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Zack Hurley

source fabrics
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How to source fabrics the right way

As a new designer and business owner, balancing creative direction, production and business procedures can be overwhelming, especially when it comes time to source fabrics for your line. That’s why we’ve created this guide to help you better understand the do’s and don’ts of sourcing fabrics.

Creating a clothing line is so much more than a hobby; it’s a business. Whether your line is a personal project or the next Balenciaga, attention to detail is paramount every step of the way. From tech packs to licensing and everything in between, there’s a lot that goes into a clothing line behind the scenes. Download the production checklist we use with all of our clients for everything you’ll need – and we’ll throw in our costing template, fabric & trim directory, and development cheatsheet too. Even if you don’t plan on selling your line to the public, efficiency at ever turn can save you a lot of time and money.

This is especially true of sourcing, which can be a complex process with multiple variables including vendors, shipping, timelines, and more; the materials you use can make or break your line, so as difficult as it might be, it’s important to find suppliers that meets your needs.

The fabric you choose is an essential part of your collection. It influences the way your garment looks, feels, falls, and flows. While it’s easy to tell the difference between moleskin and wool, sourcing your materials isn’t always black and white. Here are a few important questions you should ask when finding suppliers and materials for your line:

Designer side

Sourcing starts with finding out your needs as a designer. Without an understanding of what you need, it’s nearly impossible to find the right materials and supplier for your line. Here are a few questions you should ask before you decide on a supplier:

What’s the material for?

At this point, you’ve probably completed your tech pack and have an idea of what materials you need for your clothing line. To source your materials efficiently, you’ll need to determine the exact components that are going to be used, starting with:

  • What season is your line designed for? Are you working on a F/W line or creating a lighter collection for spring/summer? This will help you decide on the fabrics and materials you’ll need.
  • What is the purpose of your collection? Whether it’s a small-scale collection for retail or a runway line for a fashion show, the purpose of your collection helps determine things like functionality, rigidity, and durability, which are essential to the proper execution of your design.
  • What type of garment are you creating? You wouldn’t make a pair of pants out of cotton, just like you wouldn’t make a winter jacket out of silk. Figure out the weight, pattern, color, and other technical details you need for your design so that you know what to look for.

What’s the plan?

Once you’ve decided on the materials you need, you should establish a plan for the execution. Doing so will allow you to streamline your operation, resulting in a more efficient and affordable execution of your collection.

  • How are you going to use the materials? Whether you’re ordering 5 square feet for trim or 500 square feet for the bulk of your design, you should have a plan for how you’re going to use all of the material to avoid any waste.
  • Are you going to dye/treat the materials? Many suppliers offer pre-treated or dyed materials, but what if they don’t have the finish you’re looking for? It’s important to decide whether or not you’re going to alter your materials as some suppliers may be able to do it for you.
  • How much do you need? Determining how much material you’re going to need can help you narrow down your choices in the beginning and save you time and money in the long run. More fabric will bring down the price, but you risk extra inventory. It’s important to know how much you need so that you can confirm that a supplier is able to fulfill your order.

Here are the top 7 questions you should ask fabric vendors:

1. Lead Times or In stock fabrics available?
2. MOQ’s – Minimum order quantity (Per Color)
3. Price per yard (production and sample pricing)
4. Cuttable width (58″/60″is standard)
5. Weight (GSM)
6. Inventory available and frequency of purchasing
7. Payment terms (COD,Net 30 etc.)

Supplier side

Now that you’ve figured out what you need from a design perspective, it’s time to find a supplier that can meet your needs. This can be tough since many suppliers have very high minimum order quantities, which isn’t ideal if you’re working on a small collection. Here are a few questions you can ask to hone in on the perfect supplier.

Where are you looking?

Suppliers specialize in different fabrics and materials. If you’re looking for cotton, it’s common knowledge that Egypt’s suppliers are some of the best, whereas New Zealand is home to some of the best merino wool in the world. It’s important to choose a supplier that stocks the materials you need, and is able to deliver when it comes time to produce your line. You don’t want to order fabric for your samples only to be told that the supplier doesn’t have any more for production after you’ve already taken orders. The closer you get to the source, the more affordable your materials will be, so you should try to work your way up the supply chain if possible. Here are a few possible suppliers you may want to consider:

  • Agents/sales reps: Agents have access to networks of suppliers, and can help you source materials and producers for a fee. This is usually the most expensive option, and you may be required to place a large order.
  • Trade shows: Trade shows allow you to develop personal relationships with suppliers, and give you the opportunity to view their products up close.
  • Online: Shopping online for materials can be hit or miss, but it’s possible to find amazing materials without even leaving your couch. Just make sure that you know exactly what you are ordering.
  • Convertor: A company that buys materials directly from fabric mills, then treats or alters them into a full line of finished fabrics. They are a great choice for trendy and “in” materials, and often have low minimum order sizes.
  • Jobber: Jobbers buy large quantities fabric from mills, converters, and design businesses, then resell them to smaller design companies and manufacturers at wholesale prices. This allows for lower minimums but a constantly rotating stock.
  • Mills: Most mills and larger suppliers don’t have website or customer-facing contact information since they usually deal with businesses. If you manage to touch base with a mill with the materials you need, be prepared to make a large order.
  • Full-Service Development Shop: Full-service development shops (like Indie Source) have established relationships with different suppliers and can cut down on the time needed to source the best fabrics for you. Their consultative approach won’t be as cheap as doing it yourself unless you factor in the time saved and stress avoided.

There’s a lot to sourcing fabrics, and it’s just one part of the development process. Download the production checklist we use with all of our clients to see everything you’ll need to get started – and we’ll throw in our costing template, fabric & trim directory, and development cheatsheet too. 

Tech Pack
560 315 Zack Hurley

How to Create a Tech Pack

The apparel manufacturing industry is a complex landscape that is often daunting, even to those with a background in fashion. A degree will teach you the essentials of design, pattern making, sewing, and much more, but there’s still more to starting your clothing line. Luckily, there are a handful of tools that help aspiring designers bring their collection to life, and tech packs are just the start.

Whether you use freelancers for small production runs or the on-site services of a factory, tech packs are an essential tool that helps ensure the final product meets your expectations. To get started today, download the production checklist we use with all of our clients – and we’ll throw in our costing template, fabric & trim directory, and development cheatsheet too. Read on for everything else you need to know:

What is a tech pack?

Think of a tech pack as a starting point to getting any garment manufactured. Tech packs provide necessary information about your clothing, acting as instructions for manufacturers when they produce your apparel. Tech packs can help determine things like production costs, preferred fabrics, and components that will need to be sourced, along with an expected time frame for how long it will take to make.

