Updated: Mar 19
There's no doubt that launching a clothing line is tough. It takes dedication, knowledge and time. Many of my clients find dealing with manufacturers the hardest part. It can take a while to find a good fit for your product, and the sampling process can feel laborious, so making sure you've got your process streamlined will help.
Often start-ups take an unconventional approach with factories, because they don't know any better and this sometimes leads to frustrations from potential suppliers. In turn the startup can feel deflated, deterred and not sure how to move forward. Learn the processes involved and educate yourself in the stages of manufacture.
I've put together the top 5 issues factories have with fashion startups and some tips to help you avoid these.
1. Lack Of Design Information
One of the biggest time wasting approaches I see amongst start-ups is contacting a prospective manufacturer without any tangible information in the form of completed CAD designs, tech packs and size specs. You might know what you want to launch in your fashion range, however a collection of photos, rough ideas and a vision is not going to cut it with a factory.
At best you'll end up with some cobbled together samples that don't represent your ideas. At worst you'll come across as unprofessional, a newbie they'll have to hand-hold and probably someone they don't have time to coach.
This raw information is what you should discuss with someone like myself - a designer, not a factory. It's tempting to be pro-active and find a factory early on, but you have a much better chance of striking a professional relationship with a potential supplier if you can hand over factory packs for each style.
2. You Don't Speak The Fashion Language
Understanding the correct fashion terminology will help you extensively when discussing your designs with a factory. Take some time to find out the relevant vocabulary that describes your styles, whether that be the fabric quality, the types of trims being used and any special details that make up your design. This information should be itemised in your factory packs from your designer, but make sure you can converse with your supplier in the language of the industry and understand the details. If you can't then use a fashion consultant who will have your back every step of the way.
3. Unrealistic Expectations
Being aware of minimum order quantities versus price per unit is incredibly important. It's great to have target prices that you hope to produce something for, but if you only want to produce something small like 50 pieces per style then the price is going to reflect that small order.
Equally so, your small MOQ may have an affect on how many colours you can order per style, how specific you can be with base fabrics and how much it will cost to produce anything specific to your brand such as branded hardware.
4. Unworkable Timelines
When you hand over your designs for manufacture, the samples won't appear instantly. Your prototypes will take less time than your bulk production, however you should always allow enough time for re-sampling, allowing for your factory's workload and general turn around time. Each factory will have a different lead time, often booked up weeks to months in advance depending on the time of year. Just because you're ready to go doesn't mean you can dictate timescales for your suppliers. Utilise a realistic fashion calendar to plan your critical path.
5. Unwillingness To Compromise
It's great to aim for that gold standard with your collection but sometimes a little compromise goes a long way. It may be your factory can't source the exact composition of fabric specified in your tech pack, however if they have an alternative does it also do the same job? Sometimes your need for small MOQ's might dictate what you can do in terms of design for branded items like buttons, badges, labels and trims. You may have a better chance at getting what you're looking for by using an available quality and branding that.
In summary the main takeaways here are:
1. Prepare your designs in a professional manner with all technical and sizing information in place.
2. Do your homework and liaise with your designer to understand what it is you're asking for.
3. Research MOQs.
4. Be realistic with your timeline.
5. Compromising will get you a long way.
If you need help launching your fashion brand then get in touch and we can discuss your needs - email@example.com
Michelle Ramsay - The Fashion Expert®
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