pricing for designers working on their first clothing line. Sign up here to be emailed the remaining 3 parts and we’ll also give you access to the costing template we use for all of our customers!

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573 382 Jesse Dombrowiak

How to channel your inspiration into a new clothing line

It’s one thing to want to start a new clothing line and another to do it. For writers, the difference is sitting down to write. For athletes, it’s putting feet to pavement. For clothing designers and entrepreneurs, it’s outlining the first collection. Many of us are lucky to be surrounded by the things that inspire us, but it takes discipline and practice to channel that inspiration into something definite. Luckily, it really starts with small steps, like grabbing a pen and paper or putting on tennis shoes. Here’s a roadmap for how to do it. At the end of this post, you’ll have what you need to get started on our quick and dirty cheat sheet that’ll prepare you for development of your line.

1. Channel Your Inspiration For Your New Clothing Line

Inspiration may come from anywhere, but the difference between the dreamer and the entrepreneur is that the first lets inspiration come to them and the second actively seeks it out and captures it.  The question is, where are you getting your ideas from and how can you make a habit of becoming a sponge?

Fashion Inspiration

Fashion inspiration can come from a lot of places. Here are a few to get your style juices flowing:

Pinterest

Pinterest.com may just be the heart of fashion on social media even if it’s not the place where your particular target market congregates. Still, some marketers think Pinterest.com is the future, whether you’re designing blouses for professional women or athleisure wear for weight lifters. The beauty of Pinterest is that it not only lets you see what people like, both in terms of style and presentation, but it also allows you to pin images and save them for later. 

Fashion Magazines

For the designer whose heart is set on high fashion, Vogue and GQ are the top magazines to see what is trending on the runways of New York, Paris, and Milan. But, don’t just flip through the pages. Think about the designers who most emulate your vision. Think about the way they’re presenting their clothes and what that says about their target market. Find the clothes online and look at how they’re presented. Start a collection of go-to designers that either reflect your aesthetic or have a certain something that you’d like to incorporate into your designs. If Vogue and GQ don’t suit your fancy, go for more niche publications that reflect your target customer’s aesthetic.

Fashion Week

Runway shows like New York Fashion Week can be a great way to see which designers are causing the most fuss and what celebs and models are wearing to be seen. If high fashion isn’t your thing, look to one of the many niche and local fashion shows that pop up in every city. It could be Eco-Fashion Week in Vancouver, Indie Fashion Week in DC, or standalone shows in your city. 

Online Lookbooks

Polyvore.com and Wear.com are both popular online lookbooks that can help young designers get organized about the clothes they love online. Again, the sites trend young and female, but the perks are that you can see what’s trending, save looks for later, and gain followers in the meantime. 

People Watching

Activities don’t have to be around fashion to be inspirational. If you want to develop a new clothing line, it’d be better to go to a yoga festival or retreat than New York Fashion Week. If you’re into weight lifting, it’d be better to go to gyms and competitions. If you want to design streetwear, then go to popular neighborhoods where your target customer lives and just see what they’re wearing. It’s called people watching. Just, this time, do it with a goal in mind. Sneak in some photos, jot down some notes, and save that inspiration somewhere good.

2. Get Organized Around Your New Clothing Line

You don’t just want to expose yourself to outside influences, you also want to be disciplined about how you catalog ideas. Here are some ideas for how to do that. 

Evernote

Evernote is perfect for organizing photos, notes, articles, and more. With the Evernote app, you can upload images or jot down notes; with the Evernote Chrome extension, you can clip articles and websites. Then, it’s up to you to create dedicated folders, called notebooks, and tags to organize and hone your first looks. Create different notebooks for inspirational designers, for specific clothes, for research into manufacturers, and more.  If you want to take it a step further, make a goal of adding one new designer or look a week, and jot down alongside it price points, fabrics, functionalities, or anything else that attracts you and could guide your future line.

Pinterest

We’ve mentioned Pinterest before and it has the potential to be a one-two punch, not just as a source of inspiration but also as an ongoing digital scrapbook for organizing ideas. With the Pinterest Chrome extension, you can also pin anything and everything you find on the web that catches your eye along with some notes. It’s more visually oriented and less dynamic than Evernote – you’ll need a separate spot for deeper research – but it’s a great start. Similar to my recommendations above, you can make a goal of uploading x number of images to Pinterest a week or creating y boards a month around looks you want to design. 