So, what should you include in a tech pack?

  • A technical sketch of a garment, front and back, with close-ups of unusual details
  • Inspiration: Similar items, pictures, or information that influenced the design
  • All construction and sewing details
  • A list of fabrics, materials, and trims, including suppliers if possible
  • Artwork for prints, embroideries, patterns, labels, etc. (if applicable)
  • Folding, labeling, and packaging instructions
  • Fit specs and comments for prototype, the first fit, and the second fit
  • Sizing instructions (“Graded specs”)

How do I create a tech pack?

Creating a tech pack can be an intimidating process, so it should be done step by step to ensure that each section is laid out clearly for your manufacturer. You should have the majority of these steps completed before sending your tech pack to the manufacturer, but there are a few that will have to wait until you have received your garment. Without further ado, here’s how to create a tech pack:

COVER PAGE

The cover page communicates the plan for your garment, along with details about the design. This page includes:

  • Your Company Name & Contact
  • Style Name / Number
  • Season
  • Vendor
  • COO (Country of Origin)
  • Date

More importantly, this section should have front and back views of your garment in full color. The sketches of your design can be computer generated, hand drawn, or presented with actual photographs.

INSPIRATION PAGE

The inspiration page is the place to include garments or collections from other designers that influenced the design. The inspiration page helps your manufacturer create the pattern you desire, so this is especially helpful if you are having your pattern making done by the manufacturer. Inspiration images may involve whole garments or individual details, either of which will be used to create your pattern and achieve the designer’s desired aesthetic.

CALLOUTS PAGE

Use this page as a blueprint for the fabrication of your garment. The drawing should be black and white and provide details about trims, construction, and fabrics. The callouts page often includes arrows, highlighting, or other indicators to mark what type of structure to use in any given area. If you use any unique phrases, abbreviations or acronyms, make sure to make a note explaining the meaning of each.

PRINT-FABRIC PLACEMENT PAGE

The Print-Fabric Placement Page is a more detailed version of your cover page; it is used to indicate how to arrange different prints or fabrics. A front and back sketch of your garment should be colored according to a color key at the bottom of the page to allow your manufacturer to distinguish the desired placement for each type of fabric.

BILL OF MATERIALS PAGE

The Bill of Materials Page or BOM covers every material used in creating your garment. There are five main sections; Fabrics, Trims, Labels, and Packaging.
Each section should include Placement (the location of the element in the garment), Comments, Material (the fiber content, weight, identification number, or substance of the material), Supplier, and Color Number.

PROTO SPECS PAGE

The Proto Specs Page indicates the measurements for the pattern and first fit sample. It is usually present in chart form, including five columns of information:

  1. Point of Measure (POM) indicates how each part of the style should be measured to ensure the garment is the correct size and fits correctly.
  2. Description provides greater detail for the POM code. The description needs to include not only what to measure, but how to measure it, as well.
  3. Requested denotes the actual measurements for the garments development. If you are unsure of the measurement, leave the column blank and include a notation that the factory will need to help determine the actual measurement. The spec can then be measured and filled in at the first fit.
  4. Tolerance (+/-) indicates the most a measurement is allowed to be over or under the requested measurement. This number is essential during production to ensure that the specs of the product are in the approved range.
  5. The Comments section is for adding important notes that did not fit in the previous sections.

I have finished my tech pack, what now?

Now that your tech pack is complete, it is time to send it off to your manufacturer. If you complete the tech pack properly, the manufacturer should have no problem producing the garment the way you intended. Keep in mind that clothing production is a process, so you will need to provide feedback using the following steps:

FIRST AND SECOND FIT SPECS PAGES

The chances are that you will need to make adjustments once you examine the fit of your prototype garment. Modifications can occur through first and second fit specs pages. The first Fit Specs Page holds all spec information about the first fit sample of development, including all five columns from the proto specs page, plus these additional columns:

Actual column: The area where the measurements of the fit sample are listed to help visually compare the garment to the requested specs.

Revised column: Is the area to input the measurements that the next sample or production should meet.

The second fit specs page is identical to the first, but gets filled out after examining the first fit.

FIT COMMENT PAGES

The Fit Comments Pages include all corrections needed for each fit sample. Thoroughly review and comment on the fit and construction of the product to communicate your expectations.

GRADED SPECS PAGE

Once satisfied with the final product, provide the manufacturer with a graded specs page. This page explains how to scale each garment so that the fit is the same for each size. Illustrate graded specs through a chart of POMs (Points of Measure) for your product in all sizes.

That’s everything that goes into a tech pack! To get started today, download the production checklist we use with all of our clients today – and we’ll throw in our costing template, fabric & trim directory, and development cheatsheet too.

Financial Mistakes
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Financial Mistakes to Avoid as a New Designer: Part 4 of the Budget & Pricing Mini-Course

In our 4-part mini-course on budgeting and pricing for new designers, we covered a lot of ground:

1. the most common sources of funding and biggest cost buckets (part 1)
2. a deeper dive into development and production costs (part 2)
3. different pricing approaches (part 3)

Now, we are ready for part 4: a run-down of financial mistakes to avoid as you finalize your budget and financials. If you have not already,download our costing template for free. This is the same template we use with all of our customers and will help you put together a solid financial plan and confidently approach manufacturers.

Always remember your pre-cost estimate

In part 3, we went over the different approaches to pricing garments. One way is to take your ideal retail price point and work backward. As you cost materials and run the production numbers, it is always good to keep that pre-cost estimate in mind and balance it against your original budget. Your pre-cost estimate will help you hone in on what is most essential to your design vision and keep a level head throughout the hectic development and production process.

Not treating each style as its own costing project

Just when you thought you were done with one costing template, here comes a few more. The truth is that each style you develop will need its own costing analysis just as it will need its own tech pack and production order. It does not matter if you are using the same fabric or product elements, the overall cost of each item will vary according to its parts. On the bright side, you can use our costing template to cost out every style you are developing on the same spreadsheet. The more you do it, the better you will get.

Missing elements of the project

Fabric, cut, and sew are obvious, but did you forget to include hang tags, poly bags, or size labels? How about interfacing or stabilizers? The devil is in the details, and you cannot manage your financials and build your brand unless you have correctly documented every cost. The cost of a single poly bag may be minuscule, but don’t forget you have to multiply everything by 3 to 4 to arrive at a retail price and manufacture hundreds to thousands to understand your true overhead.

