Don’t ask “What am I doing” while you’re doing it, simply ask that before your doing it.
Quantity or Quality?
Do you want to be a high and Fashion Label, offering Fancy Party dresses and worked on Party-Wear? This means selling the items in a smaller quantity and for a higher price, it also means that you have to have more money to invest in actually making the clothes, because of the “naturally” higher production cost. You have to make sure to choose a Manufacturer that you’ll know can make these items in high quality so that there is no unpleasant seems that starts to rip or that the colors fade. In this case it’s unwise to be too eager to “bargain” too much on the Manufacturing price since it’s important to maintain high quality and have more expensive fabrics, greed in finding cheap fabrics making a dress out of them will results in complaints about the quality later on. Remember, being a new brand will still “in most cases” mean that you can sell your items at a higher rate because of the small set of cloths your offering and for the tailored feel.
Once again, if the price is high you have to have high quality, so missing out on that will be devastating and one bad collection can make you loose the few valuable boutiques that signed up for your clothes.
Quality in fabrics is in this case also crucial and having, for example a dress in to much “poly” would not agree with the price, choose pure silk, pure satin and don’t compromise when getting that “luxurious” feel and style. The name and the label makes a great deal in this case as well, you can’t have a brand name saying: crazy girl’s and then offer a fancy prom dress “fit for a queen”, make certain that the customers that buy the dress also get the label that states the high end brand your actually selling, like your name, that is a great one for clothes, just see Armani, or Donna Karen.
If you go for a cheap set of wear with fun details and in a more basic fabric any Manufacturer will be willing and able, finding a Manufacturer shouldn’t be a big problem unless you have specific demands that are harder to meet. Make sure that they can start off in a medium quantity and grow with you, sometimes a Manufacturer that specialize in “cheaper” clothes have a Minimum, often around 100-300 pcs per design to reach that really great price. I have found some that can be willing to work on a smaller order if the “Total Amount” is 300 pieces, witch means that it’s possible to split it up, arranging to make on top in 50 pieces and the other one on 50 and so on..
Make sure you have places to sell the items since you have to be ready to compete with bigger companies such as H&M and GANT and various chain stores, of course depending on where you are based. If the prices you’re aiming at are really low, maybe you can consider contacting Wholesalers. The profit your making will be lower per item but it doesn’t mean that you will make less money, selling heaps will probably be your goal. There is always a “middle” so painting up, high end and really “low budget” clothing doesn’t make any justice to the Industry but making a comment about it makes you decide on what scale and in witch proportions you will and maybe want to work in.
Learn your Fabrics
To be a great designer it’s a necessity to get familiar with the fabrics you want to work in, whether it’s high end clothes with a lot of different silks and georgettes, or with beading and embroidery techniques. For a more basic line find fun materials like velour and different weight of cotton. There are all sorts of weaves and prints, block or Silk prints and for ECO-get familiar with natural fibers and limitations in colors and dying. All this can be summed in a book or just by surfing the net. When making a collection, it’s important that next to every dress, pair of pants or just skirts you have a small cutting of fabric. This is will make a good reference for the Manufacturer that this is the fabric you would like, but also if there is a special wash you need or rough look to it. Attach written fabric quality beside it as well. To know your fabrics will be the base for making great collections, you will now how it falls, if it would look to heavy when lined or if it’s to thin. This confidence that you portray being a designer will make the Manufacturer feel confident when working with you and the results will come easier and the risk for misunderstandings lowered. The Manufacturer can also easier count on the price per pieces and start looking for materials straight away.
Decide the Size of Collection
A tricky part is deciding how big the collection is going to be. Since I’ve started the magic number has been 12, something that exceeds. A good size to begin with is about 10 garments, easier to focus on a few tops offered in different colors and sizes and then something to match, that will set a great foundation for both photo-shoots, catalogue so that you can show what your brand is about.
