From the initial spark to the fully launched product line, Stitch Method is Chicago’s premier Apparel Manufacturing and Brand Development Accelerator. Our philosophy focuses around building strong relationships to create a sense of community and supporting our economy by turning creative talent into successful businesses. As designers and co-founders of Stitch Method, Abigail and I have worked on the product development of more than 20 different lines across all product categories.
Coming from this experience I can say with confidence: creating your own fashion line from scratch is anything but easy or cheap! Whether or not you went to school for fashion design, there are still many aspects of turning a concept into a reality that must be learned firsthand. While my formal education taught me a lot, it was my early mistakes that taught me what I needed to successfully launch my own line. From that hard-earned experience, I’ve underscored below the top 5 things I wish I’d known before I started developing my own fashion line. May they save you a mistake of two in your own journey.
5 Things to Know Before Starting Your Fashion Line
1. Develop a Business Plan
Probably the most important advice I can offer is to develop a business plan. A detailed business plan will become your foundation, best friend and roadmap throughout this process. This is an essential starting point when turning an idea into something tangible. Getting all of your ideas down in the beginning will ensure that you have thought through every aspect of the process.
Begin by outlining various aspects of your development, for instance, your target market, competitors, and the ideal retailers for selling your product. And then research the hell out of them, making note of details like price point and specific customer demographics. As you get a clearer picture of the existing market, begin honing in on the specifics of your own line. Ask yourself the following:
- Who is your target customer?
- What is your Unique Selling Proposition (USP)?
- What values and objectives will drive your business?
- What will your sales and marketing strategy be?
2. Make Time for Product Development
Product development is undoubtedly a tedious process, and involves a great deal of trial and error. It is imperative to test the fit, the fabrics and the final garments on your target market and consumer. The stages of your development will vary depending on the specifics of the product.
Try to avoid frustration with this process. It is important not to rush through this stage or skip steps. Every minute aspect plays a part in getting to the next phase of your development. A hasty decision early on could mean hundreds of wasted hours and thousands of wasted dollars as you scrap a failed product prototype or (god forbid!) an entire failed inventory and begin again.
3. Change with the Seasons
Now that you have outlined your plan, it is time to coordinate your sales strategy with the proper fashion season. When selling wholesale to boutiques, it is imperative that your merchandise is ready to sell during the correct buying season. The same applies for directly selling to customers. Remember that retailers are carrying seasonal wares well in advance of the actual seasonal advent, and that most retailers order their inventory as early as six months before they want it delivered to their stores.
With the production process being such a timely step, it is crucial to make informed calculations of your time tables based on the ready-to-ship dates. As a newbie, it’s a good idea to leave yourself some margins for delays. Once you’ve established your due date, work backwards through the development stages. This process, though painstaking, helps you ensure your line will be ready for the appropriate season.