There are tons of things you learn when starting your own line. In an attempt to learn everything, I went back to school for a degree in Fashion Design. I researched extensively by reading books, blogs and talking to other independent designers. I learned a ton. I thought I had the knowledge I needed: tech packs, flat sketches and lookbooks. However, I missed some big picture concepts. Below are the 5 pieces of advice that I wished someone had told me before I started my own line:
1. Develop a Business Plan.
Unless you plan on going to the bank for a business loan, then you don’t need an in-depth, 40 page business plan. What you do need, is a business plan that helps you outline your target market, your competition and who you want to hang with. It is very important to figure out your target customer, your sales and marketing strategy, and your goals and objectives before you begin your own line.
2. Product Development Can Take a Long Time.
Depending on the specifics of your product, the development stages can vary. It is important to test the fit, the fabrics, and the final garments in your target market. Never rush through the development stage.
3. You Need to be on the Fashion Calendar That Coincides With Your Sales Strategy.
If you plan on selling wholesale to boutiques it is important that you have merchandise ready to sell during the correct buying season. The same applies if you plan to sell directly to customers. You need to figure out when you need to have production ready to ship to stores or customers and then work backwards from there through the development stages (leave enough time!) to make sure that you are working on the correct season.
4. Always Plan a Season Ahead.
Sometimes you can get so focused on getting your first season out that you forget to start planning for the next season. Since you need to leave so much time for development (see a theme here?), it is vital that you make sure you are always thinking ahead. Then you don’t find yourself scrambling to throw together the next season.
5. It Will Take More Money Than You Think.
The development of your line can become costly. The fabrics, inter lining, and trims are the obvious examples. But don’t forget that you eventually need to pay your pattern maker and sample sewer, as well as fronting the costs for your first production run. Along with these costs, don’t forget about lookbooks, paying for CAD drawings if you can’t do them yourself, website, and business cards.
Those are the 5 big items that might have saved me some heartache. What other pieces of advice would you offer a new designer?