Collages & Scrapbooks

Another way you could get organized is through old-fashioned collages and scrapbooks. They don’t have to be big, colorful affairs – even a simple notebook will do. As with Evernote or Pinterest, you can go as shallow or as deep as you’d like, using it just to save looks you like and ideas that pop up in your head or also to solidify serious research into colors, materials, and market research.  For example, you could take a 5-subject notebook and dedicate 1 subject to outside inspiration, 1 subject to specific looks, 1 subject to materials and colors, 1 subject to pricing research, and the final subject to market research. The point is just that you take it beyond inspiration to something concrete. 

3. Hone Your Inspiration For Your New Clothing Line

The next step is realizing that your collection isn’t just about you. Really, it’s about your customers. If anything is responsible for the failure of most fashion designers (and business owners in general), it’s this. Ultimately, your new clothing line must cater to the wants and needs of your customer base if you are to succeed, and that means thinking about the following items as you focus your collection. 

Target Demographic

Who do you see as being your main customer? What age group do they fall into? Where do they live? Do they live on a ranch in Billings, Montana or in a high-rise apartment off Michigan Avenue in Chicago? Do they wear cowboy boots or stilettos?

Knowing how your target customer uses their clothes and how they like to purchase their clothes is one of the most important aspects in designing and selling a successful line that grows stronger with every passing season.

The three most important parts to knowing your customer are:

  • Age
  • Personality profile
  • Purchasing habits

A connection with your targeted customer is huge and it’s directly related to your future success. I recommend taking your weapon of choice above, whether it’s Evernote, Pinterest, or a scrapbook, and showing it to your target customer (preferably not friends and family unless they’re the brutally honest type) and see what they say. Incorporate their feedback into revisions of your designs.

Think About Trends

Looking ahead and seeing where trends are headed is big. Are trends heading from black and white into multi-colors or perhaps from solids into plaids? Staying ahead of the game will keep your line fresh and successful.

These will help you analyze upcoming trends:

  • Trend reports
  • Market analysis
  • Forecasting

Analyzing fashion trends and following trendsetters will only increase your chances of developing successful lines. 

Forecasting and market research sites to follow:

  • Trendstop
  • Business of Fashion
  • Pantone
  • Style Lens

Positioning is Key

Positioning is a PR term for what makes your new clothing line different and, in the crowded marketplace that is retail, this is crucial. It may not even be that your new clothing line is really that different, but how you think about positioning will still help you design your collection now and market it later. Maybe it’s introducing traditional fabrics to a new niche, like Allbirds did when they sold wool sneakers to Silicon Valley techies, or it’s putting new tech in boring clothes, like Indie Source customer Scrubs did when they put anti-microbial fabrics in scrubs for medical professionals. Ask yourself, what is the it-factor in your collection? Why will it excite customers?

4. Decide Key Directions For Your New Clothing Line

The “key directions” of your new clothing line means we’re not just talking about the broad outlines of a new clothing line, like inspiration or target market. It means we’re really getting down to the brass tax of what your new clothing line will look like. Are we talking summer dresses or muscle shirts? Eco-friendly bamboo or luxurious cashmeres? Flamboyant colors or neutrals?  Streamlined silhouettes or lots of pockets? There are four main components that new designers need to consider when designing their very first collection:

Color Story

The trend and color forecasting site Pantone.com can be used to help you develop color standards. You can go with a complimentary or monochrome scheme to tell your story throughout the collection. Paying close attention to trending colors and designs will help you decide which direction your collection will take.

Color wheels are used in retail settings to put like clothes in a pattern that flows flawlessly from color to color. This helps retailers draw the customer into a specific product. Color can make or break any piece of clothing and is important when creating your collection.

Design Functionality

Fashion isn’t all fun. As any athlete knows, fashion can also serve a primary functional purpose. For mountain bikers, clothing needs to breathe and sealable pockets are a serious utility. But, even outside of athletics, function can be huge in ways that most of us overlook. Winter wear may benefit from outside pockets large enough to fit gloves without looking bulky. Inside pockets or easy packing would be a boon to frequent travelers who are nervous about thieves and travel light. Professional women may want fabrics that look sophisticated but don’t need dry cleaning. As the expression goes, form follows function, and this is especially true for clothing designers. How will the design functionalities of your clothes enhance them for your target customer? 

