The clothing sector appeals to many entrepreneurs today. Between lucrative promises and the countless brands already taking the market by storm, one may easily mistake launching a clothing line for an easy feat. Grab your best sketches, choose a manufacturer, sink enough money into it and they’ll churn out your threads, right?
If only. We’ve helped hundreds of brands launch their clothing lines and had to deliver the hard truth to at least as many aspiring entrepreneurs: clothing manufacturers are not mind-readers. Producing your own clothing line requires exacting details that many big-picture minds never consider. We love this beautiful sketch of your dream home! But how deep do we need to pour the foundation? What gauge is the rebar? Are these countertops marble, slate, granite?
Dreams get you started, but details make it real. Industry-savvy entrepreneurs know success doesn’t come easy, but managing expectations and working with the right partners can help you establish a high-flying fashion business. Here are our top tips for understanding the realities of working with wholesale clothing manufacturers, so you can set your brand up for success.
Managing Expectations in clothing manufacturing: let’s bust some common myths!
Myth 1: If you present a strong brand concept, the manufacturer can take it and run with it
We get it. Every clothing line starts with a concept. But while brand ideas can help communicate your end goals for the line, ultimately the brand is for your clients and not your manufacturer. We rely on brand to speak to customers and sell product, not to entice your manufacturer into suddenly knowing how wide to make a neckline or where to place a zipper.
Myth 2: Money makes the yarn spin. If you spend enough, you’ll end up with good product.
There is no disputing the fact that money opens doors. But if you’re expecting to just bring the big picture mindset and a fat wallet, you may be slamming those doors before you get a foot in. Nothing raises red flags with clothing manufacturers like clients who come in with great sketches and zero design specifics. “I’ll pay whatever it takes” more often signals cluelessness rather than commitment.
It’s good to expect to invest in your line, but a smart budget and an understanding of the production cycle will get you far closer to your goals than simply having money to spare.
Myth 3: Believing hard enough will make it come true
Clothing lines are fueled by passion, and designers may be the most creative souls on the planet. But splendid sketches and original ideas do not manifest a clothing line on their own. Passion powers this train, but it takes a lot of detail work to keep it on track.
Reality check: Manufacturing a clothing line is a balancing act between dreaming big and working small.
Whether you’ve worked in the industry for years, or whether it’s your first foray into fashion, it’s no surprise that the reality of manufacturing a clothing line rarely matches our expectations. Few things in life do! There are many technical factors at play, so here are some facts to help you make the best choices when starting your own clothing line.
Fact 1: Fashion is a technical industry, and a technical design can be beneficial
Before spinning yarn, manufacturers require reference samples, or plans and blueprints. Sketches are nice, but technical representations of lines and construction details can make the process much smoother. Be prepared to research and deep dive into details.
Fact 2: You may not have all the skills needed to do it alone—and that’s ok!
Just like architectural drawings when constructing a home, technical drawings in the fashion industry help in the conversion of the sketch to a real product. They require meticulous detail, or you won’t be pleased with what comes out of the factory. For a seamless manufacturing process, tech packs include:
- CAD sketches in multiple views
- Points of Measure (POM) specs
- Bill of materials
- Reference samples
A lot goes into planning these things, and its unlikely you’ll be able to do it all alone. That’s where it pays to seek out manufacturers who can help develop the details along the way. The biggest step you can take on your own is to be prepared with reference samples—real-world garments you can show to a manufacturer to demonstrate your ideas. Check out our previous article on working with reference samples and how Indie Source can help designers develop technical drawings that can help push an article to production.
Fact 3: Even the best clothes in the world don’t sell themselves—have a marketing plan for the future
Once you have an idea of what you are going to make and sell and who your brand will speak to, you need a go-to-market strategy. It may take months before you are ready to launch, but proper planning and marketing can make or break your clothing line.
We found that many startup lines fail to plan this aspect of their ventures, or plan to go with third-party marketing with companies who may or may not have fashion marketing experience. Indie Source knows what it takes to build successful fashion lines at every step of the process, so our partnership model extends beyond manufacturing to help our brands to get their products into the hands of consumers.
Bottom line: Big dreams require real work
Establishing your own clothing line can be a dream come true as long as you manage your expectations along the way. The right clothing manufacturer can work wonders, but no one can reach into a designer’s brain and pull out a fully formed perfect product. It takes real world examples, measurements, material specs, and more to translate a clothing concept from brain wave to pay day.
Partnering with the right clothing manufacturer can make all the difference in developing a thriving fashion line. We know the ins and outs of the industry, and we can help bridge the gap between your big dreams and the complex reality of clothing manufacturing. See more about how we help fashion brands of all sizes and experiences produce killer products, and consider scheduling a Kickoff Meeting with us to get started!