Not updating the numbers

A costing sheet is not a static document. It should be updated after every meeting with your development house or manufacturer. Fabric costs may go up and production numbers may go down. Anything could happen. Plus, if you are selling to retailers, you also need to consider their retail markup. Your eye should stay on the ideal retail prize point up until your patterns are approved.

Too many pieces

It is typical for new fashion designers to bite off more than they can chew. That long-time fantasy of becoming a designer is becoming finally true. That excitement can lead to collections that are large, unwieldy, and expensive. We recommend narrowing your collection down to as few pieces as will establish your vision and brand. It will save you time, energy, and money, allowing you to do a few things right rather than a lot of things poorly. Your early success means more funds to reinvest in a larger collection, not to mention the confidence that comes with experience.

Not investing 100% of proceeds back into business

We mentioned this in an earlier blog post about mistakes we often see our clients make when it comes to building a fashion business. Businesses thrive on momentum. It is crucial that designers put any early profits they make back into the company. Ultimately, businesses need stable revenue to make the long-term decisions that are needed for sustained growth. Every season, use the profits from your sales to invest in more development, production, and marketing.

Not taking shipping into consideration

The fashion industry spans the globe. Your fabrics could be coming from Japan and your trims from India. You cannot always be sure what your costs will be until your credit card is charged and your goods are on hand. One way to get around this is to multiply the total cost of your materials by 10%. Another way is to work exclusively with domestic sources. As mentioned above, make sure to update your costing sheet as soon as you know the final amounts.

Are you ready to take charge of your fashion business’s financials? Read the first three posts in our budget & pricing mini-course (part 1, part 2part 3) and download our costing template for free. This is the same template we use with all of our customers and will help you put together a solid financial plan and confidently approach manufacturers.

price your clothing line
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How to Price Your Clothing Line: Part 3 of the Budget & Pricing Mini-Course

This is part 3 of a 4 part mini-course on budgeting and pricing for designers working on their first clothing line. Sign up here to be emailed part 4 and we’ll also give you access to the costing template we use for all of our customers! Read part 1 here and part 2 here.

Understanding Pricing

How you price your clothing line is a huge part of building a successful foundation for your business. Determining the best price, one that both competitive and sustainable for growth, is crucial.

Once you understand your cost per unit, you can begin to arrive at the pricing of your garments. Of course, it is not that simple. You cannot choose your pricing in a vacuum. You also have to consider the spending power of your target customers and competitor pricing. If your costs are high but the spending power of your target customers low, you will have to adjust your sourcing or marketing. This is a typical first mistake as new fashion designers adjust to the realities of the business.

On the other hand, if your branding is strong and the spending power of your target customers high, you may even be able to take a value rather than cost-based approached to pricing, which is the best situation a fashion designer can be in. In other words, using the keystone pricing recommendations below, you might arrive at a garment price of $100, but your customers may be willing to pay $150, in which case you should price your garment accordingly. That is an enviable position to be in and is typically out of reach for first-time fashion designers.

In general, there are three approaches to pricing. Keystone pricing, industry benchmarks, and industry surveys are all common ways to determine retail prices. It is likely as you develop more experience with pricing that you will use a combination of all three.

Price Your Clothing Line With Keystone Pricing

Keystone pricing is the most common way brands determine their retail prices. One benefit is that it is simple: just double your wholesale price, in other words, a 100% increase, and you will have arrived at your keystone price for your retail garments.
Another, similar approach is to multiply the cost of your garment by three times to arrive at the price. Why three? One third covers the cost of the clothing. Another third covers the cost of doing business. The last third is profit that you can reinvest back into the business for lasting growth.

Here is the general formula in action, in this case for a ladies blouse:

  • Product cost (materials + labor): $10 (cost ceiling)
  • Wholesale cost: $30 (multiply by 3 to get the wholesale cost)
  • Retail price: $90 (multiply by 3 to arrive at the retail price)

Based on this calculation, the total cost of both labor and materials for the blouse should be $10. This cost ceiling will likely limit your selection materials and may require that you either adjust the garment or produce more to get a lower cost per unit.

Price Your Clothing Line With Industry Benchmarks

No fashion business operates in a vacuum. There’s an incredible amount of freely available information out there that can help you choose your mark-ups in combination or separate from keystone pricing. We recommend visiting the Retail Owners Institute. They offer free access to the markups of numerous retail verticals. Their report will be an invaluable source of information and a reference point you can use now and far into the future for mark-ups and much more.

Price Your Clothing Line With Survey Competition

Another approach is to survey your competition. If you have conducted a competitive analysis, you should have a handy list of competitors and their websites to understand typical mark-ups. If your target customers are spending $50 for a blouse, you cannot price your clothing line at $100 because your costs dictate it. Something will have to change.

You will always want to be aware of what your competitors are doing and use similar garments in the industry to benchmark your prices. Look out for trends, compare your garments in terms of both quality and prices, and systematically arrive at a retail price based on the available data. At that point, you can also work backward to a product price using the principle of keystone pricing.

Pricing will always be a balance of different factors. It is a science that takes time – and experimentation – to master. Over time, you may develop favorable relationships with manufacturers that help you reign in costs, or your target market might mature and have more disposable income to spend on quality clothes. In the beginning, it is best to operate with a close eye on costs so you can build a sustainable business. It may take you a few seasons until you find the right balance on pricing, but it will certainly come over time.

In the final installment of our 4-part budget & pricing mini course, we’ll cover mistakes to avoid when costing your first collection. Sign up here to be emailed the next installment in this budget & pricing mini course. Plus, we’ll give you access to the costing template we use for all of our customers! Read part 1 here and part 2 here.

Development Costs
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A Deeper Dive into Development Costs: Part 2 of the Budget & Pricing Mini-Course

This is part 2 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 2 parts and we’ll also give you access to the costing template we use for all of our customers! Read part 1 here.

Let’s dive into the development costs that will go into your development and production budget.  It is crucial from the get go to learn how to manage cost of your garment. These 7 important factors will help you understand sample and production costs as well as your eventual pricing.

Development Costs 1: Fabrication

60% of your garment cost comes from the fabric chosen. When designing and planning pieces, the most important element is the fabric price point per yard. As an example, if it takes 2 yards per shirt and fabric is $8/yard, the cost for fabrics is $16 per shirt.

The trims are another important factor. Being aware of the price added by each buckle, bow, and binding placed on the garment will help you control costs from the start. For example, if you’re making a button-down shirt, you will need:

  • Fabrics
  • Buttons
  • Interfacing

Each of these items will have a specific price per unit that will need to be added to the overall cost of each garment.