Garment Patterns & Reference Samples

At this point, we’re getting very close to what your future line will look like. The garment pattern is literally the pattern for the clothing you want to design. If you’re not here quite yet, never fear: you don’t need a degree in fashion design, the ability to sew, or expensive software to be a fashion designer. What you do need is a general idea of what you’d like to design (see above) and reference samples. A reference sample is an item of clothing that resembles in some way the clothing you’d like to design: it could be the garment pattern, it could be the design functionality, or it could be the materials or colors. Hopefully it’s all of these in combination. If you don’t have the technical skills to draw up a garment pattern, a good reference sample can go a long way towards fleshing out final designs with a capable manufacturing partner.

So, are you ready to take the first steps towards your new clothing line? It’s time to stop being a dreamer and start being a doer. Here’s the quick and dirty cheat sheet that’ll prepare you for development of your line.

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How to guarantee demand for your new fashion line

L.C. was my favorite alum on the MTV reality television series, Laguna Beach. I looked forward to each new episode every week. The drama was tantalizing and addictive. Yet, I watched mostly to see what the kids were wearing and trying to figure out what the next hot trend would be.

During the Laguna Beach/The Hills run, Lauren Conrad, known as L.C., put together runway shows for charities while still in high school. Years later, Lauren became a big name in fashion with her new fashion line. She sells her designs at department stores like Kohl’s. Quite the accomplishment!

Living the designer lifestyle can be exciting and lucrative, but starting a new fashion line takes money, traveling in the right circles, and talent. For the young, entrepreneuring designers of today, it’s not as “easy” as it was for Lauren, but it IS possible! If you’re ready to start today, we have a quick and dirty cheat sheet that’ll help you get started for development.

With a little talent, ingenuity and a lot of hard work, the dream CAN become reality. So, where do you start?

1. RESEARCH THE MARKETPLACE

When you want to start a new fashion line, from shoes to under garments to hats, you have to first and foremost, know your market.

Knowing your market entails researching trends and market powers. Most importantly, it means understanding who your ideal customer is. For whom do you want to design? Which customers are you targeting?

Knowing your target customer helps you determine the following:

  • Price
  • Design
  • Marketing Strategy
  • Distribution

So, who is your target customer? Understanding your customer’s demographics goes hand in hand with determining your marketing strategy. Think:

  • Age
  • Income Level
  • Profession
  • Geographic Location
  • Shopping Habits
  • Interests & Hobbies

IF YOU DESIGN IT, WILL THEY COME?

Lauren Conrad lived in an area that lent itself to developing major trends. She was able to play this into her marketing strategy. Younger, impressionable customers looked to the West Coast for the next fashion trends and she grew up in an affluent neighborhood, which definitely played an important part in her success.

She lived within her market base and her following on MTV was huge. Her marketing strategy was built from her own backyard. To be that lucky!

If you don’t live in a fashion metropolis, how do you research and find potential customers? Here are a few ideas:

  • Google your product and analyze competitors
  • Check subreddits
  • Talk to people
  • Follow relevant social media brands and personalities
  • Shop (online or offline)
  • Go where your customers frequent, i.e. clubs, music festivals, beaches, business districts

UNDERSTAND THE BRAND OF YOUR NEW FASHION LINE

One of the best ways to find customers is to actually go shopping! Go to the stores that reflect your style and where you would love to sell your line. Observe everything from the actual customers to the showroom floor. Visualize your product in the store.

Focus on your brand’s personality. Here’s how:

  • Imagine staking your claim in the market – where do you fit in?
  • Find your unique selling position (what do you have that they don’t)
  • Give your brand/product a personality:
    • Simple or Extravagant?
    • Bookworm or Sexy?
    • Serious or Goofy?
    • Modest or Over-the-top?
    • Outdoorsy or Corporate?
    • Dry or Flamboyant?

Describe your line as you would a person. Give it a personality!

KNOW THE COMPETITION FOR YOUR NEW FASHION LINE

Knowing your competition inside and out will help you define your line. As with all things, keep an open mind and look at everything from different perspectives. Find out what works and what doesn’t and why.

Analyze, analyze, analyze!

