Apparel Manufacturing

new clothing line
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.

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?

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 how to create a clothing line budget. 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 how to create a clothing line 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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Crowdfunding: One Way to Finance Your New Clothing Line

Among the many doctor and actor aspirations, lays an ambition many are not equipped to start: creating their own business. As many startups 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 crowdfunding 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 crowdfunding 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 “Crowdfunding 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. Crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter are terrific platforms 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.

jakejosephco

Passion coupled with an essential connection with your audience and quality product, all combine to make both of these company’s successful crowdfunded 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 crowdfunding campaign and we’re now in production – product to be completed January 2017

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Meet Indie Source Trim Specialist: Johnny Quintero

This 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 specialist, 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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Ace Your Indie Source Intro Meeting

Ready to work with Indie Source? Your Intro Meeting is the first step. Here’s everything you need to know.

When you’re ready to transform your daydreams and sketches into a clothing line, Indie Source is the resource to make that happen. As a full service clothing manufacturer, Indie Source takes your ideas and makes them into something wearable by combining the right materials, fit, and construction. Our experienced, knowledgeable and passionate team will transform that overwhelming feeling of “where to begin” into the sense of delight that comes from manufacturing your line and bringing it to market.

The Intro Meeting

Your first step in working with Indie Source is the Intro Meeting. This is your chance to introduce your brand to us and share your vision for your business, as well as the specific products we’ll be creating with you. In your Intro Meeting meeting you will:

  • Meet your project manager, who will be your direct point of contact. They’re going to supervise, manage, and ensure the overall success of your project.
  • Meet our fabric specialist and trim specialist, who will be sourcing the perfect fabric and trims for your products.
  • Meet with Indie Source’s pattern maker, who will take fit notes (if you already have a prototype sample) .

The Indie Source team is experienced, knowledgeable and dedicated to making you and your brand a success and helping you along the way.

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To get the most powerful results from your Intro Meeting, you’ll need to be ready to discuss a broad range of topics around your label, as well as go into detail about each one.  Here’s a rundown of all the info you should have at the ready.

About Your Brand

  • Have a strong vision and goals, and know the values of your brand
  • What makes your brand unique or special?
  • Who is your competition?
  • What are your specific goals for your brand?
  • What is important to you in the development of your brand?
  • Are you price or quality focused?
  • Do you have a logo? Tag line? Mission statement?

Have A Brand Business Plan

  • How are you going to sell your product? Will you have a website? A storefront? Sell wholesale to retailers?
  • How are you going to market your brand? To who?
  • What are the price points for your products? How much do you want to pay to produce them versus how much do you want to sell them for?
  • How many units are you going to order? We have a minimum of 3 style and 250 pieces per style.
  • What is your budget for development? For production?

Have A Product Plan

  • Remember – we think of you as the designer! We are here to bring your ideas to life. Think through all the small details. We’re happy to make suggestions and help, but this is YOUR brand!
  • What are your sizes going to be? XS-XL? S-L?
  • What size would you like your samples to be made in? Think about who would come and try them on. If it is you, have the samples made in your size so you can make sure it’s the perfect fit.
  • What are the grading rules for your production? This means how much bigger do you want each size to be from the last? It is usually 2’’, but look at a line in a store or do some research and compare.
  • Will there be artwork on your products? This includes your logo.
  • What will your main label tags look like? Will they be printed or sewn in? They should have your name, logo, tagline, where it is made, and size. What will they look like? You send your tag artwork before your first meeting!
  • Are you going to have a hang tag or any other tagging or labeling on your products? Think about what they’ll look like in the store.
  • What colors do you want for your fabrics? Bring a color sample with you. We will find similar colors in in-stock fabrics. If you absolutely need a specific hue, we will need to dye it! Bring the exact color sample or find it using the PANTONE color finder. Keep in mind that colors might look different on a screen than in reality.

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Have A Timeline

  • When do you need your samples done? The development process usually takes around six weeks. However, the more custom and detailed your products are, the longer it will take (i.e. custom elastic and prints).
  • When do you want full production to be done? Production usually takes about 4-8 weeks depending on the complexity of your designs.
  • Set dates from start to finish! When do you want your clothes ready to be sold?

Have Patience

If we’re starting your line from scratch, it might take a round or two of sample making and fittings to get everything perfect. Indie Source wants to make sure you love your line and fits how you want. Be prepared to make more than one sample.

Now that you know what you’ll need to get started, are you ready to call Indie Source? Let’s manufacture your dream line!

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A Zero-Waste Fiber Is Brewing

Kombucha tea is the source of a new fiber aimed at creating sustainable fashion.

A new fiber made from tea is being developed as part of the fight to decrease waste and pollution in the fashion industry. An article published by Iowa State University details a new cellulosic fiber that’s a byproduct of Kombucha tea and is being grown in a lab by Young-A Lee and her research team. The cellulose fibers grow as a gel-like film that feeds off a mixture of vinegar and sugar. Once harvested and dried, the material is similar to leather, and can be made into clothing, handbags, and shoes.

Lee, an associate professor of apparel, merchandising, and design at Iowa State, received funding from the Environmental Protection Agency to develop sustainable clothing and shoes from the new fiber. The global environmental impact of fashion manufacturing is far-reaching. Non-biodegradable clothing ends up in landfills, use of nonrenewable materials depletes natural resources, and chemicals used to manufacture and dye synthetic fabrics contaminate water and soil. One fact recently published by Forbes starkly illustrates the devastating environmental impact of manufacturing and, inevitably, disposing of synthetic fabrics:

Nearly 70 million barrels of oil are used each year to make the world’s polyester fiber, which is now the most commonly used fiber in our clothing. But it takes more than 200 years to decompose.

Lee’s new cellulosic fabric is not only 100% biodegradable, it represents the possibility of a “cradle-to-cradle” design cycle of continuous reuse and regeneration. The material is grown in the lab using a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY), and when discarded, it goes back to the soil as a nutrient. It’s hard to imagine a greater contrast to the fashion industry’s current reliance on synthetics!

There are definitely issues to work out in developing this novel fiber before it will be ready for mass production and marketable to consumers. Lee’s team is working on shortening its growth cycle as the material currently takes 3-4 weeks to grow in the lab. Tests of clothing made of the fiber show that moisture makes it less durable, while cold makes it brittle. A survey of college students about a new cellulosic fiber vest revealed concerns about the color, texture, comfort, durability, and ease of care of the material. Lee is confident that these concerns can be addressed through the development process to ultimately produce a fiber that works for fashion companies and consumers while providing the universal benefit of contributing to sustainable fashion.

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