Development Costs 2: Additional product elements

Fabric, cut, and sew are obvious items to include but don’t forget about things like care or size labels, hang tags, and poly bags. Also, think about the interior of your product. Is there interfacing or a stabilizer needed to hold shapes or a button placket? Make sure to  include every tiny item into your costing!

Development Costs 3: Construction

Taking into account the finishes, specialty stitches, and amount of seams within a style will help to control your price point.There will be times that the more seams you add to a piece the price will increase (in labor cost), and sometimes the lack of a seam will cause a higher price (in fabric consumption). Adding in French seams, baby merrow stitches, 5 needle flat locks, all take specialty machines. These types of construction, also dictate where your line is produced.

When it comes to construction, it’s likely you’ll need to work with a professional pattern maker with experience in creating production ready garments. The pattern maker should have access to work directly with the sample team to ensure that pattern specifications will be executed correctly. For example, you could budget $15/hour for easy cost calculation and start by allocating 40 hours to create the first pattern and first fit sample. If you have ten styles, multiply the cost of of the pattern and sample by 10.

Development Costs 4: Location

Fully lined garments with inner support construction, and hand work will most certainly be produced in a different factory location than a 4-way stretch legging with 5-needle flatlock seaming. Identifying a factory that specializes in shirt making, for example, before you hire a technical designer or pattern maker is good business practice. It is not uncommon for sewing factories to not have every kind of machines and skilled labor. The more efficiently the factory can make a shirt, the better pricing they can offer your brand in production.

Alternately, you can partner with a full-service production and manufacturing house to help you source pattern makers and manufacturers. The price may not be higher than doing the legwork yourself since the business will have in-house employees and established relationships with specialty manufacturers. They may be able to offer some of the benefits of scale that you as new designer lack.

Development Costs 5: Quantity

The amount of items that you are purchasing from a contractor will always affect the price of that garment. The higher the quantity, the less the price. Learning how to produce apparel with your intended aesthetic, fit, finishes, and market level, while simultaneously staying within your price point, are invaluable to a designer’s success.

Development Costs 6: Packaging

Are you selling directly to the consumer, through resale channels, or both? If you’re selling direct, you’ll need to account for packaging costs. Whether it be a hanger or polybag for an apparel item, custom boxes, tissue paper, ribbon, brand information inserts, or luxury mailing containers, there is a cost. There will be fewer packaging costs if you’re going through resale channels, but of course the middle retailer will also take a cut of your profit margin.

Development Costs 7: Shipping

This industry is global, so your fabrics and trims could be coming from Japan, Italy, India, or any number of places. Without knowing the exact price of shipping, you can always take the total cost of your materials and multiply it by 10%. This estimate will work initially. When you get your final invoices from the vendors you can update the price per yard or piece with the actual amount, including shipping.

Once you understand these 7 items, you’ll be able to start putting together a cost for your sample – and look into cost-saving alternatives. Next comes the equation for pricing your garment. Sign up here to be emailed the next two blog posts in this budget & pricing mini course. Plus, we’ll give you access to the costing template we use for all of our customers! Read part 1 here.

clothing design
560 315 Zack Hurley

Get started with our one-stop guide to clothing design & development

It’s one thing to dream of being a fashion designer, and another to take the first steps towards making that dream a reality. The truth of clothing design and entrepreneurship is that a lot goes on behind the seams (see what we did there?) and top fashion designers do a good job of making it look easy even when it’s not. But, that doesn’t mean clothing design has to stay a dream. Clothing design – like anything else – can be broken down into steps, and we’ve written up a 2000-word primer on getting started. If you want the quick and dirty version, download our one-page cheat sheet. Once you have that ready, you’re ready to approach development houses and manufacturers to get started on your first fashion collection.  

What do you mean by ‘development’?

Development is one of three stages that goes into producing a fashion collection. The first is design, which we cover here under the assumption that you didn’t graduate from design school, the second is development, and the third is production. The difference between fashion design grads and people like you and me who didn’t graduate from design school – but still want a collection to call our own – is that design and development get more blurred.

Here’s an example. A fashion school grad will arrive at development with fleshed out designs (never mind that they’ll undergo a lot of modifications). A woman who already has a career in finance but wants to start an athleisure line might approach a development house with just a concept or idea – and the development house will work with her on setting the stage for development. The challenge is that the financier might not know how to get started on those specifications, and that’s where this guide comes in.

Let’s put it this way: design is the summary of specifications that describe your collection, development is the building and engineering of your designs, and manufacturing is producing designs affordably at scale. Consider this guide technical design for non-designers, a nitty gritty guide for the rest of us. Let’s get started and, if at any point, you need to take the dog for a walk or start dinner, you can always download our cheat sheet in an instant.

Inspiration For Your Clothing Design

Get your inspiration together. Whether it’s Evernote, Pinterest, or a scrapbook, start collecting the bits and pieces that will describe your brand and first collection. Be methodical about gathering your inspiration and honing your idea. You’ll want:

  • Colors – what colors will define your concept? Do you have a sailor motif with navy blues and whites, or is your swimsuit line playing homage to spring with soft pastels? Go as specific as possible with Pantone color codes, but also get ready to be flexible if superior fabrics in other colors prevail. Either way, have a color palette in mind.
  • Construction – how do you see your styles being constructed? A navy motif might require jackets to be double-breasted, a maternity line will need extra give at the waist. Are you inspired by the zipped up propriety of the early 60s or do you prefer the loose lines of the 90s?
  • Fabric – what fabrics are you in love with? Your athleisure line may require moisture-wicking polyesters, your male beach line might be a natural fit for the briskness of linens, or your eco-friendly line might need all materials to be locally and sustainably sourced.
  • Trims – whether it’s convenient pockets or frilly lace, start collecting examples of trims that are essential to the designs that inspire you.
  • Reference samples – Reference samples, or physical examples of colors, construction, fit, or fabric, will be immensely helpful. Maybe a dress from Zara’s summer line captures the fit you want around the hips, or a thrift store jacket gets the collar you want exactly right. Don’t be afraid to go out and hand-pick clothes that inspired your collection and bring them to your development team.
  • Artwork – do you want to incorporate graphics, appliques, or embroidery? If you don’t have anything specific in mind, at least have a general idea of what you’re looking for so a development time can help you source it.

Throughout the process of gathering your inspiration, you might note that designers or specific themes and pieces pop up repeatedly. Pay attention to those: the designers will help you understand target market and marketing strategies; the themes and pieces will help you put together your collection.