Look at these aspects:

  • What are your competitors doing well?
  • What are they doing poorly?
  • How do they position themselves?
  • How do they market themselves, i.e. look at:
    • Their business model 
    • How they target customers 
    • How they advertise

Visit their blog or subscribe to their newsletter. Keep them in your sights and you’ll have a leg up on your competition.

THINK QUALITY, NOT QUANTITY

When starting out and finances are tight, keep your collection pieces to a minimum. Instead of creating 20 pieces, stick to 5-10 pieces, maybe even 3-5.Less is more. If you make too many of a product and it doesn’t sell, you’re out the money and your shelves are filled with stale product. As with all businesses, it will take a good season or two to create your best collection and you don’t want to go all out before you’ve tested the market.

Keep your collection and marketing fresh and current. Building a win-win relationship with buyers is crucial, so keep your line fresh and moving. They don’t want to see the same pieces over and over, any more than you want overstock that doesn’t sell. Stay smart, stay fresh and don’t over-produce.

PLAY TO YOUR AUDIENCE

Talk to your customers and test in small batches. Lauren Conrad already had an audience in high school, through television exposure and parents with deep pockets. It worked for her and that’s cool, but most of us do not have that luxury.

You want to create products that excite people. A line that they are willing to max out their credit cards for. (Been there, done that!)

You want something that resonates with your audience and totally engages them. Communicate with your customers through:

    • Brand Ambassadors
    • Social media advertising
    • Sampling events

It’s better to lose $100 finding out that a product doesn’t work, then to spend $10,000 on producing a product that doesn’t sell and sits in the storeroom.

Two ideas that can really help and are smart moves:

  • Convince a retail shop to carry your samples
  • Give out gift cards/promotional goods to consumers for taking surveys on your product
  • Test 1-2 sponsored posts with influencers to see what happens
  • Run $100 in ads on social media to see if your product resonate with customers – and start meanwhile experimenting with digital marketing

RESEARCH, START SMALL, AND TEST YOUR NEW FASHION LINE

Minimize risk by testing the market and learning about your consumers. Two designers tell you how they create successful lines.

Fashion designer Meir Yamin of Donatella Dress goes for the vibrant colors, embellishments, and sophistication that would come out of the Kardashians, bringing out the celebrity persona in everyone.

He believes in testing designs by showing samples to customers and getting any feedback that will direct and promotes an upcoming collection.

The fashion design house, ICTZN, uses social media campaigns to test markets abroad, including:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • YouTube
  • Instagram
  • Pinterest (my favorite)
  • Blogs

They also use:

  • Short video posts
  • Online competitions
  • Videos of their fashion shows
  • Behind-the scenes footage

They use this guerilla marketing technique, which is a low cost, unconventional way to create buzz about a potentially killer new fashion line. It’s online marketing at its best. The key thing is to research, smart small, and test.

Finally, there are crowdfunding campaigns. If you think your product is incredibly unique, you might have a shot at building some early buzz. Kickstarter is one of the most popular crowdfunding platforms for creative and artistic projects.

Here you can, according to Jake Joseph, who ran a successful campaign for men’s underwear on Kickstarter, “genuinely understand your audience while developing an approach to providing them with a highly unique outcome.”

BUILD ON THE SUCCESS OF YOUR NEW FASHION LINE

Start by following some of the examples here and, along with your talent and hard work, you’ll be able to grow a line that may even rival Lauren Conrad’s someday! If you’re ready to get going, download our quick and dirty cheat sheet that’ll help you get started for development.

We can all dream, can’t we?!

Sure, and nothing is impossible with the right marketing technique and hard work! Pound that runway, research your intended market, and know your customers. The customer is always right!

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What does Amazon’s Prime Wardrobe mean for new fashion designers?

This summer, Amazon launched their new fashion platform, Prime Wardrobe. What’s most enticing about Prime Wardrobe is not 2-day shipping or free returns. Been there, done that. Instead, it’s Amazon’s fresh take on the online shopping experience as a whole.  While businesses like Zappos built a competitive advantage by making returns easy and hassle-free, Amazon has taken it a step forward by baking returns into the buying process.