This is not strict and you don’t have to feel a need to produce more then around 5-10 different pieces but many small designers work with that number 12 witch can be good to have in mind. Once more, this is depending on how many of each designs you intend to do and what quantity the Manufacturer can handle, still keeping a reasonable price. It’s up to you, but having that in mind and to give it some thought before entering into a conversation with a Manufacturer you have to know. Also thinking ahead, how is the collection being released, Summer/Spring, how many collections/year? That is individual but you have to be ready to quickly offer a second Collection to your customers and grow from there. The worst thing that could happen is to stop in production at a beginning state, to just put one collection out and then suddenly be delayed or not simply producing. This will scare potential clients since your being portrayed as a “loose cannon”, someone that simply won’t follow up and be easy to work with. Confidence and safety in always deliver on time and show Stores that your here to stay is a must.
Just because the first collection didn’t sell, it doesn’t mean that you have to stop, no rather the opposite, fight for it and keep on getting more stuff out, stopping will just scare anyone away, that will just send out a signal that your a “loose cannon” that might have something to offer or not. Be confident even if the success doesn’t happen over night. How many fairy tails have we heard in our lives and how many comes true?
Well, if you start off by setting your goals low it will mean that a fairy tail easier comes true just by selling one item (perhaps to your mum), it doesn’t matter, small goals will keep you more motivated and happier here and now. But saying that, getting stuck in some “la la land” accepting small things like big things will at a longer perspective stop you from growing; someday you want to be bowing on that catwalk? Being in that interview or earning the big dollars, seeing and picturing that is all good, “carrot on a stick” and progress will naturally happen.
So maybe you want to do 12 items? How many of each then? If the Manufacturer offers a great deal if you produce 100 pieces of each it might be worth grabbing, but then again, uniqueness, and where are you going to sell the items? Giving a tip I would recommend you to ONLY produce a Sample Collection first. It’s a great way of testing how well you and the Manufacturer work together and also how your designs look in reality. It might actually come as a shock the first time, seeing a shirt that you been drawing on in 3 D, it could result in a good reaction but could also be a negative one, such as “it looks boring”, the print was plain and so on. Then having the samples ready you can roll up your sleeves and start searching for an Agent, and that seemed to be at least my biggest challenge.
What’s unique with your Design and the brand you’re putting up?
Ask yourself what kind of customers you want to attract and also checking out the competition.
“An example: You have a great idea for a Young Kids Collection”. What you need to think about it’s always been there and done that when it comes to most fashion, it’s like a big circle repeating itself but that doesn’t make your stuff less interesting it’s just that you have to focus on bringing something with a “ump” when you start. A signature “green line” that marks the jackets collars or a cool LOGO that goes on all chests, maybe even a garment that has something extra.
To get back to the example of the Kids Cloths, ask yourself is anyone feeling a need for more Kids Clothes or can you offer them something unique? Maybe Kids Cloths that are simply for rough plays, maybe extra easy to wash and have rougher materials.
Designing and producing Kids Clothes means that you have to start producing in a small quantity first, it’s hard gambling with amounts over 50 pieces per design. This means that your clothes are going to be more expensive since there’s a small quantity order, if you don’t have an Agent that will sell a Sample Order of yours and then take orders, anyways; the fact is that you still are fresh and the cost is going to be a little bit higher.
How do you go about selling a product similar to others for a higher price? The answer is to offer Design, you can either stand out by putting a print in a “handmade” look on the chest or just go for that designed seem or cut. It’s about building a reason for you brand, a reason and need to buy it, but before deciding that you have to be in terms with your style, represent it, believe in it and with that later on help selling it..
What are you really offering, important creating your Image?
This is linked to “Learning Your Style” and goes hand in hand with developing the brand in mind, get goals for it and treat your visions and creations like your baby, a baby that you want to see growing and finally get successful with.
Is your product unique enough or different enough? The answer is; it doesn’t have to be. It could be a great basic Cotton Basic Line, t-shirts and comfy pants; the important thing isn’t the uniqueness of the Designs but the uniqueness of the availability of it. Maybe you’re based in a small town where nothing really is on offer, just because there is a lack on a certain item it doesn’t mean that it has to be filled, it might just not be on demand. Don’t put up a “Fancy Dress” Store in such a place when it might in that case be smarter to move, follow your dream elsewhere or just adjust to the public with a twist. Just because you’re selling a pant doesn’t mean that it has to be boring, with your logo, print or cute button you can achieve uniqueness without being “over-crazy”.