Target Market

As you look over your inspiration, you’ll start to understand who you’re designing for. Pay attention to this because it will become the foundation of your future marketing. Is it linen suits for vacationing, well-to-do men? It is a party line for partying twenty-something women? Is it eco-friendly, organic clothes for toddlers? Your target market, especially in the beginning, should be as specific as possible, and can help you hone your collection in the beginning. Ask yourself, what do men vacationing in the Hamptons look for in their summer wardrobe? How can you help a woman stand out at an LA club? What do eco-minded mothers who like to dress up their kids look for in clothes? Encourage this back and forth until you hone a collection that both inspires you and makes sense to your target market.  

Competitive Research For Your Clothing Design

Now, take those designers who keep inspiring you and ask yourself two questions: how well are they doing and what can you do better than them? What are the competitors price points, trends and value propositions. Review your competitors success as a brand along side your potential sales and market potential.

Hone it

Now it’s time to come up with a collection plan. You want to approach your development team with a cohesively designed collection of possible outfits. While you don’t necessarily need good sketches of all the garments – a full-service development team can help you with this – you will need a detailed concept.

Timeline

Now, let’s take a step back and get into the nitty gritty. What’s your timeline for development and production? Every project needs a goal. Fashion collections are typically developed over 6 months in time to be ready for the new season. To get moving towards your goal, you’ll want to have a sample delivery date, a production delivery date, and you’ll want to time these with any investment rounds or marketing initiatives you have planned, for example a website launch or a Kickstarter campaign. As always, work backwards from important events, but make sure to allocate at least 6 weeks for development and 6 weeks for production. If you approach a manufacturer in May looking to launch a swimsuit collection in June, the manufacturer will first laugh at you on the inside and then charge you exorbitant rush fees.

Priorities

Decide, what are your priorities for your line? Price, quality, or speed. Rank them in order of importance and recognize that any two will require you to sacrifice the third. If you must have that swimsuit collection in a month, go big or go home, you’ll likely sacrifice price and to some extend quality. On the flip side, if you approach a development house in December for your summer line, you won’t have to sacrifice quality and you’ll be able to manage costs too. Ask yourself, what’s most important to you and what are your priorities given your timeframe?

Word of advice: “Always care for high quality and don’t compromise the sewing process.” -Meir Yamin, Founder of Donnatella Dresses

Budget

This is the hard part and requires a deeper dive which we will be releasing soon – sign up here to receive it. What’s your budget? Are you self-funding your collection, raising angel funds, or doing a crowdfunding campaign? Put another way, how much are you willing to risk on a new venture? Once you have a number, you can start putting together a development, manufacturing, and marketing budget.

Production Numbers

How many styles will you produce and how many units of each? A word of caution – it’s always better to start small and test your market. Even with competitive research, even with target market feedback, even with crowdfunding campaigns, there are a lot of variables that go into marketing and selling a new collection and you can never be certain how your first launch will go. It’s better to sell out than get stuck with extra inventory. Of course, the smaller the run, the more expensive your cost per unit, so you will want to find a happy place that gives you the data you need while allowing you to take advantage of some economy of scale.

Sizes

How will you size your collection? Does your collection require 10 sizes, or will a baseline of S, M, and L suffice? For new collections, simpler is always better.

Style 1

Now is the time to get into the specifics of your individual styles. Repeat this step for each style you’re planning.

Name & Description

Give it a name. Give it a description. This will smooth communication and guide your team.

Target Retail Price Point:

The simple yet not so simple question which must be answered: what is your customer willing to pay for your product? Here’s where the above market research comes into play by looking at other products in your market, their price points and the people who buy those products. Once you know your retail price points you can start to build out a budget for manufacturing costs, operations, marketing, and more.

Manufacturing Target Cost

Generally, the manufacturing target cost is a standard fraction of how you retail price each style. To arrive at manufacturing target costs, you can look to your competitors to see how they price their pieces and then work backwards to a cost. These numbers will help guide you as you choose materials, trims, and more.

Reference Sample

Reference samples are existing clothing pieces that are similar to what you eventually want to design. Whether you have one or several, reference samples can help shorten the design time-frame and speed up development, especially when you approach a development team with a concept rather than refined specifications. The reference sample can guide you in:

  • Base sample size – what a small or size 2 will look like
  • Sample fits – how your first sample will fit
  • Fabrics and trims – target materials for sourcing

Think of your reference sample as a baseline for your designs.

Sourcing

You will do the physical sourcing of fabrics during the development stage, but the more you know about the particular fabrics you want, the better, especially if your reference samples don’t quite capture it. Pinpoint information on any of the following:

  • Main fabrics including color, weight, composition, and type
  • Contrast fabrics including color, weight, composition, and type
  • Dyeing or washing directions
  • Trims, i.e. buttons, closures, and elastics

Word of advice: “To save time and money during the design phase, don’t work with too many fabrics or trims.” -Meir Yamin, Founder of Donnatella Dresses

Labels

Would you like your label to be printed or sewn in? What about the care label – should it be tear away or something custom?

Artwork

Is any artwork essential to your styles? If so, specific in much detail as possible what you’re looking for:

  • Type, i.e. silkscreen, sublimation (custom dyeing), patches, embroidery, or something else
  • The location of the artwork
  • The size of the artwork
  • Graphics or colors

Pattern Making & Fit Instructions

This is where you’ll share with your development team how much you want your final design to differ from your fit reference sample. What kind of changes do you want to make to it? Do you want to change any shapes, add or reduce length, remove or add details. At the end of the day, the reference sample is just a reference sample. Why did you pick it and just how meaningful is it to your final designs?

Construction & Sewing Notes

Do you have any final notes on style construction or sewing. Do you want to add or remove any seams, or match how sewing is done exactly on the reference sample?  Do you want to add or remove any details, like pockets, zippers, drawcords, or patches? Are there any details that are non-negotiable? Different sewing methods have varying time

Decide on your team

Now that you have a good idea of your styles, it’s time to get your team in place for development. Generally, smaller businesses can go one of two routes in choosing a development team: they can select and coordinate their team by hand or go to a development house. There are, of course, pros and cons to each:

  • Team: a team should include in the least a patternmaker and a sewer/cutter, preferably in one place to save on time and money. The benefit to putting together your own team is that you will save money; the drawback is that it is inherently riskier and will require much more time and management. You’ll need to oversee everything and design a system that encourages good communication and minimizes costly mistakes. This can be extra challenging if your first collection is a side pursuit in addition to a full-time job.
  • Development House: a development house is an in-house team of experts in sourcing, pattern making, cutting, sewing, and printing, etc. The benefit is that they likely have a wealth of experience and established relationships within the supply chain. They will be able to consult with you while expediting the development and manufacturing stages. The drawback is that they will be more expensive, but they’ll also be less risky.  

