Launching a successful brand, from the ground up, is daunting and terrifying. So you have a great idea, now what? Where do you start when you have no or little idea about garment manufacturing or the fashion industry?
We, at Acme Design, are fashion creatives and creators who want to make beautiful clothes. As a new generation of innovative fashion engineers, we are fully committed to promoting ‘Made in New York’ garment manufacturing. Within our two divisions, Design Studio and Pattern Studio, we service both emerging and established brands with support from design development to production in the apparel industry.
While each brand’s needs are different, we54 have found while designers think of all the right costing and marketing in their product development, they often overlook technical design and patternmaking as a critical step in their development process.
Get Specific about the “Bigger Picture”
When starting your brand, it helps to think of it as a bigger picture, so all decisions will shape a brand in a way that your resources are spent thoughtfully and strategically. Most new designers have a clear idea on their marketing, styling and aesthetic for their brand. But while developing a marketing campaign is important, it is only one portion of the development a brand needs to make in order to be successful.
All brands, large or small, have a target market. Building an ideal consumer, determining their age, income, their buying habits, all these details help paint the picture of how your brand will fit into the retail landscape.
By finding your customer, it helps a designer determine how they will sell their garments. Will you be selling directly to your customer through an online website, or through traditional retailers like department stores or specialty stores? Finding who your competitors are, the brands you want your designs to hang next to, will help narrow down the range your retail costs. This research helps determine how much you can realistically sell at retail, in turn, will translate to finding the fabric, trim and make costs for each garment.
Strategy + Vision
Now that you have determined your target customer, what comes next? A mood board, or collection of materials that invoke the ideas and concepts of the brand in colors and fabrics, will help build a collection so that resources are spent developing garments that are cohesive. Therefore, whether you are developing one garment or a full collection, you can take a look at the longevity of the pieces you are invested in developing to see how this garment fit into the full picture. If you are investing any time, money, and resources, it’s best to have a plan so that you won’t be putting your energy into making a sample that won’t help build your brand.
If, for example, you’d like to begin by making t-shirts to build capital so you can move into designing a full collection later, take a step back to see if these t-shirts will still be able to sit with the full collection. If you’re looking to use the t-shirts as a starting point, make sure that the costs and resources used to develop make sense in the bigger picture. In this example, you were planning on designing a new t-shirt silhouette and wanted to make the t-shirt in a specialty fabric. But after reviewing, you only have the budget to design a graphic to place on an existing blank body. This is a decision you as a designer needs to make based on your resources. If the t-shirt will be the cornerstone of your collection, it can make the most sense to proceed in the development of a new garment and make plans to find a sample room or factory with the right tools. If the t-shirt is for marketing purposes, the best decision may be to find a printer who will offer full printing services.
Sourcing can be overwhelming, between the myriad of different fabric contents and weights, it can be difficult to narrow down the right fabric for your collection. It helps to know ballpark retail costs to determine fabric costs and make costs. For example, if one yard of fabric costs $30 and you are planning on selling a shirt for $85, and the fabric yield for one shirt is two yards, $60 is already utilized in fabric costs, leaving only $15 for cut and sew (make costs) and no room for margins and markups. This fabric will need to be changed or your price point needs to be revised in order to be able to sell this to your target market.
Having the Right Tools
Having a new and innovative idea is what drives the fashion industry, a constant rebuilding and creating onto itself so ideas are fresh and interesting. However, working with manufacturers directly is often a costly learning curve for designers, especially new designers. In a perfect world, a designer places a work order to a sample maker and the sample returned reflects the ideas in the sketch. In reality, the designs are often translated into patterns with simplified details or ideas are not fully realized because of misunderstood explanations or incomplete information. During the sample making and product development stages, any lack of communication can lead to costly mistakes where valuable time and money are lost, sometimes at an irreversible cost to the brand.
Having a technical sketch, or a flat sketch, with design details, clearly described, or having a tech pack will greatly decrease the chances that the concept will be carried through to patternmaking. If having a sketch is not a possibility, having a sample where the designer can show the patternmaker the finishes or design detail will also help. The more information you can supply during patternmaking will help your patternmaker build your garment.
Sample Sizes & Fittings
Making a muslin sample before proceeding to sample will help streamline the process. A muslin sample, because it uses substitute fabric and minimal trims, is a cost effective way to check the fit and balance of a garment. Making changes within the muslin stage will save the costly step of making a full sample with an inaccurate fit.
Sizing is an integral part of a brand and can build customer loyalty if the fit is consistent. Making a sample size in your size is great for promotional purposes, but as a designer, you need to look at the bigger picture. By using a fit model, from a reputable model agency to conduct fittings will ensure that specs are standardized. Fit models maintain their body specs so that their measurements can be used as a tool to address fit issues and construction details. Therefore, once you proceed to marking and grading for production, you will know the specs will increase and decrease to a scale on an industry standard.