Rather than pay upfront for clothes, Prime Wardrobe customers only pay for what they keep after seven days. Everything they order comes in a resealable box with a prepaid returns label. In traditional online shopping, returns are treated by companies as a necessary evil and customers rate them on the convenience of the returns process. Amazon approaches returns as an essential part of the online shopping experience.

While 2017 has been remarkable for the number of physical retailers that have closed up shop for not adapting to the online marketplace, it’s also been a flagship year for Amazon. Just one month after the Prime Wardrobe announcement, Amazon’s CEO, Jeff Bezos, briefly became the wealthiest man in the world when Amazon stocks rallied.

Prime Wardrobe isn’t an entirely new idea. The concept of the wardrobe subscription service has been executed successfully by companies such as Stitch Fix and Nordstrom’s Trunk Club. However, Amazon is able to offer over a million styles from a wide range of brands, including Amazon’s own private label, and isn’t limited to any one market, like wealthy, professional women. 

Amazon has the market power to not just democratize the concept, but also remove the subscription element that Stitch Fix and Trunk Club need to run a profitable business. And they’re offering 20% off to shoppers who hold on to five or more pieces of clothes. 

The question isn’t if shoppers will catch on – the value proposition really is just too good for them not to – but how can emerging fashion brands prepare for the shift in habits and expectations?

Depending on your take on Amazon as a fashionable business partner the answer may differ. Companies that are less concerned about controlling their brand messaging could attempt to leverage Amazon as a distribution platform to increase their reach and grow faster. Much like Spotify, Prime Wardrobe has the potential to give indie designers a boost in exposure – and Amazon can streamline fulfillment and returns.

The strategy of many other brands will deliberately exclude Amazon and any other major retail partners. Companies like Bonobos, Mizzen & Main, Crane & Lion, and MeUndies,  known as “digitally native vertical brands” for their top-down control over message and distribution, won’t want anything to do with Wardrobe Prime – and they’ve had wild success. These brands have a unique advantage over Amazon because they can create a completely personalized experience that’s difficult for large retailers to achieve.

Regardless of their size, Amazon won’t conquer the entire market. Americans’ desire for individuality won’t allow a complete Amazon fashion take over – the industry just doesn’t work that way.  Consumers will continue to discover and show loyalty to new fashion brands that they relate to on an intensely personal level, like Bonobos and others. The brand that will win is always the brand that tells a story compelling enough to win hearts, minds – and wallets.

That said, as shopping continues to move online and Amazon cuts itself a bigger slice of the retail pie, any and all designers should take a fresh look at how they sell to customers and explore different shopping and fulfillment models. While subscription boxes, pre-paid return labels, and bulk discounts may be more than most budding designers can afford, it will increasingly pay to look outside the box and start experimenting. The Prime Wardrobe box can be a good start.

 

How To Create a Clothing Line Budget in 5 Steps
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How To Create a Clothing Line Budget in 5 Steps

One of the first questions we ask our new development clients at the beginning stages of creating a clothing line is “what is your budget for the project?” Most new designers and entrepreneurs have no idea. We know that creating a budget can be overwhelming when you’re first starting out, so we decided to outline a few important budget components that we share with all of our clients.

Here are five steps for putting together a budget for your new clothing line.

1. How much can you spend in total?

It might seem elementary, but the first step to devising a budget for your project is to look at your finances and determine how much you can spend in total. Lots of new clients will say they do not have a budget, and that they are willing to spend whatever it takes to get their clothing brand up and running.

But, let’s be honest, most of us do not have an unlimited pile of cash to funnel into a new business. So sit down and take a look at your finances to see just how much money you are willing to invest in your new brand. Once you have your total budget, you can then decide where to allocate your funds and how to utilize your resources best.

2. How much do you want to spend on product development?

Once you have an overall budget, the next step is to split it up into a handful of different buckets, including product development, manufacturing, and marketing. With international production and larger orders, these buckets get more complex, but we will assume you are starting small and your clothing line will be USA-made.

As for what to budget for product development, you can use our in-house Product Development Program as a guide. For fabric sourcing, trim sourcing, pattern making, and cut and sew for your samples, clients typically spend between $1,500 to $2,000 per sample. We recommend that you devote at least $2,000 to each sample to create a quality product that will be successful in the marketplace.