Next up? Development of your clothing designs!

Once you have all of this down, your development team can get started on the hard work of sourcing and preparing samples of your styles – and you will start the hard work of guiding the whole process until your vision becomes a reality. That’s what we call development! At the end of development, you’ll have a tech pack, or final design specifications, and a salesman sample. Are you ready to get started? Download our cheat sheet today and start channeling your inspiration into your very own fashion collection.

Fashion Production 101
1024 682 Zack Hurley

Get the 101 on Fashion Production Basics

Tо undеrѕtаnd whаt fаѕhiоn рrоduсtiоn is, we first have to look at what the term “fashion” really means. Fаѕhiоn rеfеrѕ tо different ѕtуlеѕ or practices in сlоthing, mаkеuр, ассеѕѕоriеѕ, and еvеn furniturе. In a vеrу strict ѕеnѕе, the term оnlу rеfеrѕ tо trеndѕ in wеаrѕ or apparels; and, since we are a clothing manufacturer, we are going to limit ourselves here to the fashion production of сlоthing.

When it comes to clothing, fаѕhiоn production has come a vеrу lоng wау. The earliest clothes were likely furs and vegetation adapted into protection from the elements. Once strictly practical, clothing has since then also become an important reflection of culture, tradition, and technology. As early as the late stone age (50,000 years ago!), people invented textile production, spinning fibers into yarn and netting, looping, knitting, or weaving it to make fabric. That thread (pun intended) continues, and people clothe themselves today based on a range of textile technologies.

Thеrе wаѕ a vast improvement in fashion production during the industrial revolution, when textile development was mechanized with machines powered by waterwheels and steam engines. Production, once local and scattered across villages, moved to factory assembly lines, and sewing machines continued to streamline production. Alongside an explosion in fashion production, the 19th century also witnessed the beginning of several fashion manufacturers and brands that still exist today. That said, much of clothing production was and is still made individually by hand – but that may soon change.  

In соntеmроrаrу times, thе рrоduсtiоn оf fashion has gone global at an ever-increasing pace. Dramatic changes in transportation alongside open trade and the rise of fashion empires have made it possible to manufacture, ship, and sell clothing around the world at an incredible speed. Technological innovation continues to impact the industry, and fashion designers now have a range of synthetic fibers, manufacturing shortcuts, and ecommerce tools to add to their toolbox. The industry is bigger than ever, but it has never been easier for budding fashion designers to enter the trade with their own ready-made garments, men’s, women’s, and kid’s wears.

Fashion, not surprisingly, has become fashionable. Shows like “Project Runway” have popularized the profession and countless kids dream of becoming fashion designers. The education industry has kept pace and courses in fashion designer are now common at colleges and universities around the world. However, much like many other degrees that teach theory and critical thinking while avoiding the nitty-gritty, many new graduates come away from their degrees knowing the history of fashion like the back of their hand, but not, for example, the basics of fashion production. Let’s break it down.

Tуреѕ оf Fаѕhiоn Production

There are many reasons people choose to wear what they wear and great fashion designers know exactly for whom they are designing clothes and what needs they are meeting. In addition to the age-old need for protection, pеорlе use fаѕhiоn and clothing tо hеlр idеntifу with a certain social grоuр, ѕhоw status, and as a mеаnѕ of ѕеlf-еxрrеѕѕiоn. Mаnу реорlе rely on thеir сhоѕеn ѕtуlе оf сlоthing to share thеir реrѕоnаlitiеѕ. Fаѕhiоn varies with rеgаrdѕ to the ѕосio-economic group, occupation, status, age, region, соuntrу, religion, сulturе, and a host of other factors. Fashionable сlоthing is certain tо fall into a vаriеtу оf сlаѕѕifiсаtiоnѕ аnd categories–and this is where new fashion designers can start–inсluding:

High Fаѕhiоn

High fаѕhiоn (also rеfеrrеd tо аѕ Haute Cоuturе) is the most еxсluѕivе of clothing lines and revolves around custom-made оutfitѕ made-to-order around body type, taste, color, and specific measurements. Because of the high cost, high fashion is typically created bу fаѕhiоn designers аnd design houses that have established brands and clientele. Many оf thе materials are саrеfullу sourced to hеlр рrоvidе a more uniԛuе аnd diѕtinсtivе finiѕh. High fаѕhiоn сlоthing iѕ of соurѕе еxреnѕivе аnd this limitѕ its аvаilаbilitу in the fаѕhiоn wоrld. New fashion designers, as much as they might like, shouldn’t start with high fashion.

Rеаdу-tо-Wеаr

Thе rеаdу-tо-wеаr clothing line (аlѕо саll рrêt-а-роrtеr аnd off-the-rack) iѕ mоrе ѕtаndаrdizеd сlоthing that is pre-made аnd аvаilаblе in a vаriеtу of pre-determined ѕizеѕ. Ready-to-wear clothing designers use standard patterns, less expensive fabrics, large factory equipment, and faster construction techniques to keep costs low. Rеаdу-tо-wеаr сlоthing will not givе thе precise fit оffеrеd bу thе сuѕtоm-mаkе rаngе. Instead, it is sold in standard ѕizеѕ tо fit thе mаjоritу оf the shopping public. Petite-size and plus-size оutfitѕ аrе also available in this range, but there is сеrtаin to be lеѕѕ choice оffеrеd соmраrеd to thе ѕtаndаrd ѕizеѕ.

A selection of high-еnd off-thе-rack fаѕhiоn оutfitѕ аrе оffеrеd by ѕоmе of thе finеr fаѕhiоn hоuѕеѕ tо mаkе thе wеll-knоwn fаѕhiоn brаndѕ mоrе ассеѕѕiblе tо thе widе mаrkеtрlасе. Think Giorgio Armani’s Armani Exchange or Calvin Klein’s Jeans. This setup allows top designers to capture a larger portion of the market without sacrificing their equity, unless, as sometimes happens, quality noticeably suffers. Most new fashion designers will start with ready-to-wear because they do not have the resources to produce either couture, which requires existing high-end customers, or mass-market fashion, which requires high sales.