A lot of designer desires to be different in such a big scale that being basic sometimes stands out. Huge shoulder pads, pearls everywhere and hair dues that would make any man run, maybe you’re just a creative person that loves the small touches. It’s enough too, don’t be scared that you are to plain or to “ordinary”, there will be a need for those clothes as well, all you have to do is adjust how you want to be promoted, having a website for example is a great thing to let other people find out about your brand, but with a basic Collection it might be harder, adjust both colors and pictures and print so that it matches the look of the clothes, and most important start building an Image! The image of your brand is going to be the answer to the question: why would people buy your brand? Simply because of the image, whether it’s ECO-Wear with a natural wibe, picture a suntanned young woman, not wearing any make-up leaning against a palm tree wearing a Natural-fiber shirt and a pair of leather sandals. Well there you go, that’s the image.
Get to know your Computer
If you are starting off with little means the computer you have will help you in promoting your brand, and having a Website or a Fashion Blog is a great way of trying out your clothes and see what people think even attract potential customers. Having a camera handy is also a plus; this is great for communicating with your chosen Manufacturer. Another tips is when receiving samples for the first time, taking a photo and then attach comments on the pictures is a great way to communicate and make your ideas simply for the Vendor making them, use the basic program paint and don’t forget to resize to photo before attaching them in the email, this is if you don’t want anything time-consuming and just simply want to mark the faults with rings and pieces of text.
Ask to get the samples in your size! This means that you can try them out and then make comments accordingly, no first sample is perfect. Programs can be added as you go depending how you like to work, but being “buddy” with your computer is the best thing. Use it like the only office you’ll need and this will not just save you time and ease work process, it will save you the office space. So, get updated with the program you might need, you can also always ask the Manufacturer how they like to work, some work receiving the pictures or sketches attached in Excel Sheets and some just basic Emails. Labels must be done in a program with special measurements and effects, could also just send a sample and they’ll probably work from that.
Size-Charts and Payment set-ups must be discussed and planned, most things is from the Manufacturer and will be given to you when you start working together, also make sure that if you start cooperating that you have the Pantone Color Chart so you both can choose color and maybe even having a double set of cuttings, a good Manufacturer thinks of those things. Being a computer Wiz is not always a birth right so there is great ways to go about setting up a Website and promoting your brand, even selling it through an online-store. Checking Fashion Blogs and getting Contacts in the business is great before setting off.
Learn how to Employ yourself and work as the Best One!
Say that you’re now sitting by the drawing board and have both the idea and the desire to create a Collection of your own; you need to hire one right? Someone who is the best you’ll know, that’s you. Yes it might seem weird thinking that way but it’s a great way to treat your business, with respect and dedication. It’s otherwise hard to be on time, work with the collection instead of following the day’s soap operas on TV and really getting some work done. I always get the most done when working under pressure. If you don’t have pressure yet, try yourself out first. Book a simply Coffee date with a friend, say a Saturday at 3 o clock, it’s for example now Tuesday, that leaves you 4 days to finish drawing the corrections that you want to have made for the Manufacturer. Make sure you’ll work to get it done, all this might be “playing around in a big box of sand” but its great just being clear that you can handle it before diving in. Please just take a few seconds and imagine the brand throughout the seasons and years so that your whole dream isn’t based on just a few drawings, it has to be more long-lasting then that and it’s also important to feel that your ideas don’t suddenly stop, why make one collection when the second one is a dry rerun? This is a great way of knowing the limits of your creativity. Try to see what makes you more inspired as well, music, a walk, flipping through the pages of a new issue of Vogue or just a quick walk in a Shopping Mall. Everything that makes you more certain of “you” as your own employee will increase your own confidence when it comes to handling deadlines and working dedicated even if not on a fixed payroll. Simply get to know yourself and imagine setting up an office at what you would need to really work well, laptop, printer, pantone pencils, drawing board, Mannequin, sewing machine and so on.