3. Decide on your target price per unit for manufacturing

Once you have allocated funds to product development, calculate how much you can spend on manufacturing by focusing on the cost per unit to produce in bulk. To determine your target price per unit, start by learning the industry standard retail prices for similar products and work backward. Find out who your competitors are and what they are charging for their products. Their prices will allow you to hone in on a target retail price and get closer to how much you could reasonably make off of the sale of each unit to earn a profit. From there, you can determine the target price per unit.

4. Choose your method of distribution

How will you be selling your product? Will you be selling your clothing to stores or will you be selling on your e-commerce site? Many new businesses start out with a Shopify site to keep web development costs down, but some hire a web developer to design an e-commerce site for them. Decide how you want to sell your product and figure out how much you will need to spend to make distribution happen.

5. What is your marketing strategy?

For a startup clothing brand, we recommend allocating a significant amount of time and resources to marketing your product. Clothing moves when there’s buzz. If funds are tight, we recommend utilizing free social media marketing tools such as Hootsuite and Buffer to get started.

If you have extra budget for advertising, Facebook and Instagram ads are a great way to jumpstart your company’s social media audience and promote your brand name. Alternatively, PR is also possible with little to no budget if you are willing to come up with angles yourself and do the legwork of finding and contacting writers; and influencer marketing on Instagram is a marketing channel that many budding designers have used with success.

We hope these steps get you started on your clothing line budget. Is there something you think we should add to the list? What unexpected costs derailed your budget? Leave us a comment below with any questions or comments. We love feedback.

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American Apparel Shuts Down! Keep People Employed

As American Apparel layoffs begin, Indie Source is poised to hire

Today, American Apparel has started the mass layoffs that will leave thousands of apparel workers wondering where to turn for work. I know this because dozens of them showed up at our factory this morning looking for employment.

What can we do?

We need the U.S. fashion brands to make commitments to moving production here. These workers are extremely talented, loyal and ready to take on a new challenge.  While we can support some of the workers, there has been over 2,000 jobs lost all in one day. This requires a massive shift in the way we do business.

Today less than 3% of US fashion brands produce in the United States. If we could bump that percentage up, only slightly, all jobs could be saved. 

We’re asking U.S. fashion brands producing abroad to give LA a shot. But not just for that fuzzy feeling that will lead to more American jobs, but because we believe it’s in many U.S brands’ best interest to produce domestically.

We will perform a cost-benefit analysis using each brands’ current cost structures to show that it makes sense to produce in the U.S. financially. We’ll review the costs associated with overseas and compare them to domestic production in our factory or other Los Angeles factories.  Yes, the cost of direct labor is higher but when you consider taxes, shipping costs, holding costs and the massive cost of inventory that is discounted and thrown away, the total costs of production in China vs. Los Angeles are marginal. Tack on the tremendously skilled workforce and available fabric and trim sitting idle in Los Angeles and you’ve got a sound business case for moving some production stateside.

Don’t believe us? We’ll prove it. We’re asking US fashion brands to send us their overseas made garments and we’ll show them how to produce here while saving a ton of American jobs in the process. 

Once it is clear that Los Angeles apparel production is viable for each brand, we will create a plan for implementation and will allow each brand to see data on the workers’ they are impacting.

Contact Us Now to see if your brand can make it happen in Los Angeles.

Check out Our Sweatshop Free, Ethically Responsible Downtown LA Space Below:

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Fabric Indie Entrance Indie Source Logo OFFICE Usable

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IndieViews: Meet Emily Meaker

Our IndieViews series highlights the talented and committed people who power Indie Source.

Get to know Emily Meaker, your GO-TO point person to help you organize, plan and (finally!) get going on building your dream fashion collection.

What is your role at Indie Source?

I am a Client Coordinator at Indie Source. I work with designers who are interested in our sample development or apparel production services and help them prepare for collaboration with us.  Before we dive into things like materials sourcing, pattern making and sample making, our clients need to have the creative components figured out. They need to know what styles they wish to bring to life and have clear directions for us so we know what to develop! I help brands organize their thoughts into the language that we can understand as manufacturers. This ensures the development process runs smoothly. When you call our office line looking for help, I’m usually the one who takes your call! 🙂

 

What has your career path looked like?