Mаѕѕ-Mаrkеt Fashion

Mаѕѕ-mаrkеt is a сlоthing line that iѕ сhеарlу аnd ԛuiсklу рrоduсеd in high vоlumе at thе mоrе ѕtаndаrd ѕizеѕ uѕing large mаnufасturing fасilitiеѕ. Mаѕѕ-mаrkеt clothing is оftеn known bу thе tеrm diѕроѕаblе fаѕhiоn since it iѕ usually seasonal in nаturе аnd manufactured in thе cheapest mаtеriаlѕ аvаilаblе. Mass-market fashion is thе mоѕt rеаdilу аvаilаblе fаѕhiоn сhоiсе аnd оffеrеd аt the mоѕt аffоrdаblе еnd of thе market. Think H&M, Uniqlo, and Forever 21. While these brands get access to the largest segment of the market, they typically suffer from quality–and reputation–issues. Budding fashion designers typically don’t have the cash or relationships needed to do such large manufacturing runs – the risk would simply be too high.

Clothing Manufacturer: How to select a Clothing Manufacturer
560 315 Zack Hurley

How to Select a Clothing Manufacturer

Pairing up with a clothing manufacturer for the first time is a bit like online dating. First you offer up some information about yourself. Here’s an example of an excellent bio:

“Hi, I’m Natalie. I’m a former Olympic volleyball player. I’m creating a line for tall women like myself who get excluded by most athletic wear brands who don’t carry tall sizes. This is my first collection and I have a very limited fashion background. I do have a background in marketing and worked at a large agency for many years. I am planning to leverage many of my athlete friends’ voices to promote my brand, as well as the many media contacts I’ve accumulated over the years. My first collection will consist of 3 styles: tanks, leggings & track jackets. I’d like the tanks to retail at $45-50, the leggings at $92-98, and the track jackets at $119-127; and, based on my research, I’m aiming for manufacturing targets of $14-16, $22-27, and $29-32 respectively. I don’t want to produce more than 300 units per style for my first collection. That’s all I’m comfortable selling in the beginning.”

You may not be there yet, but this is the kind of information that’ll land you a solid first date. We’re talking:

  • A general description
  • The number of styles you’d like
  • Retail price points
  • Manufacturing price points
  • Target number of units per style

If you don’t have these, take a look at our other blog posts that’ll help you get started – and then come back here:

After you share everything about you, the next step is to make sure they know what your needs are. Sounds exactly like a date, right? Just maybe a bit more straight-forward…

“I’m looking for a clothing manufacturer who has the time to show me the process and is okay with me being new! They won’t just take orders from me but will also give me advice on the best way to achieve price and quality targets, providing their professional opinion at each step. They are transparent with me about their operation and will give me insight into the products we are creating together. They will allow me to keep any patterns, samples, or other IP that I have paid to create. They are great communicators and do what they say they are going to do.”

Next, ask yourself, what do you need in a manufacturing partner?

Just as in the dating world where you’d want a guy who’s attractive, funny, and rich, but usually have to compromise, there are important characteristics to look for in a clothing manufacturer. In the manufacturing world, it’s weighing between speed, price, and quality. While great clothing manufacturers will have all three, it’s usually best to prioritize your needs and rank prospective clothing manufacturers so your final decision will be easier.

Here are your options:

Speed: Made Here, Sold Here – Fast.

Imagine you have a big trade show, fashion event, or meeting with a buyer that is paramount to your brands success. You MUST have samples by then. Speed, then, is your choice. Or consider that you’ve just arrived from a trade show with a stack full of purchase orders (PO). Your buyers require delivery on a certain date. This means you’re under the gun and your delivery requirements must be communicated to your clothing manufacturer upfront. Be clear about whether your manufacturing partner has the capacity and bandwidth to move at the speed you need or if they’re too busy dating other brands and can’t commit.

That said, it is wise, even without hard deadlines, to have a plan for when you’d like to launch your product. From there you can work with your clothing manufacturer to create a timeline for production and development. Because you may not know all the processes involved (i.e. garment dye or stock fabrics?), your lead time will vary based on important decisions you make with your clothing manufacturer. Keep communication open and chose someone who will give you time commitments for every deliverable, i.e. “Patterns will be completed by this Friday 9/15 @ 4pm.”

Quality – The American Craftsman

With thousands of fashion brands starting up each year and the many already established brands you’ll be competing against, we highly recommend that you place quality as a key priority. The best way to show a clothing manufacturer your quality standards is to bring in samples that you absolutely love from other brands. You can show them the sewing work that you love and even which areas you think can be improved. Work with your clothing manufacturer to understand how different sewing constructions impact your price points. Ask them to explain how they will ensure quality and what their quality control (QC) standards are. Their response will tell you a lot about how they will protect your product and you will know if they are a quality match for you.

PriceThe Commodity Play

Contrary to what the media will tell you, producing in Los Angeles is still an extremely viable move. Especially for brands that choose to sell direct to consumer, dependence on retailers who squeeze margins should be avoided. To determine your price points it’s best to start with your retail points and work backwards to understand target wholesale and manufacturing price points (See 5 steps to an apparel line budget).

Good clothing manufacturers will ask you about your price points, and great designers will know their price points. Do not be frazzled. They ask this so that they can get you to where you need to be. By working clearly within a budget from the get-go, your clothing manufacturer can make material, fit, and construction decisions that allow you to hit your target price points. Be clear, be honest, and, if you have a price point you need to hit no matter what, a good clothing manufacturer will tell you one of three things. Be prepared:

  1. “NO. No possible way can you hit that price point – try Bangladesh and make sure you’re producing over 10,000 units.”
  2. “MAYBE. You could hit this price point but you’ll have to strip some things. Maybe use a less expensive fabric, do only one color screenprint and up your quantity to 500 from 300.”
  3. “YES. We can make that happen based on the information given.”

One final note on price via the old adage, you get what you pay for. I’ve been practically harassed by production teams demanding prices that can only be attained from overseas countries with very poor working conditions. These same companies complain about poor quality and bad communication while aggressively requiring prices that would put the clothing manufacturer out of business. There is a large underground network of clothing manufacturers exploiting their workers by paying them below minimum wage. If you go this route, you will likely not be able to establish a reputation of quality clothing and it will be much harder for you to build a sustainable, growing brand.

Now that you’ve given some detail about yourself, what you’re searching for, and what you value most in a partner, it’s time to play the field a bit and see what kinds of clothing manufacturers are out there. What is the difference from one to the next, and how can we identify a “player” from someone looking for a long-term relationship?

Know the difference:

Sewing Contractor

This is literally just a sewing house. They do not source materials, make markers or cut fabric. They expect all materials delivered to them to be organized and they will only sew what is cut and ready to go. By working with them you’re committing to managing the other portions of production yourself.

Cut & Sew Clothing Manufacturer

This is slightly more extensive in support. These clothing manufacturers do not source any materials and sometimes require that you provide completed markers. If you don’t know what markers are, continue below for a better fit.