Set up a Financial Plan, Budget.
Just as a example, if you want to go to India to physically meet the Manufacturers and get a knowledge in the country’s specialties like the various local skills and quality. You’ll sure need to calculate on not just the actual goods but also flights, accommodation, food, other expenses such as transport, guides and even smaller things like maybe buying a sample shirt, something that you could use for either get inspiration or just great to show the Manufacturer to get the idea of that certain wash you want and so on. So a rough budget for what you want to do physically would be a great idea.
So, if you now have an idea let’s just start making some changes right now? Taking the step is always hard, a bit scary but I have some great tips to get your” toes wet before your whole body”.
Presume that you have a job, why don’t you just cut down the hours? Half days and the rest of the day start sketching on your collection. This means that your not in an ‘non financial spot yet and will go about it pretty safe and smooth. If you don’t have enough money to get started you can have that unpleasant talk to the bank, set up a loan (there is heaps of scholarships to be added if dedicated) or just plan ahead. Nothing is worth rushing into, just take a step at the time and make changes that doesn’t mean make it or break it, take care of your finances and play it safe. If you have the attitude of ‘no or never’ then waiting will probably be to painful and will only cause panic that everyone else is making it and your just sitting there, watching your life pass you by. So, well just jump in there and learn as you go. Mistakes are bound to be made either way or what better lesson then been there and actually have done that.
Contacts, Contacts and then Contacts
Well, I guess we all heard that before, but getting a “stable” of good useful contacts are more time consuming and much harder than it seems. If you’re “thinking” of putting up a Brand, start sourcing and talking today. This will ease things up for you, blog around, ask around and get to know some names. Locally, such as Fashion Stores near you, friends you might have in the business and don’t seclude anyone. A musician could be great knowing if your planning to have a small release party for your brand, a Photographer could help out photographing the clothes or a Tailor that are willing to make some physical samples for you.
The best or should I say the most important contact will of course be the Manufacturer, don’t forget that it could be wise to use several, send out your collection sketches and ask at least 3 Manufacturers to do samples for you, and then it’s easy to choose witch one that meets your idea and price the best. One could be good for a high-end party line; the other could be great using for a Basic one. Everyone has a preference and it would speed the production process up, using 2-3 Manufacturers working on your different lines. Well, if your are unsure just experiment getting some samples from a few and then later on just use one, since having several could also mean pretty intense work emailing and explaining your exact ideas to them all at the same time. Some people use an Agent that handles all the business between you and the Manufacturer, I personally don’t recommend using an Agent simply because it increases the production price but also risk of misunderstandings having a middle man, the charge 7-10% on the whole order and then you have to work emailing them both, it’s just as easy to find the Manufacturer yourself and then make the deal through them. Then again, there are always people that are really happy with having an Agent and it would ease things up at a certain extent like approving the order before shipment. After choosing your Manufacturer you will need someone who can get your clothes out on the market, it could be a Distribution Manager, or a clothing Agent. These Agents are gold to have and hard to find since its not popular being new and it often equals missed deadlines and unorganized as a beginner. They have to really believe in you and the ability for the brand to grow, and then build it up from scratch, so finding one will be a bit though. It’s like a moment 22, you have to have a sample-collection to show before they can decide if they want to represent you and they all dream about someone with a few years in the business. The Agents have different deals, the best is if they work commission based witch will make it better for you economically when starting up, it would be though paying all expenses up front. The Agent often have a stable with a few other designers and they all are represented on the Agents website, if your one of them it will mean free advertising and promotion through them, they book the Fashion Shows for you and will handle all the press contacts, so that end of it will be optimal. Some new designers are choosing to ‘do it’ themselves and will act as an Agent by there own witch is possible to.
So whether you prefer staying by the drawing table or heading out to the stores it’s all about spreading the word, a new dreamer is on the stage and a new brand is being showed…
My name is Alice and have put together a Clothing Label and with that, a small Collection.
Since March-2008 I set out on a journey throughout South East Asia and a quest to learn more about making a brand. From getting samples at local tailors, printing labels and making business cards to ordering my first cloths.