I studied Music Performance and Composition in Australia and then started my first company when I was 19 called The Live Large Project, we ran events that were all about empowering people to live passionately and successfully doing what they love, I spent a lot of time doing business development for our company and we had programs running in over 40% of schools in Melbourne. I spent about four years traveling and exploring as a musician and entrepreneur and didn’t move into fashion until I happened upon Indie Source, I loved the focus and drive of the company and it was a team I really wanted to be a part of.

 

What advice would you give an aspiring fashion designer?

Educate yourself.  Many new designers don’t  understand the amount of work that goes into collection, even if a design seems simple. There are dozens of people that source, engineer, construct and manage each project to ensure the designers gets what they’ve envisioned.  Use the resources around you and pay attention to the experts you have working for you (that’s why you pay them). Our company has thrived because we have a team of people that work hard and know the industry inside out, so utilize and listen to those people. Lastly, do not begin this process without a clear idea of what you are able to invest in your development and production. It’s much smarter to have target prices and a budget for your business than to fly by the seat of your pants and finance as you go. Planning is key!

 

Why Indie Source?

I come from a business and music background, so when the opportunity to work at Indie Source came up I was excited because it’s a totally different industry than what I’ve worked in before. I’ve known Zack and Jesse for a long time and I was excited to work with a company that is so dedicated to creating jobs, growing businesses and making this industry accessible to everyone no matter where in the world you live.

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Any amazing Indie Source moments?

We’ve grown so much in the last 18 months and when we moved into our current office, we had the opportunity to throw a launch party and invite a lot of people within the industry, as well as all our clients. It was wonderful to see so many people in one space sharing and networking with each other where they otherwise might never have met, it was awesome to be part of creating that.

 

What sets Indie Source apart from other places where you’ve worked?

We are constantly striving to be as accessible to people as possible. We’ve made it easier than ever to give all the resources of the LA fashion district to everyone, no matter where in the world you are.

 

What’s the best aspect of working at Indie Source?

There is so much room for a person to grow at Indie Source and we have an amazing team! I’ve been here for over a year now and watched it grow from a few full-time office employees in a warehouse, to over 30 people in a big, beautiful showroom. Indie Source works as one unit, if something happens with a client’s project, everyone knows about it and is there for support.

 

 

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Your Kickstart to Entrepreneurship!

Amongst the many doctor and actor aspirations, lays an ambition many are not equipped to commence: creating their own business. As many start up’s disappoint before they’re fully able to thrive, a middle ground of uncertainty is present: how does a novice idea meet the demands of initial costs, provide a product worthy of consumer demands yet provide an opportunity to gain loyal customers willing to purchase at my inauguration? Enter Kickstarter, the crowd-funding platform that provides potential entrepreneurs with the opportunity to turn their dreams into reality.

There are many variables contributing to the success or deemed failure of companies; some externally or internally known while others are not. Whether or not the variables identified to the failure are presented, it’s best to reflect upon the factors contributing to success. I had the pleasure to speak with two very successful brands– one that has had recent achievement and the other still in the process of a Kickstarter triumph. Whether you’re planning the next great funded project or simply looking for inspiration from relatable businessmen, Ryan Beltran from Original Grain and Jake Joseph from Jake Joseph Underwear are idyllic.

Before investing in inventory and product development to begin any business venture, research and adequate testing are needed to determine if your product is in demand. With that said, Ryan Beltran believes “Kickstarter is a great avenue for testing products and gauging potential demand” as it develops a platform for advancing decisions to determine to continue or not. It’s also a great platform due to the audience – “an overflow of people who appreciate creativity and I wanted to reach and work with those people” reveals Jake Joseph.

As one of the most funded fashion projects to date, Original Grain fuses local wood inspiration from their Pacific Northwest hometown and modern eminence that results in a captivating timepiece. “Our primary goal when launching Original Grain (OG) was to develop a product unlike any other on the market. We wanted to create a watch that would ‘turn heads’, but was top notch in terms of its quality. That’s to be great at making our watches and provide a good experience for each and every customer we have.” With plans to solidify OG as household name and eventually expanding into a lifestyle brand, “the only way I can get there is

to focus on making a high quality product and continuously innovating our product offering.”