Full-Package Clothing Manufacturer

Full package is the whole enchilada. These clothing manufacturers are setup to support the entire process from procurement of materials to marking, grading, cutting, sewing, printing, finishing, folding, and packing. They are setup to support organizations that want to streamline their production and don’t have money to pay a full-time production manager running around the city overseeing all productions.

*PLAYERS – A WARNING

A traditional clothing manufacturer, the player, is entirely focused on the end game. This can apply to any of the above, sewing contractors, cut & sew manufacturers, or full-package clothing manufacturers, so be sure to sniff it out as soon as you can and stay away. Traditional clothing manufacturers care only about big quantity orders and expect a purchase order (PO) prematurely – they want to take you home before buying you dinner. This is because they have experience working with larger brands who come to them with already developed products and a PO for substantial units. Here’s a conversation that I have witnessed dozens of times.

You: “Hi there! I have a collection of 6 styles that I’m looking to produce.”

Clothing Manufacturer: “Great, send me an order of 500 units and we’ll make you a sample.”

You: “Um, OK, I can’t place an order of 500 because I don’t have a sample yet. Actually, I have no tech pack, patterns, or materials either. If you can help me with these things, I will put in an order.”

Clothing Manufacturer: “You place an order and we will help you. No order, no deal.”

*CLICK*

This clothing manufacturer clearly specializes in production only and does not have a service that supports new designers. Make sure that if you need a clothing manufacturer that provides guidance, mentorship, and a complete service, you make it clear upfront.  

A Match Made in Heaven

After taking these steps, we’re sure that you and your clothing manufacturer will be a match made in heaven. The key is to focus on the needs of your brand while taking into account your goals and your budget. Just like a relationship, you’ll want to end up with somebody honest and transparent who complements your strengths and weaknesses; and, just like in the real world, it’s best to go in with an understanding of what the industry looks like and all of the shady characters that you’ll want to avoid. Luckily, there are lots of great clothing manufacturers out there. Isn’t that what your grandmother always told you?

560 315 Zack Hurley

5 Budget Mistakes To Avoid As a New Designer

Costing and pricing are among the most difficult – and most crucial – decisions new designers undertake in building their first line. The financial logic that goes into launching a successful fashion line can be counter-intuitive and sometimes requires that we readjust the way we approach costing and pricing. After many years helping burgeoning designers get started on their brands, I’ve come up with a list of the 5 most frequent budget mistakes that hinder new designers.

1. STOP ASKING: “How much does it cost?”

The problem with the “how much does it cost”question is that costs are just one part of the equation. Costs alone won’t tell you if your business is viable. Is $1,000 a lot? Or is $10,000 more realistic? Do I really need $100K to start this line? When you look at costs first without understanding your business and how your business fits into the market at large, you’re really only thinking about your current spending habits. But starting a business isn’t the same as shopping at Forever 21. Comparing a capital investment in your business to the cardigan you bought last week isn’t the best way to grow a lucrative business.

Instead, everything comes down to risk. The question isn’t, “How much does it cost?” but “How much am I willing to invest – or risk – in the business?” If that number is identifiable as one part of your overall business objectives, and you’re clear about it, then congratulations, you now have what we call a budget. Your budget will drive your decision making and, once you decide your budget is the #1 priority over price or quality, then you will find a way to either:

  1. Make costs work within your budget, or
  2. Realize this business is not for you and you want to start a service business that requires less startup capital

2. START ASKING: “What is a customer willing to pay for my product?”

Many new designers fall into the habit of looking at pricing as “cost plus”: understand the costs and then add a profit margin, but there are two main problems with this approach. First, this approach mentally chains you to the product, rather than to the customer, and leaves you vulnerable to changes in customer preference. Second, when costs increase, and they will, you will suffer from established prices and lower profit margins. “Cost plus” leaves you doubly at the whim of the market. Instead, the question is, “What is a customer willing to pay for my product?” and for that you have to roll up your sleeves and do some research. The first follow-up question is:

“Is there something comparable in the market to my product?”

If YES, we’ve got more to figure out:

  1. What products in the market are competing with your’s and how are your’s different?
  2. What are the price points of the competing products on the market?
  3. Who is buying these competing products? Is it a different demographic than you expected?

List out these answers in an excel document to start putting together your market research. This is preliminary, but will give you a great starting point for pricing your product. Once you know your retail price points you can start to build out a budget for product cost, operations, marketing, and more.

IF NO:

Then, good news!  You now have the opportunity to pave the way for something unique and entirely different than anything in the market.  With no competition, you’re in a great position! On the other hand, you may not have a market for your product either. Your job will be to make your prototype sample and take it out into the market to test viability before you begin to produce at scale. For steps on how to do this, see last week’s post on how to start a fashion line that sells.

3. Remember that developing your product has a cost separate from production

While you may be excited to get started, try not to get ahead of yourself! Before producing 300 units to turn a profit, you need to build prototypes and samples of your products. This stage is called the product development stage. It is the most important phase in the creation of your business. This is where you get to source fabrics, engineer your fit, and create the styles you’ve envisioned. The product development costs vary according to how many products you’re developing, the complexity of the products, and the source materials. At the end of the process, you’ll understand exactly how much your cost per unit will be when going into the next big stage: production.

4. Build a budget for your Proof of Concept (PoC) and Market Fit Testing

If your company wants to stay lean, the best recommendation is not to rush into production after creating your samples. Instead, go to the market and talk to your consumers to gather insight. It would be even better if you can get pre-orders! Take this time to create strategies to build awareness and buzz for your product. Use brand ambassadors, social media advertising, and sampling events to create demand and test marketing channels and messaging. While these ideas can be costly, it’s better to lose a few thousand to find out that your idea isn’t viable than to spend a hundred thousand only to realize nobody wants to buy your product. Include in your budget line items for market fit testing and decide what success would look like.

The ideas below will cost you almost nothing:

  • Convince retail shops to let you put your samples in their shop and watch how customers react to your product
  • Give out gift cards and other promotional goods to potential consumers to take surveys about your product
  • Go out and earn your first paying 30 customers and make them excited about your product. Give them something special for believing in your vision and pre-ordering. Just make sure you and your manufacturer are very clear about how many weeks production will take so you can keep your delivery promises.

5. Invest 100% of the profits back into your company

When starting out, it is absolutely important to put any profits back into the company. By putting every cent that you make back into your business, the business revenue has a chance to stabilize. A stable business can pay dividends throughout your life. In addition to having a marketing budget from the get-go, use the profits from your sales to invest in more marketing, development, and production where needed. Remember not to overproduce and, once you have a hold on inventory, make sales and marketing your number one priority.

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