Manufacturing isn’t just drawing a nice sketch and handing it off to a factory to sew. As you know, there are so many steps in between! We’ve seen lots of things that new fashion designers do well and some of the things they don’t. These simple mistakes may be holding you back.
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Do Enough Research
What else does your customer usually buy and why? What are your customers’ beliefs and core values? Thorough research helps you make better design choices. Know your price points too, what do other brands in your market charge? Can you realistically see your target market spending this amount on your product?
Pricing is tough to get right, but getting it wrong can really hurt your sales. Too low and you are undervaluing yourself which gives the perception of low quality. Too high and you’ll be pricing yourself out of the wallets you’re trying to nudge open.
Don’t Make Cheap Products
You can buy products for $10-20 from Walmart and Target that aren’t terrible quality. A smaller brand can’t compete with those players at this price point. As an independent designer producing small quantities… economies of scale are working against you.
You need to take it up a level and be making something above and beyond what you can get at a big box store. Maybe your product is small-batch, natural or handmade? Maybe you use premium materials or maybe you only source locally.
Make sure it is obvious at the point of sale that your product will be well made and that it provides value for money.
Fit Is More Important Than You Think
Fit forms the biggest decision for why customers do or don’t buy your product. If you’ve not got the fit right for the body types of your customers you won’t be able to sell much of anything.
Think about how you feel in a store fitting room. The first thing you look at when trying something on is, how does this look on my body? Does it sit nicely in all the right places? (You know which ones!)
Make sure you’re testing your products on a fit model and other people in your target market. How does the garment look when worn? Is the wearer comfortable and can they move with ease?
You can’t perfectly fit every body shape out there. Which is why it’s important to nail it down for just a few. Get feedback on your sizes from your customers, as well as some body measurements. Chest, waist and hip widths are a great place to start. Begin to create a measurement chart which you can use to determine the sizing for future lines.
Consider Fabric First
Your fabric affects the product hugely and should be your first design decision. Before you refine the details of your design you should choose and find your fabrics. There is nothing worse than discovering you can’t get the right fabric color, print or quantities.
Sourcing (finding the right materials) is a science in itself. You need to think about quality, prices and minimums. It’s not uncommon to find that what you wanted isn’t available to you for whatever reason. Best to find out as soon as you can, before you invest too much time and money into a design.
Get Multiple Samples Made
You do get samples made by your contractor before production, don’t you? You should be asking for fabric swatches, trim and component samples to begin with. Then get a first sample or prototype made by your contractor.
Request any necessary tweaks to this to get your product looking the best it can be. It’s normal to make adjustments at this stage so don’t hold back.
It is a good idea to get a size set (samples of all the sizes of your product). Test these out too. If you can’t afford that, then at least every other size.
Before you jump into production invest in a pre-production sample as well. It’s a must. This is the ‘holiest of all samples’ and it’s what you can sign off on before production starts. The factory will use this as the physical standard that the rest of the order should match up to. There is no room for error here, so make sure you are well and truly happy with this sample.
Next, you’ll need a salesman sample, which is the one that is actually used for selling. It’s for photographing, taking to shows and for buyer meetings.
At each of these stages, you should be keeping all these development samples. You may need to reference them later so keep them safe.
Last but by no means least are your ‘TOP’ samples (top of production). These samples are a segment taken from your production run. These should be sent to you to look over and assess the quality of the order. A tech pack can help you with this, which brings me to my last suggestion!
Selling fashion or textiles? Read our favourite promotional methods to get your brand seen.
Send The Factory A Tech Pack
Unless you’ve documented the specifics of your product and shared it with your factory… how do you *know* that they will be producing the vision from your inside head? The fact is, you don’t. And who wants to add extra risk into the manufacturing equation!
The tech pack ensures you get a quality product made too. There is nothing worse than pouring your heart and soul into a product design for weeks. Then waiting several more weeks while it’s made. Only to receive boxes of products that don’t fit or look shoddy. Not to mention the money spent! Use a tech pack to document your quality controls, measurements and tolerances to prevent errors.
Another hidden but delightful benefit… create a single document to save yourself from the 50+ email threads. Get a sample made from your tech pack quickly and without fuss. A tech pack gets you from idea to product in half the time with 50% of the effort.
So now to wrap up this little list of don’ts… we congratulate you for getting this far! Hopefully, a couple of these tips can save you a potential headache or two. If you can’t put in place all the ideas at once, go for one at a time. Slow and steady wins the race. 👌
Author: Belinda Jacobs
TECHPACKS.CO founder Bel (as she is affectionally known as) is a technical fashion designer from London. Belinda has worked with numerous high street retailers, independent designers and fashion start-ups since graduating with a first class honors degree in clothing design & technology.