Original Grain

Jake Joseph elevates a traditional, hidden piece and “adds quality and workmanship to an often neglected garment”– underwear and proves that internal details and value of the first layer of adornment is equally vital. Insight to this piece was gained as this was in the process of development just as his project was launching. “We are constantly looking for ways to design products that are not just beautiful, but offer a solution too. Kickstarter is a terrific platform to introduce the The ZenSho Collective – the first underwear to never rise.” Ultimately, passion is vital Joseph believes, “be passionate about the product you want to introduce and illustrate that passion in your product and its benefits.” Genuinely understand your audience while developing an approach to providing them with a highly unique outcome, just as the exclusive underclothing of Jake Joseph has done.

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Passion coupled with an essential connection with your audience and quality product, all combine to make both of these company’s successful Kickstarter projects. “Kickstarter is an amazing community of people that want to help companies get off the ground…you just gotta go and do the dang thing.” Provide an experience for the consumer by revealing your story; when done effectively, the generated buzz will appeal to the need of your consumer now while also illustrating ideas for the future. “People love helping others achieve their goals, especially when they’re genuine” concludes Beltran. Therefore, the highly advantageous and mutually beneficial Kickstarter are highly recommended for the inner entrepreneur in all.

Original Grain: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/originalgrain/original-grain-all-natural-wood-and-stainless-stee

Jake Joseph: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/678444944/jake-joseph-redefining-mens-underwear?ref=discovery

By: Storm Tyler

***Update: Check out one of our brands NAMAKAN FUR: they just ran a successful Kickstarter campaign and we’re now in production – product to be completed January 2017

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IndieViews: Meet Johnny Quintero

Our IndieViews series highlights the talented and committed people who power Indie Source.

In our interview with Indie Source’s trim specialist Johnny Quintero, he shares his wisdom, experience, and excitement for what’s next.

What inspired you to work in fashion?

I would have to say the artistic part of fashion. I’ve always been attracted to fashion growing up. Seeing people express themselves through clothing always puts a smile on my face!

What advice would you give an aspiring fashion designer?

Do your research and think your design through to the end. Think about how your garments will be produced in production and design thoughtfully! I’ve seen so many times, designers “make it happen” or alter trim, sewing or cutting for samples and when the garment goes into production everyone scrambles to figure out how to reproduce the sample. You do not want to sell your garments one way and then in production find out you can’t do the same.

JQ2-for-webWhat has your career path looked like? 

Most of my experience has been in production. I started out as an assistant for development and production, then a production trim buyer, to domestic production manager and import coordinator. What brought me to Indie Source was the opportunity to be part of a development team again. I love working with a team to bring peoples designs to life.

What sets Indie Source apart from other places where you’ve worked?

The wonderful people here! Everyone has an entrepreneur attitude and we all work so well together. It’s a great team to be a part of.

What’s the best aspect of working at Indie Source?

The best aspect of Indie Source is meeting like minded people and always developing new and exciting garments! Every client is different and the work is always changing.

Any amazing Indie Source moments? 

Right now is the most memorable moment! We are growing the company and partnering up with so many great brands. I can’t wait to see what next year has in store for us!

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Watch Indie Source In Action On BET

Indie Source delivers for Damon Dash’s Poppington on BET’s Music Moguls.

Damon Dash’s vision for his Poppington apparel line is 100% independent and made in America using the highest quality materials and construction. On BET’s Music Moguls, Dash finds the key to his vision in Indie Source.

The BET crew captures Dash and partner Raquel M. Horn’s visit to Indie Source and meeting with Zack Hurley and Emily Meaker, where they review sketches and discuss samples. Dame’s reaction when he receives his samples from Indie Source? In a word – LOVE!

“To make something in America, at the quality and level that you like it … to me that’s real fashion,” says Dash. “With a group like Indie Source, I can make my samples, I can cut to order. I don’t have to hold a lot of inventory, because inventory’s what kills you in the fashion business.”

As a company that was created to help support independent designers, Indie Source is excited to be manufacturing Dame Dash’s vision for Poppington. We help designers like Dash develop their initial product. They bring us their sketches and we make modifications, source the fabric, and put together a collection for them. Once they’re happy with samples, we take them into production. And we manufacture it all here in Los Angeles. Indie Source is transforming the fashion industry in LA and making dreams into reality for indie designers.

Check us out in the Music Moguls episode below and find out more about what Indie Source has to offer independent fashion designers.

https://youtu.be/J2zSE6jDnrI?t=13m50s

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